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. Todd Garcia...
This specific casting of “The Time of Your Life”...Did it tell the story, in your opinion?
Yes, honestly this is a story of “life” and there are characters in this play that anyone can easily relate to. I don’t think the casting changed the base story; if anything I think it enhanced it.
How did it feel to read the role(s) you were given? Would you have asked to be seen for it?
I loved reading the role I was given. I said something at the reading itself but this role was the story of me meeting my wife and falling in love, it was a normal and easily performed role. No, I don’t think I’d have been seen for it…but I think I could have played it.
Listening to it or watching it, did anything take you out of the story?
Like I’ve said, this is a story of life. I think anyone can relate to it and the characters who told the story. I never once thought of the race of the person reading, I only cared about what they were saying.
Was working on “The Time of Your Life” different from working on other plays for you? If so, how?
I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some really talented and open minded people in my time in Chicago. This play was different only in that we had a goal to specifically comment on the thought process of casting, otherwise I just came to tell a story. Like I always do.
In your opinion, what is the state of representation on Chicago stages right now?
It’s a difficult conversation to have. Generally, I see a lack of diversity on stage in Chicago and where I see it the play itself is for that specific ethnic group. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I think we need to see diversity in casting for plays where it’s not “expected”.
What are triumphs we’ve seen? Who has been doing it right?
I think Victory Gardens is doing a great job as well as several other theaters in Chicago, of looking for ethnically diverse plays and bringing ethnically diverse stories in front of subscribers. It’s not easy and we are seeing progress. I also see a lot of allies outside of what I’d expect and I think it’s really wonderful.
What are challenges we still face as a community?
I don’t think you’ll go out and find a theater who specifically says “No” to diversity in acting. I think the biggest issue is expanding the way people look at a play and expanding the way these same people think about casting said plays. It’s easy to go with what you’re familiar with and make the “safe” choice, but part of art is changing minds and I believe we need to start by changing ours.
What would you like to see done about it?
I’d like for people to spend the time asking questions of themselves. I’d like to see them question their version of the story they want to tell and be open to the fact that others might have a different version that’s equally as good or better. I want open communication, I want people to share triumphs and I want people to be called out on failures. This is a community, we should treat each other with enough respect to have an open dialogue about where we’re doing good and where we can do better.
Each artist said “yes” to this project for different reasons. What were yours?
I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again to anyone that will listen. Theater is about storytelling. More specifically, I think that theater is about the stories of humanity and I’ve looked at humanity recently. We’re all different. Humanity is diverse but we share so many common storylines. To not see the stage represent the diversity of the stories being told is not acceptable any longer. That’s why I said “yes”.
Let’s keep moving forward.
Todd is excited to return to the stage in 2016! We'll be sharing the news soon!