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March 30, 2010

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Jaime

They only announced five of their six productions.

And also, maybe these were just the plays they loved best. I appreciate that they make an effort to have a diverse season, but I'm glad to think they wouldn't include a script by a non-white writer for affirmative action purposes if they couldn't find something awesome that they loved.

(I'm not saying there was nothing awesome out there. But you gotta follow your own artistic heart.)

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist !

thank god I'm not the only one who thought that when I saw the NYT article.

Aaron Riccio

It just seems like there's always going to be something to complain about, though. I mean, if not this, it'd be that they weren't having any female playwrights. This is NOT to say that there isn't under-representation. However, I'd be curious (again, I'm a stat man, so if this study already exists, please direct me to it) if there's a demographic study of the current pool of playwrights.

What percentage of them are white? Are male? Gay? Republican? American? Just how badly *are* we missing whatever passes as the actual norm in this business? (And this could be self-declared; you don't have to have been produced to be a playwright, as I see how that could be a vicious circle.)

freeman

The only problem I have with this kind of observation, with all due respect, is that there's actual racism and oppression out there. Saying stuff like this, with all its implications, shouldn't be done too lightly.

Unless I see otherwise, I just can't assume that the staff at Playwrights Horizons need to be hit with a politically correct prod in order to be progressive people with their hearts in the right place.

Jenny

I have to agree with Freeman. et. al.
Perhaps the stories of the plays represent a diversity of experiences (not knowing the plays, I couldn't say...)

malachy walsh

I love Bash Doran's work. I'm glad they're doing one of her plays.

Aaron Riccio

I'm pretty sure you were joking with your update, but I'll bite just in case I missed something. Aren't there two female playwrights and directors? Amy Herzog/Bathsheba Doran and Carolyn Cantor/Leigh Silverman?

RVCBard

I think it's pretty entertaining that it's White men telling us what institutional racism and sexism look like.

Alejandro

I actually noticed this at the Public too and was a lot surprised. They really make a point to have a very racially diverse season and support theater artists of color.

There are a whole lot of issues if you're a writer of any minority that I won't get into here ... but I think there's a big issue with theaters like INTAR which used to support and encourage edgy Latino theater has basically disappeared.

99

My thoughts are here: http://99seats.blogspot.com/2010/03/nothing-to-see-here.html

The lack of minority theatres and producing groups is a big hole in the city's landscape. We can't depend on the major institutions to fill the gaps. Certainly not anymore. And apparently not for the foreseeable future.

Scott Walters

I have to admit that I find the whole "well, maybe these were the plays they loved and hey, they're all good progressive people so don't hammer them" argument pretty lame. Inertia, as Tom Loughlin has pointed out in the past, is very prevalent in the theatre. The only way to promote change is to bring some pressure to bear, and the best pressure is peer pressure. Every time the theatre world shrugs and looks the other way, falling back on the so-called "quality" issue as an escape hatch, we send the message that diversity really isn't a priority when all is said and done. Is that really the message we want to send?

Lindsay

who should they cut?

Who's the culprit? Is it Albee's fault? Bock? Cullman? Does David Greenspan not deserve his production?

To be more 'inclusive,' others must be left out. Who should they be? Who should they be replaced with?

99

*bangs head on desk repeatedly*

NO ONE IS BLAMING ANYONE. Certainly not the playwrights. The individual playwrights being produced her are the least powerful players in this.

Why is it so impossible to ask the question: is it right for an institution that touts its inclusiveness and the high standards and quality of its plays to have a season without a single author of color?

isaac

So much to respond to... keep it coming, folks. Quick hits:

Jaime: I get your point, and I know you and I stand on different sides of the affirmative action debate, but just to reiterate: my position is that this stuff doesn't change without conscious effort. It *might* take more conscious effort to find a play by a writer of color that fits their criteria, but I think that effort is worth it. I'd be surprised if there were zero plays by people of color as good as the ones they've chosen (And i'd just like to note that white women are the number 1 beneficiary of affirmative action rules)

Freeman: I'm not entirely sure what you think I'm implying. I'm certainly not calling Playwrights Horizons, or anyone who works there racist. I'm simply noting that their season doesn't include any people of color. Surely we should be able to note that kind of stuff and talk about it?

Jenny: I think "diversity of experience" is a cop out. Everyone has a different experience. You could have an all white, all male season and say "but their experiences are diverse". In fact, you could never program a work by a woman or person of color again.

Malachy: I'm very happy they're doing a Bash Doran play as well!

Lindsay: While I agree with 99, what your comment does point out is taht these conversations are very anxiety raising because we're talking about scarce production opportunities and how those should be doled out and I think people feel threatened by that.

Finally, I'd just like to say that I'm curious as a thought experiment what would've happened if this post had initially been about how many female playwrights and directors they have. The only reason why I mention it is that I don't recall there being this heavy pushback over 50/50 by 2012 or any of the other female-inclusiveness initiatives.

Also, I didn't mean to single playwrights horizons out as this is a city (and industry) wide issue and as more places announce their seasons, i'll try to keep track of those as well.

working Group

It starts at the leadership level... it has to... I wrote a longer bit about this at my joint:

http://seanchristopherlewis.com/?p=217

But it's the same problem every year isn't it? So then the root is where the decision is made...

clay

The problem with this post is that line "given their reputation".

Does Playwrights Horizons *actually* have a reputation for diversity? I didn't think so.

Then, when responding to Freeman, you summarize your initial post as "I'm simply noting that their season doesn't include any people of color." I think this is also untrue. You are noting that there is a gap between the make-up of their season and their "reputation." Which certainly implies that they are found lacking when it comes to inclusion of diverse voices.

In responding to Freeman you also say that you are not calling Playwrights Horizons racist. Okay. But surely, if there is any value in this post at all, it is because you ARE implying that Playwrights Horizons is racist, or, at least, that they may be are part of a chain of decisions that add up to an under representation of minorities. Isn't that the point? To point out how racism and discrimination function in the world?

When I read the post initially I assumed that what you *meant* to say is that given how much Playwrights Horizons TOUTS their diversity, their new season is damn white.

Then you've got a point: Playwrights Horizons TOUTS their inclusiveness and diversity and then doesn't step up. But when you TOUT your diversity and don't demonstrate it, you are a hypocrite, not a racist.

A bit like offering $20 students tickets and touting your accessibility to an economically diverse audience, EXCEPT when a show is selling out, at which point all the tickets you reserved for students are sold to people willing to pay full price.

It's hypocritical to advertise your values in place of exercising them. However, to follow on from Freeman, slyly implying that Playwrights Horizons is racist on evidence of hypocrisy and/or undeserved reputation is....provocative. You should own the provocation, and not act surprised or alarmed when there is "push-back", now slyly implying that the "push-back" is an example of stealth prejudice bubbling to the surface.

And for the record, I'm SURE that the push-back you're receiving IS in part a function of prejudice bubbling to the surface. And that Playwrights Horizons have contributed to inequality this season. But why be all innocent about it?

The above ticket policy, by the way, is practiced by....Playwrights Horizons.

Lindsay

99, isaac,

I don't think it's impossible to ask the question, "is it right for an institution that touts its inclusiveness and the high standards and quality of its plays to have a season without a single author of color?"

I think the implicit answer is 'no.'

So, now we have a question and answer. What next? That's all I'm asking. More round table discussions?

If you're serious at all about this being a problem, make a serious contention, not just calls for more conversation.

These "discussions" and "conversations" about female playwrights and playwrights of color not getting enough productions, contain within them the implicit (and sometimes explicit) assertion that racism and sexism are at work.

Or am I wrong?

All this mincing about! "There's a real problem with women and minorities not getting produced." "Oh, we're not saying anybody's at fault, let's just talk about it."

Are racism and sexism at work? Yes or no?

I am certainly not saying it's wrong to talk about these things. Quite the opposite. My argument would be that it's wrong to talk about these things lightly, making (what appear to me to be) indirect indictments of sexism and racism.

interested party

I don't know how this blog thing works, but wouldn't it have been possible to just delete the first update entirely? 2/5 of the plays announced are written by women, and 3/5 of them are directed by women. And there's still a 6th play or musical to go. That seems to beg more than an "Oops."

isaac

Hey Interested,

It's a standard blogging practice to correct, rather than retract incorrect information as a way of keeping yourself honest. that's why there's a second update to the post, with the initial one crossed off. I want people to know that i got that one wrong. It's not about hiding the error but rather a gesture of integrity.

If the sixth play turns out to be by or directed by a person of color, I'd be happy to write a follow up post about that.

Holding my breath,
Isaac

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