TCG's Director of Communication and Conferences, Dafina McMillan, responds to Drew Barker's question on diversity and inclusion.
"How do institutions and artists negotiate between sincere attempts at 'bridge-building' and creating productive 'multicultural' explorations without falling into the potential traps of audience pandering or cliché?"
Ambassadors for Change
I think cliché and audience pandering happen when we’re not genuine in our motives – and not willing to relate to one another and really connect with each other’s experiences.
Sincerity comes when we take a moment (or several moments) to do some introspective thinking about our own biases, assumptions, stereotypes and viewpoints. That’s usually the hard stuff, but it’s so necessary. Every single one us comes into a room with biases, whether we like to admit them or not. I think genuine change happens when we recognize our biases, can be honest about them – and are still willing to be open to others and their differences. One has to be willing to be uncomfortable and that’s something most of us are uncomfortable with doing. Only then can you be genuine and be open-minded to others. It’s an intentional, ongoing process.
The practice of being inclusive is an action, a verb. Diversity is what we all bring to the table – quite simply the differences we all have. That difference is what makes it exciting… it’s what makes a brainstorm sizzle with various perspectives, what makes a season of programming more robust and illuminating, and what makes our audiences energized and charged up.
So how do we deliberately harness and seek out differences? And how do we create a safe place for those differences to be welcomed and nurtured?
As Suzanne Wilkins said at our National Conference, it becomes a question of maturity; it’s the capacity to tolerate complexity and paradox. How do we make space for the experiences of all people?
When we address that question, that’s when we make change and lead the charge.
Regardless of being an artist or institution – at TCG, we believe we’re all theatre people. Diversity is a core value of TCG and is a key focus in our newly developed strategic plan. I hope we can explore some of these topics at our Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge in November. What does it take to lead the charge with regard do diversity and inclusion? How can we be knowledgeable, equipped with tools and be ambassadors for change? We’ll explore the many intersections of difference, including age, gender, race, class, culture and ability at our Fall Forum. I’m hoping we can move from discussion to action – and overcome the fatigue that has become inherent when diversity is mentioned.
I hope as a field we can re-energize the conversation together.
-- Dafina McMillan
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!