Hello Theater friends, peers, and collaborators.
2017 was expectedly awful. I could list a lot of reasons why, but we all know them. Some of us are talking to therapists about them. Some of us are seeing friends more often. Some of us are diving hard into self-medication. Some of us are working to exhaustion. Some of us have run out of fucks to give.
That is not to say that there was no light this year. 2017 was also filled with moments of strength, bravery, and camaraderie.
We’re all dealing how we’re dealing and the one place that we should find support, exciting challenges, and solace is in our community: The Chicago Theater Community.
The Chicago Theater Community has a lot of work to do.
There are still theater companies, both Equity and non-Equity, who are not casting or working inclusively.
There are actors and actresses who have spoken up about disrespectful behavior from cast members that were then mocked by those cast members and unsupported by the companies.
There are still performers being touched when they don’t want to be touched.
Let’s all, together, put an end to this nonsense in 2018.
If you are a white director in Chicago, I’m asking you to look at the work that you have done within the community. Has it been inclusive? Do you see the same white faces from the same white artists that you have always worked with? Have you made jokes about inclusion? Have you been bothered by the Theater Community’s response to a show you have done? Have you been told about a performer’s abusive behavior? Do you help create not just inclusive shows, but inclusive seasons? When you look at the audience who comes to see your work, is it inclusive or a “sea of white faces”? Have you done anything to help protect the members of your community? Are all the designers that you work with white?
Dig deep into yourself and ask if your work is helping or harming the community. Are performers and collaborators excited to work with you or do people tend to work with you only once? Have you been a part of a panel about race within the theater community to have it actually affect your work or are you doing it just to say that you participated in it?
What are you going to do to embrace inclusive casts and work in 2018?
Sidenote and personal opinion: White directors should stop holding panel discussions about race within the theater community. If anything, the panel’s audience should be filled with white directors and casting directors so they can listen and learn. You don’t need to be in the spotlight of “fixing” a problem that you are contributing to.
If you are a white performer in Chicago, I’m asking you to look at the work you have done within the community. Has it been inclusive? Have you had to apologize to friends for a show you were in because your show was not cast inclusively? Have you made a joke about a cast “getting the inclusive point” becauses a show or reading was cast inclusively? Have you misled casting directors into thinking that you are a different race? Have you been dismissive or defensive when members of your community say, “This isn’t right” about work you have been a part of?
You can change it, so I’m asking you, what are you going to do to make that change happen?
Sidenote and personal opinion: I know that casting directors and directors are the people in charge of putting casts together, but it is supremely disappointing to see all white casts on stage when there was no reason for a show to be cast that way.
If you are a white reviewer in the city, I’m asking you to look at the work you have done within the community. Has it been inclusive? Have you neglected or just chosen to not mention performers of different races in your reviews? Are you giving space to new reviewers with a different point of view? Are you supportive of companies that are making inclusive work a priority? Are you fed up with being called out on your lack of racial awareness?
What can you do to change it? How can you have a positive effect on the community whose art you love to review?
Sidenote and personal opinion: If you are an older white reviewer in the city, I honestly don’t know how you are going to make the change. I have family members who are your age who can’t say when they’re wrong, and they would rather think they are right than learn from their mistakes. So...prove us wrong. Show that you can listen. Show that you can change. Do it in your actions.
If you are a white casting director in Chicago, I’m asking you to look at the work you have done within the community. Have you cast shows inclusively? Do you fight against inclusive casting? Have the responses to the shows that you’ve worked on been positive or negative? Do you defend casting a show all white by blaming performers of different races for their “lack of experience”, for “not being available”, for “not being comfortable with the language”? Do you tend to cast the same white actors that you have always cast?
What are you going to do to make your work inclusive in 2018?
Sidenote and personal opinion: There are casting directors in Chicago who make it a priority to cast inclusively. Can all casting directors be held to this standard? I think they can. Can performers in this city begin to trust that the theater companies we audition for are going to cast their plays and seasons the same way Marvel and Star Wars cast their movies now? It seems to be working for Marvel and Star Wars.
If you are a member of the Chicago Theater Community, I’m asking you to look at the work you have done this year. Have you been supportive of your peers? Do you look at inclusive collaboration as a novelty or a necessity?
Are you touching cast and crew members when they don’t want to be touched? Are you embracing that the theatrical landscape has changed in Chicago? Are you angry that things aren’t “the way things used to be?” Have you been warned about a performer’s abusive behavior? Are you listening to the people who are speaking up? Have you misgendered cast or crew members?
What can we do in 2018 to make our Theater Community better?
I am Jeff Trainor. A non-Equity white actor, a member of The Chicago Inclusion Project, and I want the Chicago Theater Community to be Inclusive, Supportive, Daring, and Strong. I am going to do everything I can to have a positive impact on the growth of our community.
Who are you and what are you going to do?