“I write shows stacked with Black and Puerto-Rican dudes. I ride slow to avoid police procedurals. We write slow ’cause I build them like cathedrals”. – Lin-Manuel Miranda (BET Hip-Hop Awards: Hamilton Cypher)
I Write Shows Stacked with Black and Puerto-Rican Dudes
The title “The Great White Way” which, if you don’t already know this, is a term for Broadway in New York City has taken a very literal meaning for the majority of it’s time. A meaning that has little to do with the bright lights it was named for. This next season six out of the 15 shows that have been announced for the 2015-2016 season feature a cast where the minorities are in the majority. This does not include The Lion King which, if you look at the bio for most African-American musical theater actors it’s laughable how you’ll almost certainly see this show in there.
I’ve had this talk often with my friends of all races about when I say to friends who aren’t black, that I’m tired of not seeing enough minorities in shows they automatically say, “Well, then you should write shows for black people.” I get so aggravated because what does that sentence actually mean? If the people who have said this to me heard themselves they would probably be ashamed. Because the mentality is that black people should only be in shows about black people that specifically deal with race issues. While I think that type of show is important, that isn’t the point. The point is that black people are capable of being anything. A majority of plays and musicals do not have a bias either way for what race should be cast. For example, although it’s been done, I wouldn’t make Tracey Turnblad in “Hairspray” black, because that show specifically deals with race issues and the fact that she makes black friends and fights for them to be given the same privileges as she enjoys.
The deep seeded issue is that this line of thinking is extremely common and not being addressed. If my niece decides to one day become an Actress she should have the opportunity to be any part. No one should cast her based on race unless that is part of being true to the story. There are a handful of shows on Broadway right now where race is part of the story, but still 80% of the shows are predominately white. Why are we not reflecting America on the stage? People of all races buy tickets to shows, they should all be able to see themselves.
I Ride Slow to Avoid Police Procedurals
Last year, I sat with one of my old roommates and she made a true and sad statement as we watched the Oscars. She was very quiet for a few minutes which was not like her, then all of a sudden said, “That room is still too white.” All I could do was agree with her. When you have a man who has won every major theatrical award possible, a literal “Genius Award”, an Emmy and who is a Pulitzer Prize Nominee and will probably win it in 2016, you begin to wonder, why is he still worried about riding slow to avoid the cops?
What we need first is a mind shift. I don’t agree with not seeing color. I’m a black woman who is proud to be so and I embrace my heritage, the good, the bad and the ugly. But what needs to change is the way that we see color. Many still see it as a barrier. A thing that creates a large chasm between individuals, so that one can not understand the other or see the other’s similarities in themselves. Yes, their are differences. Differences are what give the world it’s color and life. But, there are a lot of similarities too and life moments that we all encounter regardless of what our ethnic backgrounds may be. If we understood that we are all part of this human experience and walking it together, supporting each other and loving one another, our responses would be different. We wouldn’t be in 2015 and finally see six Broadway shows with multi-ethnic casts and be calling them groundbreaking. The fact that this is a monumental year is ridiculous. I’m glad the tide is shifting but also extremely frustrated at how far we need to go even still.
I Write Slow ‘Cause I Build Them Like Cathedrals
My prayer is that with the slow speed at which racism and prejudice are shifting, that we are going to finally make a lasting and permanent change. In 2013 I wrote a similar blog post after having been to a Master Class with Spike Lee as the speaker. He spoke about race in entertainment and especially blacks being perceived as all being one way and no one being offended when derogatory terms are used in excess about blacks. Just as I stated in that blog, these issues are a problem we all need to deal with. I am glad that it is getting talked about but we need to move past talk and into action.
Yes, I write plays. Will some of them be about the black experience? Yes, they will. Will that be all I write about? No. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what’s already been written and the parts that are created and make different choices. If you are someone who has the power to write and cast a theatrical production, web series, TV show or film, make new choices. It doesn’t matter if it’s at your church, community theater or a professional production. I’m just asking that we all take responsibility and begin to cast the best actors, choose the best writers and directors no matter their race. Let’s not wait for me or any other minority to do it. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc we can all make new choices now with the power we currently have and if you don’t have any influence but want some, get it. Start your own revolution like I am. Don’t sit around waiting for others to give you the power. It might feel slower than you would like and take longer than you expected, but every small step towards change puts us in a better position than we were yesterday.
I know some of you who might be in the majority race and feel that people are asking you to apologize for it, that’s not what is happening here. What I am asking you to do is to recognize the privilege you have been born into and use that to shift the tide. Use your influence and what God has given you to make things better for everyone. We are not attacking you but are asking for allies in the revolution. Please change your perspective on this because we each need to be a united front. Change happens in the mind first. When you shift your way of thinking your actions will follow and that is what will change the world.
“I’m past patiently waitin’! I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation. I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow” – Alexander Hamilton – excerpt from “Hamilton”: The Musical
To The Revolution!