On this day, I'd like the American Theatre to embrace the principles of freedom, liberty, and independence, but also of revolution by knowing, truly knowing on a blood and bones level, that we can be better and must do better. We can program, hire, foster, and model the movement towards greater equity, inclusivity, and diversity.
I encourage theatres to remove the term "risk" when we talk about the plays we program, the people we hire, the artists we invite onto our stages, and the communities we strive to serve. It isn't risky to hire a woman or a man of color. No, it's important that we do so. It isn't risky to program a play by a woman or a man of color. No, it's exciting when we do so. It isn't risky to take an honest assessment of self, staff, leadership, and board; address conscious and unconscious bias against those different from you; and then work to eradicate anything less than the highest standard of inclusion. No, it's critical that we do so.
Yes, the work required to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equity is hard. But what about negotiating a better, more just, and equitable life on this planet isn't hard, necessary, and ultimately worth it? As a black woman playwright, I don't have as many privileges as many of those holding the highest positions of power and rank in our industry, but I have more than some others fighting hard to be seen and heard, and I believe in the American Theatre. I believe there is room for all of us. The only thing stopping us is fear. Let's not let fear be our tragic flaw.
From Seth Godin, Is Better Possible?
"Fear, once again fear, is the driving force here.
If you accept the results you've gotten before, if you hold on to them tightly, then you never have to face the fear of the void, of losing what you've got, of trading in your success for your failure.
And if you want to do this to yourself, well, I guess this is your choice.
But don't do it to others. Don't do it to your kids, or your students, or your co-workers. Don't do it to the people in underprivileged neighborhoods or entire countries. Better might be difficult, better might involve overcoming unfair barriers, but better is definitely possible. And the belief that it's possible is a gift.
We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher. To write off people because you don't think getting better is comfortable enough is sad indeed."
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!