Talking Back #5: Kevin Douglas
Since our incredible kick-off, The Chicago Inclusion Project has continued to explore how we will sustain our efforts and where we can make the greatest impact. Fully aware that we don’t have all the answers, we seek out others who may be passionate about our cause, and reach out to those who have experienced our intentions first hand. For this reason, we’ve interviewed the actors who were involved in our first reading of The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, performed on June 1, 2015 at Victory Gardens Theatre. Kevin is kickass and here are his thoughts.
This specific casting of “The Time of Your Life”...Did it tell the story, in your opinion?
How did it feel to read the role(s) you were given? Would you have asked to be seen for it?
I enjoyed reading the role of Krupp. Depending on the director's vision I may have been called in for that role, but history has shown that I probably wouldn't have. Historically he has been white.
Listening to it or watching it, did anything take you out of the story?
The length. It was a bit long, but that has more to do with attention spans. There was nothing that took me out of it. I thought the casting was great.
Was working on “The Time of Your Life” different from working on other plays for you? If so, how?
It was different in that it was the most diverse project I have ever been a part of... Ever. I have never seen this many different groups in a theatrical piece in such rich roles. NEVER. Musicals don't count and Shakespeare doesn't count.... Because playing a servant and being in a chorus are not what I consider RICH roles.
In your opinion, what is the state of representation on Chicago stages right now?
Better than it was ten or twenty years ago, but that's like saying I have twenty more dollars than I had ten or twenty years ago ...it's okay; we should be doing a helluva lot better. It is 2015. I can tell you the state of representation on Chicago stages, but going to Chicago's theatre companies' websites and looking at their shows, galleries, staff, and history over the last 5 to ten years ... That will do a better job of answering that question.
What are triumphs we’ve seen?
This project for one. More work by playwrights of color, more ensemble/artistic associates of color, staff members of color, including more shows of color in their season. And I see it happening NOT just during black history month that's a triumph.
Who has been doing it right?
I can't speak to other companies' process. I can only see what they show me and what their season shows me, and what their casting shows me. Victory Gardens is of course doing it right. My company Lookingglass is majority white and we are aware of it. We are making inclusion one of our priorities in the shows we select and our casting and across the organization. I have seen the difference and changes in the organization from the first show I was a part of to the present and I am happy and excited about the strides taken and the direction we are going.
What are challenges we still face as a community?
Saying things like we don't want to go "urban" .... That might be more of a television/film thing-not sure what the theatre code words are. Here is the thing, if it's about a boy flying or if it has witches and elves or if it is, you know a PLAY, why are directors and casting directors spending so much energy NOT casting people of color. IN CHICAGO or any other city.
What would you like to see done about it?
The Powers That Be need to actually care enough to make the immediate changes necessary. Many care enough to talk because they can talk and feel as if they have done something. Or said something. That's my polite way of saying put up or shut up.
If we had more time, what questions do you wish were asked at the panel discussion? or what concerns do you wish were addressed?
Casting is huge. But starting from the top as Chay had said... Starting with the directors and casting directors.
Each artist said “yes” to this project for different reasons. What were yours?
This is ACTION, not just talking about the issue, but doing something about it. As I said above when am I EVER going to work on a project with this many rich roles performed by so many people of diverse backgrounds?
If the Inclusion Project affects the change that I think it can .... It will happen in the very near future.
The Chicago Inclusion Project is awesome and I am honored to have been a part of it.
Kevin will perform Lookingglass Alice at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver Colorado. Sept.11th until Oct. 12th. A show he has written titled Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure will be produced at Lookingglass Theatre Company next Summer.