Yesterday I held auditions at my university for the Theatre Uncut project which is happening nationwide. This project will run on Saturday 19th March at the Rose Studio in the theatre in Kingston. These are a group of 6-7 highly political plays and a national call to arms to do something about the injustice we’re facing by the choices of cuts that are currently being made. (What I like is that there is no finger pointing: all political parties take the flak for the part they’ve had in the downfall of our economy.)
Don’t get me wrong, I was thoroughly grateful and moved for the turnout and it was great to see students who don’t usually audition for plays turn up. But, and this is a big but, they were all white. As I looked around the room, I was dismayed. There were only 2 mixed raced faces out of 20+: one was a choreographer and the other a director. What does that show about us?
For years the theatre maintained a very Patriarchal view in the way it works and it was only at the beginning of this century did they think about implementing positive discrimination to ensure a minimum percentage of Ethnic Minority playwrights showing in theatres.
Perhaps I am over-thinking. Perhaps I am being too aware and getting ahead of myself. How many people question what they see on stage? Does it matter that we are severely under-representing our society, our community (and our university) here? Try as I might though, I don’t think that makes it right.We should all think about the subtle messages that we send to our society. Surely we should address these sorts of things, the things like a children’s book on supermarkets which have 3 ethnic minorities pictured on the front cover and 2 white, 3 are shop workers and 2 are mother and child doing the weekly shopping – I’ll leave you to guess who was doing what.
There have been some major break throughs on our TV screens of late, with minorities showing up in soaps, but I do feel I am letting my community down even if Kingston is a white majority borough. (I don’t live there, I live in the borough of Lambeth.) Admittedly, short of standing over every minority student and bullying them into auditions there is nothing I can do. And then that begs the question of talent – would we be pushing out race over talent? But I know there are some extremely talented students from minority backgrounds and it frustrates and scares me that they aren’t involved. These plays are about everyone, and ideally I would like the nation represented in the plays. As it is, I’ll probably have to let down a Scandinavian student as the play she wanted to do would change focus and become about immigration and if that’s the story to tell I would prefer to have a someone representing races that the elections were fought over.
Does this make me racist? My partner suggested I should not worry about it so much now, at such a basic level and I understand what he means. We have 3 weeks to pull together these productions but I am the Artistic Director. I am overseeing the look and message of the pieces as a whole and that is not a message I want to give. I don’t want people to think the theatre is a luxury for the moderately wealth white man. I’m of the school of thought that theatre should represent everyone, regardless of their sex, gender-identity, age, race, sexuality.
What I want is equality. To quote Ani di Franco: ‘do you think I’m asking too much?’