Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time be talking those segregation blues

I read a couple of things today and it wrapped up some things that I have been saying for a few weeks in a nice neat bundle. It was at the PACT Region 5 meeting where I broached the idea that integration in theatre was not working and perhaps we should give some serious thought to segregation. This, as to be expected, did not go over like a nice iced mocha. The idea of segregation seems to rip some liberal correctness buttons and for that I think we should expect that and then get over it.
When questioned about this idea I responded by saying that there are already any number of theatres that do complete seasons without a single non-white face of the stage. It may be their art but it is also de-facto artistic segregation. So why don't we just admit that and move on. Let the Euro-centric theatre produce what they feel comfortable in producing and lets work to build up the diverse theatres so that we can produce what we need to produce, in our own venues and without curatorial assessment by the rental venues.

The Mission Paradox blog is the entry point but the real money is:

Michael Kaiser, of the Kennedy Center, on diversity:

"I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about the issue of diversity in the arts, specifically, the drive to diversify the programming and constituents of all arts organizations.

The more I consider this thorny issue, the less I am convinced that the arts world has worked hard enough to dissect the true costs, benefits and implications of recent diversity efforts.

I love it when he talks about selecting the "low hanging fruit". The phrase always reminds me of Billie Holiday and:


Michael Wheeler said...

Hi Philip,

I'm not sure I agree, but I am intrigued by this perspective. I understand the impulse to keep "curatorial assessment" something that indie companies determine themselves, but the venues have the cash money to make things happen at a sustainable and professional level. Won't this lead to diverse works having less access to resources?

Especially as we see more gov't funding skipping the arts councils and going directly to major organizations (See Stratford, Shaw and Luminato for details). If these mega-institutions are going to have the bulk of public funding, shouldn't they present works that is somewhat representative of Canadians?

Obsidian Theatre said...

Hey Michael,

But that is the point. Right now they get the bulk of the money and depending on the season they do a portion of diverse work. But why? I mean maybe the money should go to the indies and let us do that work. Or conversely how about Obsidian gets millions of dollars and a huge 3 stage venue and we will hire a few white actors and promise to look after the needs of the Euro aficionados.Ok so no one would buy that for a minute even though I think would be pretty open minded and pro-active. So why is it acceptable the other way around. I think that instead of simply accepting the idea that the megas get off the hook by presenting a few plays is part of the problem. Why not make the megas themselves represent all Canadians. Why stop at the stage. There are more folks working off stage than on so why just settle for the orphans share.


Michael Wheeler said...

Hi Philip,

I think we agree entirely and are only quibbling over the difference between an ideal or actual arts funding universe.

Obviously I think independent artists should get a lot more funding. It was a little over a year ago that I wrote a post that posited that we could could have Luminato for 3 years or we could have 1500 new indie productions with the gov't funding.

Nevertheless, I think we have to accept that they did get all the money, and as long as we have THIS federal gov't any new moneys will go to their friends on the boards of theses "megas" or to regional festivals with their ribbon cutting opportunities. So in this context it seems to me the only solution is to keep up the pressure to at least share these resources indirectly.

Also, Kelly Nestruck has an interesting post today on his interview with Tracy Letts that tackles segregation in American theatre and how Steppenwolf is handling it. They're treating it like a bad thing that can be dealt with by race-blind casting. Thoughts?


(This post also provides a whole new reason why to be a wildly successful theatre artist - if you don't like a reviewer you can just call him an asshole!)