Director’s Brief: Something happened that really bugged me. 

Director’s Brief: Something happened that really bugged me. 

 

Hi everyone! Happy Holidays!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated here. For most producing theatres, this has been a very weird time. We’ve seen our industry across the country struggling to keep afloat in the face of not just a weakened business environment, but one that’s been wiped out. 

The job losses have been enormous! And its impact on the arts will be felt for years.

That said, I am so grateful for our community. You bought masks, you donated, you supported our “cottage industry” Second Act, and you attended our online events – we’ve been so fortunate to keep most of our staff on the job and off unemployment.

But something happened this week that really bugged me.

We’ve been airing our reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol — we’re producing it in five parts (staves), and it has provided 12 actors and four directors a paycheck in their field. I am immensely proud of this project! It’s timely, giving work to a segment of the population who has had their opportunity to practice their profession curtailed. I’m proud of the quality of the work we’ve offered and talent of these actors is off the chart.

But recently, a patron of the theatre—a well-known public figure—wrote to me with a criticism. Without painfully quoting it, this patron’s complaint was that the casting demonstrated diversity of race and of gender.

We dared to have a reading where men and women read parts that were not limited to their gender.  Worse, this patron suggested that we were trying to fulfill a “quota.”

Really??!

This was a READING of a novel! When you are reading a story book to your child, and doing all the voices, does it matter if the male voice is read by a female?

If you are listening to a book being read on Audible, do you care about the race of the person doing the reading?

Why is seeing a POC read a role you previously have only imagined as white so disturbing? The answer to that question might be instructive, and indeed, it demonstrates what we are up against in this community and in the country.

I’m angry at the suggestion that I traded race for skill or that I dared have a woman read a man’s role. But I am most saddened that in this day and age a prominent member of our community would voice this. I expect that this perspective still lives in the dark, but that someone comfortably announces it shows what a long way we have to go to heal our wounds of racism and sexism.

If we’ve learned nothing this year, we’ve learned that our country has some major issues with equality and inclusion. I know I am in no way perfect in dealing with these issues and I acknowledge that there are changes to be made at PTC – but this conversation gave me pause.

The only way to change things is to change.

—Karen