Almost twenty years ago, Peg and I saw a performance of My Fair Lady in Portland. When the character Eliza Doolittle came on stage, we saw a Black Eliza. I was taken aback but within moments, I thought, “Well . . . why not.” and enjoyed the performance. Now, here we are in 2022 and we are seeing the “Why not?” expand our world very nicely. The movement toward diversity and inclusion simply makes sense.
“When Brigid Larmour, artistic director of Watford Palace, recently put a call out to writers’ agents to say that the theatre was looking for scripts, she was surprised that the overwhelming majority sent to her were written by white men. It was only when she pointed out that the theatre’s policy was to commission and stage equal numbers of male and female playwrights, and to support work by black and Asian playwrights (so reflecting local demographics), that she was sent a far wider range of scripts. Many of the agents had plays from a greater range of writers but they just assumed that she would want ones from the usual suspects.”
Read the entire article – theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2015/oct/09/inclusivity-in-theatre-policy-black-minority-ethnic-disabled-playwrights
“We need to embrace a theatrical culture that looks like our country” – Director Brigid Larmour
2022 has brought much of the change black, Asian, Native American writers and stories to the forefront. In March we enjoyed Tacoma’s Dukesbay Theater production of God Said This. God Said This is a play about sickness, death, petty remembrances, and love. The play addresses the lives of Japanese Americans and the lingering traumas of American government incarceration during World War II. The author herself, Leah Nanako Winkler, is a Japanese American playwright from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington, Kentucky. Her play God Said This won the 2018 Yale Drama Series Prize. She is a recipient of a 2020 Steinberg Prize in Distinguished Playwrighting.”
Read the entire article here – thesubtimes.com/2022/03/23/god-said-this-play-review-dukesbay-theater/
Dukesbay Productions Mission
“To present theatrical works that reflect and celebrate our diverse society in the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest, and more specifically, Pierce County, is a wonderful blend of people of diverse ethnic, cultural, age and religious backgrounds. Many of these groups are under-represented in mainstream theater, both in types of characters portrayed on stage and in themes and stories presented.” – dukesbay.org
We recently had a long weekend in the Seattle area where we saw other examples of the change. We saw three productions. One was the musical, Cabaret with a mixed cast of colors and sexual orientations, which received a several minutes long standing ovation. The second was the comedy Two Mile Hollow written by Leah Nanako Winkler with a mostly Asian cast. The third production was Much Ado About Nothing performed by the Seattle Shakespeare Company at the Seattle Center. Much Ado featured a woman playing the part of a man and four black actors. We and the audience laughed and laughed. It was a great way to end our Friday to Monday journey.
Cabaret Review – seattletheatretoday.com/RebootCabaretReview.html
Two Mile Hollow Review – seattletheatretoday.com/TwoMileHollow.html
Much Ado About Nothing Review – seattletheatretoday.com/MuchAdo2.html
Before our trip to Seattle, Peg and I had just seen and reviewed The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Alegría Hudes at Tacoma Little Theatre. Quiara Alegría Hudes is an American playwright, producer, lyricist , essayist, and composer. “The Happiest Song Plays Last” is set in the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia.
Read the Happiest Song Plays Last Review – thesubtimes.com/2022/05/01/the-happiest-song-plays-last-tacoma-little-theatre-review-of-the-ending-trilogy-by-quiara-alegria-hudes/
Peg and I traveled to Olympia two weeks ago for Sovereignty, which deals with Native Americans, their lands; their tribal federal recognition and violence against Native American women. The historical production featured a mostly Native cast as well as a forcefully done hurtful scene.
Read the Sovereignty Review – thesubtimes.com/2022/05/10/sovereignty-and-violence-against-native-women-past-and-present-play-review/
We just saw a wonderful performance of In the Heights at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book on this new Lin-Manuel Miranda treasure. We saw a story of a blended neighborhood and how caring affects most of the people who felt like family when disaster struck and how they came together to rebuild. The people, the acting, the music, and the dancing was such an energetic mixture of life.
In the Heights review – thesubtimes.com/2022/05/18/a-review-of-the-fantastic-in-the-heights-at-tacoma-musical-playhouse/
CenterStage has an upcoming production (May 20 – June 12, 2022) entitled Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi.
Storyline: Spring, 1973. The Pacific Northwest. The alleys are dark. The bars are too bright. It’s raining out, probably. Private detective Sam Shikaze doesn’t just know crime…he knows everything that happens in this part of town. And this latest case might get him two black eyes and a one-way ticket to the bottom of the ocean. The thing is, Sam prefers to work alone…but everyone else in town seems to have other ideas.
Visit CenterStage for information – centerstagetheatre.com
In June, Tacoma Arts Live is featuring a Korean family story. “Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi, is a play about a family-run Korean-owned convenience store in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. It debuted on July 6, 2011 at the Toronto Fringe Festival, having secured a slot by winning the Festival’s New Play Contest. The play sold out its seven show run at the 200 seat Bathurst Street Theatre and won the Patron’s Pick award that granted them an additional eighth show, which sold out in three hours. Choi also directed and played the role of Jung.” – Wikipedia
Tacoma Arts Live production will play (10 performances) June 2 – 19 at Theater on the Square – tacomaartslive.org/events/calendar/eventdetail/1864/9/kim-s-convenience
Interesting Playbill Article and Diversity Suggestions:
The push for more diversity onstage is one the industry as a whole aspires to, but the question of what that means in practice remains unanswered. Often, the goal is stated as being “color blind,” but as actor and author Bear Bellinger puts it, “The difference between color blind and color conscious casting is the difference between continued erasure and acknowledgment. When we take away color, through color blind casting, we act as if our day-to-day lives aren’t constantly affected by the skin we are in.” Instead, he advocates for a switch to “conscious” casting. “Color conscious casting acknowledges the differences that we see and experience daily and asks, how can these differences enhance the story?”
5 TIPS TO INCREASE DIVERSITY IN THEATRE
- Be proactive and participate in outreach to groups that represent actors of color, like Asian-American Performers Action Coalition or the African-American Artists Alliance, to bring them into the casting process.
- If you’re a playwright, lyricist, book writer, or a creator, ask yourself if the race of your characters is relevant to the story, and if not, specify that.
- Do your research on racism and internal bias before beginning the creative process. Understanding the history of these issues within the business will help create an inclusive and positive environment.
- As an actor, be conscious of the roles you accept and be self-reflective about whether your racial or ethnic background or physical abilities would be appropriate for the part you’re playing.
- Be careful of engaging in tokenism or promoting harmful or damaging caricatures. Truly color conscious casting gives members of marginalized groups opportunities to play real, developed characters, not one-dimensional stereotypes.
Read the entire article – playbill.com/article/5-steps-toward-making-theatre-more-diverse
By opening ourselves up to new thoughts and stories, we learn more about our neighbors. By wellcoming diversity and working with it, we can understand our differences and similarities, but more importantly we learn more about us, our country, and the world.