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June 26, 2010

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Aaron Riccio

You almost seem pleased to have been proved right. ::shrug::

99

I got their brochure in the mail. Their slogan is "Talk about range." Looking at the pictures of the playwrights, apparently that range goes from middle-aged white guy to young white woman.

isaac

Hey Aaron,

I'm doing follow-up. If it had been people of color, I would've written about it as well. I'd rather be wrong and have playwrights not have an all-white season.

Ben

yep, "range" is all about skin color. the color of a playwright's skin is what defines their work.

99

*Sigh*

I keep saying that this conversation depresses the hell out of me and keep saying that I don't want to go down the rabbit hole again. But then I do. So I guess I deserve it.

Ben- No. Obviously, the color of a playwright's skin doesn't define their work. And, again, no. I'm not saying "range" is all about skin color. BUT when you saying, essentially, "here's a range of playwrights and voices and stories" and the playwrights come from this pretty narrow band in our society AND, on top of it, the stories come from a pretty narrow band...it's not really a range, is it? Theatres are very, very comfortable with calling stylistic differences a "range," but are basically blind to the larger picture.

Like Isaac, I'd hoped to be wrong and that, with their last slot, PH would actually take a leap and program something that actually displayed depth of thought. But they didn't.

This conversation always gets sidetracked into some kind of criticism of the playwrights selected. But it's not. It's about the vision of the theatres that allow diversity in a certain bandwidth. That's it.

Aaron Riccio

99, you and I have both gone down this rabbit hole before, and obviously we'll continue to disagree, but you might want to watch that you lose the thread of your argument when you say things like "and program something that actually displayed depth of thought." Essentially calling a theater stupid because you don't like their choices--and again, you have no idea what happened behind the scenes in their selection process--makes it seem like YOU can't see the bigger picture. If you don't want the conversation to get sidetracked, then don't lump every show into a thoughtless lump.

Jack Worthing

Lovely that they learnt from the resounding success that was A FEMININE ENDING and programmed something by that playwright's -- very similiar, I promise you -- best friend. So goes the 'woman slot'...

Ken

My main complaint, being the ego-centric bastard I am, is that none of the playwrights selected is...me.

Casmir

What gets my goat is you've done so little research before decrying the announced season at Playwrights Horizons. We all know how pervasive racism is at every step of life in America, and playwriting and directing presume a certain level of privilege for those who even attempt it, so excoriating PH when one of their seasons reflects this sad fact is like blaming a woman reading VOGUE for it's lack of size 10 models. The problem started WAY before the reader bought the magazine. Unless you're saying our African-American and Hispanic populations are turning out playwrights in exact proportion to the population at large, which would be odd unless there isn't really racism and economic injustice holding them back. Or maybe they've struggled and overcome that racism and achieved numerical parity? Or there are fewer of them but they're just better than white authors and directors? Or maybe you can just skip the whole part of doing work when you blog and just throw out vague but damning implications? Give us the numbers, the real demographic statistics like Julie Jordan did with female authors, and then we can talk in a way that might lead to progress rather than more of the status quo, vague uneasiness, and unspoken racial animosity.

99

Well. Hello there, Casmir. Thanks for joining the conversation.

So. By your reasoning...PH is totally blameless in the selection of their season because there is pervasive racism, but you need me to prove there is pervasive racism with facts, figures and numbers because I'm advocating for equal representation for plays that just aren't as good as the white playwrights plays and that will lead to progress, because Julia Jordan did it a decade ago and there's no parity for female playwrights? Did I miss anything there?

I would suggest that you go back and read through the archives here, and at my blog 99 Seats, and take a look at the numbers provided by Outrageous Fortune for the facts and figures. I don't have them all handy, but they're not hidden.

I would also like to note that Playwrights Horizon's season wasn't shipped in from a sweatshop in China or dropped off on their doorstep in a basket with a note saying, "Please love these plays." They selected them. And, even though I loathe to repeat myself and loathe to resort to ALL CAPS, but I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST THESE PLAYS OR THEIR PLAYWRIGHTS. I know some of the writers, I like most of them and, honestly, I'm looking forward to seeing a couple of them.

But taking the staff of Playwrights to some measure of task for not programming one artist of color? I have no problem with that. I know it's not your argument, but whenever this comes up, the arguments whiplash back and forth: either everything is fine and rosy and black and minority playwrights are getting lots of opportunities or there's nothing that one organization can do about pervasive racism. Please pick one.

But I refuse to accept the idea that there's "pervasive racism at every step of life," but somehow Playwrights (or any theatre) should be exempt.

Aaron Riccio

99, Casmir's saying what I've said before, and this was LOOKING at the stats released by NYIT (I think?): of self-reporting playwrights in New York City, there were about 7 white playwrights to every 3 black ones, ignoring gender. The stat actually could've been even more skewed, but I don't have the data in front of me. And that's just NYC, where I think you're MORE likely to find a black playwright--not all of America.

I can't speak for Casmir, but the reason I've asked for stats (or a link to data that I can research myself) is because of the provocative language you often choose to use (as most bloggers do, myself included); for instance (as I said above), while you say that you have nothing against these plays or their playwrights, you emphasize that there's no depth of thought to them. Perhaps the sad truth is that of the many plays submitted to PH, of which we'll say were probably ~70% white, the six "best" happened to be white. If you were to RANDOMLY select plays, that would happen ~10% of the time. Look back at PH's last ten seasons: is this the first to not have a single black writer?

Lily

To answer Aaron's question: Looking back at the last few seasons, PH has had a play by a writer of color in I think five of the last seven seasons. They also usually have a very good balance of male/female writers, plus new vs. known writers, which are things I also look for when looking for "range."

poetics@mac.com

As an old white playwright, I find PH's programming far broader and more challenging than most theaters.

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