Tuesday, January 25, 2011

whose form is it anyway?

At Parabasis last week, 99 Seats continued what I find to be a perplexing argument over crumbs at an otherwise bare table; to wit -- how to add minority voices into the mix of live theater:
We need muscle and courage, on all sides of this. We need productions, not awards and honors. The black artists I know are chomping at the bit and aren't waiting for diversity programs to find them anymore. And they shouldn't be. There's an audience that needs them, needs their stories. If the larger institutions want to conect to those audiences, as they continually profess they do, they have to start competing. Otherwise, they're going to get left behind.
But if the problem is that minority playwrights are underproduced, the question is -- left behind by whom? Live theater must continually scramble to assemble any kind of sustainable audience.

I don't believe in racial essentialism, nor do I believe in the rational market. The race of the performer/playwright and the race of the audience do not have to match in order for there to be comprehension. And the most expensive tickets are not necessarily to the highest-quality shows.

And so long as Ibsen can speak so persuasively to a brown person like me, I'm not willing to argue that changing the last name of the playwright's being produced is the short road to better theater.

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