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December 17, 2009


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Scott Walters

You know, the reason we don't actually DO anything about things like diversity is BECAUSE people get sick of a conversation after a couple days. So it remains up to us to make certain that the issue not disappear.

Jack Worthing

I disagree. The reason people get sick of the diversity conversation is because it eats itself. The same problems and unsatisfactory solutions, restated forever. We may have to accept that the nature of the business precludes real change. What's left but to tear the whole thing down and start over again? Honestly.


It's not much of a conversation.

It's mostly one side arguing a principle (we need more diversity!) without really offering any facts. Instead, unsupported suppositions, misleading correlations and inappropriate parallels are offered in support of a hypothetical ideas of what's wrong. Underneath it all is a concept that "good" has an objective set of criteria... a concept that is also unexamined with any depth and that there are plenty of plays that meet these criteria but are overlooked because the authors are from the wrong class. These thoughts are then followed by some strange and rather ridiculous ideas about how to fix it (a lottery, for instance).

Meanwhile, others make points based on anecdotes, which - while always suspect for drawing larger conclusions - are at least based on direct experience. However, when this group points out what they've actually seen and heard with their own eyes and ears they are labeled as being privileged and blind. So when they counter they appear to become increasing shrill...

The whole thing is real turn-off.

Jack Worthing

Precisely. My talent didn't get me anywhere, so I don't know anything. I've skated by on my parents' non-existent pocketbook and my skill at fellatio. My many years of doing this don't count for much.


Um? Unsupported supposition? This whole conversation has focused around a study that shows that there is a clear tilt towards the graduates of a small number of schools, as well as another study that indicates that the audiences for theatre are increasingly wealthy, not to mention the discussion of the lists of the most produced playwrights, the overwhelming majority of whom are white men. I'm not sure what more evidence you need to show that there is a pervasive bias in our field. Whether you think that's an okay or acceptable thing is something between you and your conscience and worldview, I suppose. I do not. I think that it would serve the arts and theatre in particular better to have more voices, more participants, more points of entry, as opposed to seven elite graduate schools.

If you don't think there's anything wrong with how our field is operating, that's your opinion and you're welcome to it. But those of us who do have more than anecdotes to discuss.

I shudder to say this all again, but it seems to bear repeating: talent has nothing to do with any of this conversation. Not at all. No one is saying that people only get into MFA programs due to connections and their achievements are unearned. No one. If anything makes this conversation shrill and unproductive, it's that.


You're supposing that there's no reason for these schools to be looked to for work. And that it's as simple as going to one of those schools and you're in.

Here are some questions we should all be asking when we examine that survey - some qualitative, some quantitative.

How did they find their playwrights?
How did they define "playwright" (eg, production credits or self-defined)?
How many theaters did they approach?
What kind of theaters did they approach (size, mission and scope)?
What are the submission policies at these theaters?
What is the decision process like at these theaters?
Who are the decision makers at these theaters and where do they come from?

You ask some similar questions of the audience survey.

Are we talking Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway?
What are people doing instead?
What was the make-up of the theatre audience 50 years ago?



Good questions all and I'm looking forward to reading the study to get into the answers.


Thanks KL, I am with you on all that.


And for everyone interested in reading the study, about an hour ago, I received this email from TDF:

“Thank you for your interest in “Outrageous Fortune, the Life and Times of the New American Play”. The book is now available for purchase on TDF’s website. A direct link is provided below for your convenience. ”

However, I tried two different credit cards and neither worked, so I suspect some glitch there.

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