Theater Talk: Pride, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 converge

Jun 12, 2020

June is Pride Month and while COVID-19 may have curtailed the parade, Playbill.com/PridePlays announces a performance of Donja R. Love's "one in two" (about being HIV Positive, Black, and Queer) tonight at 7pm. Watch, then vote before midnight for the first ever "Antonyo Awards" (the "just for fun" presentations will be on Juneteenth) which promise to be "hilarious, uplifting, and unapoligetically black." Then read "We See You, White American Theater."


Actor Leland Fowler in the play "one in two" which will have a reading tonight (6/12/2020) at 7pm at Playbill.com/PridePlays. (Fun Fact: Fowler was on stage at Chautauqua in the summer of 2016).
Credit Monique Carboni in Playbill.com

As reported in Playbill.com, Cynthia Erivo, Viola Davis, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among the signatories of the powerful letter "We See You, White American Theater"  (weseeyouwat.com).

300 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre makers, across various disciplines, have signed a letter—accompanied by a petition—demanding that the white American theatre recognize its legacy of white fragility and white supremacy. Penned in the wake of the nation's civic unrest and against the backdrop of a global Black Lives Matter movement, the letter, titled "We See You, White American Theater," is available to view online.

The letter exposes the indignities and racism that BIPOC, and in particular Black theatremakers, face on a day-to-day basis. The testimonial touches on several different points; including tokenism, in this instance when a theatre relegates just one slot per season to a BIPOC play; the co-opting of BIPOC work, scholars, talent, and funding; fiscal mismanagement on the back of BIPOC artists; failures to make changes in leadership and programming despite claiming anti-racist practices; the continued promotion of anti-Blackness; unchecked white privilege over the safety of BIPOC artists; and the upholding of a racist and overwhelmingly white critical landscape.

 "We have watched you amplify our voices when we are heralded by the press, but refuse to defend our aesthetic when we are not, allowing our livelihoods to be destroyed by a monolithic and racist critical culture," reads the letter. "We see you." 

"This ends TODAY," it concludes, demanding for a more equitable and safe space for all BIPOC communities inside of the American Theatre. You can sign the petition, which has already amassed tens of thousands of signatures since June 9, at Change.org. 

The cohort behind We See You WAT is currently collecting data, testimonials and statistics, which will be incorporated into a comprehensive list of demands calling upon white institutions to examine, change, and dismantle their racist practices. 

"We See You, White American Theater," has been signed by Cynthia Erivo, Viola Davis, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lauren Yee, Leslie Odom Jr., Lindsay Mendez, Leah C Gardiner, Katori Hall, Eden Espinosa, Ruthie Ann Miles, Issa Rae, Jacob Padrón, and Liesl Tommy, among many more.