One big takeaway from the convening last week is that diversity is a really really huge subject, one that can't be contained in one weekend of meetings or one blog post.
So let me just try to distill some of what, to me, is going on here:
(1) The two main ways to talk about diversity are landscape diversity and intracompany diversity. The first has to do with what a given area's (your city's the nation's whatever) landscape of opportunity looks like. The other has to do with the behavior of individuals organizations. Both are important. Theatre should be a big tent, able to encompass culturally specific companies like Ma-Yi, INTAR or the Negro Ensemble Company, community-based theaters like BAAD! and the Classical Theatre of Harlem, large institutions like the Guthrie or MTC etc. and so forth. As they are the worlds that I have the most contact with, my focus on this blog will probably end up being larger institutions/LORT theaters and the "indie theater" world, neither of which strike me as particularly diverse.
(2) It's an interesting exercise to ask oneself what diveristy in an institution would/should look like. TO give an example: would a rainbow coalition of people of all different races all of whom were upper-middle class or wealthy be diverse? Would an all white company of people from all different class backgrounds be diverse? Etc.
(3) People are really, really jazzed to talk about class diversity. I suggested to David Dower that Arena do a specific convening about class and money in theatre and its effect on diversity. We'll see what happens. Getting people to be real about class and money is really, really hard. I tried to start talking about it by discussing my own advantages a *little bit* here.
(4) Ultimately, I go to practicality. I'm not particularly interested in making the case for why diversity is important right now in this post, as its a conversation I'm a *little* tired of having. I'm also sick of the quality conversation, as it takes as its baseline assumption that somehow diverse work will be of lesser quality and is a frame that forces advocates of diversity to immediately condescend to people of different backgrounds. It's an argumentative tactic that people who are opposed to diversifying have developed to derail the conversation. What I'm more interested in is looking this practically. And that means asking these questions: What are the barriers to inclusion? What can be done about them? Many other blogs have talked about a big one: out of control Credentialism in American Theater. What are others that you can think of?
(5) We have to stop thinking about this as theater's problem. It isn't. It's America's problem. What we are talking about here has some names... Workplace Discrimination is one of them... Structural Racism is another. There are lots of organizations devoted to combatting both of those phenomena and one thing we could do is to start talking to those organizations about how to move forward on these issues.
(6) It's also worth noting that many people who run larger institutional theaters who have problems with diveristy know it and don't know what to do about it. And that theatre is largely run by well-meaning liberal white people. What theatre is a testament to is the lack of ability for well meaning liberal whites to affect positive change on structurally embedded issues. It's just not that easy.