Upon careful consideration, I think this clip is the fairest representation of what black theater activists on Broadway are advocating:
In Part I of this series, we discussed the dead-end strategy recently pursued by the performing woke of imposing one-way limitations on which actors could portray what roles. Across the full range of group grievance activism, everyone is rushing to try to exploit and capitalize upon the George Floyd Freakout, perhaps recognizing that the present state of self-flagellation and submissiveness by white decision-makers, governments, businesses and other institutions won’t last forever. In their haste, many groups—in this I would include the “resistance,” Democrats and the news media among others—are metaphorically cutting their own throats. This is especially true of the theater community.
A coalition of theater artists called “We See You, White American Theater” has posted online a 29-page set of demands that if adopted, the New York Times opines, “would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America.”
Wrong, Bias Breath! If adopted, the demands would kill commercial live theater, and it is more than half dead already, though most theater community members are in denial.
The list reminded me of the bad old days of the 1960s, when student anarchists, protesting the war in Vietnam, would take over university buildings and then, thinking that they had the upper hand, would submit a list of demands including the Moon and the kitchen sink, many of which had nothing to do with the war at all. This list of demands makes those look reasonable, one reason being that simply reading the 29 pages of arrogant woke-speak is a task few will have the patience to undertake.
I’ll just focus on some highlights. (By the way, you need to know that BIPOC means “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”):
- “We demand the naming and acknowledgement of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tribal land and its Native peoples who have lived, currently live, and will live on the land where any theatre activity happens.”
I hate to keep having to break it to these naifs, but theater is just not that important to most people, particularly those in power. “We have to rename Indianapolis to have theater here? OK—we won’t have any theater then! Problem solved!”
This one is worth repeating in full:
We demand that theatres create a safe and anti-racist environment for BIPOC producers, board members, leaders, staff and artists working on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in the Regions.
—Ongoing mandatory EDI and Anti-Racism Training must be implemented for executive leadership, boards and staff. A dedicated EDI presence should be made available for allshows, and a budget line item should be provided for regular EDI work at the organizational
—Quarterly Anti-Racism Training must be provided to full-time staff, part-time staff, contract creative hires, contract workers in costume shops, contract workers in scene shops, stage management hires, and production crew hires at the expense of the institution. Training must include bystander intervention, de-escalation, and conflict resolution training to provide the necessary tools to address racism and harm when it happens. It should be held quarterly to ensure artists and contract workers can be reached at whatever stages they are at in their professional
—Intimacy coaches and fight directors must have mandatory BIPOC
—Prioritize hiring contract workers who have gone through EDI, Anti-Racism and BIPOC
—-Hold a weekly 90 minute EDI/anti-racist check-in that is open to anyone and everyone who has attended Anti-Racism Training to allow for this work to continue.
—Develop intervention and disruption protocols for harmful moments (i.e. racist audience members).
—Require creative teams to undergo Anti-Racism Workshops at the beginning of each rehearsal or tech process and ensure accountability with signed statements
Suuuuure. Theater is hard work, actors often have second jobs, and any time not devoted to getting the show up undermines the production while increasing expense. As a former theater executive, I rolled my eyes so hard when I read this that I nearly had to catch them in a cup.
If you hire a BIPOC artist to direct and reimagine an existing work created by white artists, we demand that you demand from the creators’ estates free interpretive rein over the piece on behalf of the BIPOC artist. The BIPOC artist ought not be expected to advocate for the freedom to reinterpret, adapt and reimagine work by white people.
This one moved me to hearty laughter. You can “demand” all you want: writers and their estates own the works. Just because your director demands that he be allowed to stage “Oklahoma!” as if it takes place in Zimbabwe doesn’t mean the rights-holders are going to say, “Ok!” They won’t. Trust me on this. They will tell the theater that it can’t produce the show.
Here’s another one rich in unintended humor…
We demand that you prioritize the cultural care and feeding of BIPOC artists.
—Provide therapists or counselors on site for the duration of a rehearsal process and production run when producing/programming content that deals with racialized experiences, and most especially racialized trauma. These therapists and/or counselors should also have experienced Anti-Racism
Therapists! Broadway tickets are already so expensive almost no African-Americans can afford them (or choose to)…heck, almost no whites can afford them either. Yet on every one of the 29 pages are one or ten added expenses that will not do a thing to make the productions better while adding mightily to the red ink.
Provide theatre personnel (including ushers, front of house, concessions, etc.) with Anti-Racist, Implicit Bias, Anti-Oppression and Bystander Training.
The people in these jobs are difficult to recruit already. Ushers are usually volunteers. Do the people who wrote down this nonsense actually work in the theater? That’s hard to believe. One of the later demands involves theaters using BIPOC consultants, and this document looks as if it was prepared by some, and only skimmed by the activists promoting it.
I think I’m going to stop with this head-exploding “demand,” and I’m only on page 4:
We demand to be valued for our worth as artists, not just for how we racially or ethnically identify.
The entire document makes it crystal clear that racial identity trumps all else in this Brave New Theater World being imagined—Black, Indigenous and People of Color should make up “the majority of writers, directors and designers onstage for the foreseeable future;” the demands include virtual quotas for BIPOC performers—and yet it has the gall to “demand” that artists employed on the basis of racial and ethnic identity should be valued based on merit.