Thursday, January 17, 2013

Who Decides?

We are in the process of organizing a panel on Race in the American Theatre (see below for more info) and I find myself in the position (with our partners, who are not all white) of deciding who speaks. Which is interesting because it brings up the question of who decides in general – who decides who speaks on issues of race but also who decides which stories get told. As a white person where in the world do I get off putting myself in a position of deciding but if the League doesn’t step up and say hey this is an important issue then we are not doing our job.

And it brings up a very difficult question that I hope we might discuss perhaps at a later discussion. Who decides? Who decides whose stories get told and are we deciding (even if we are not white) on those stories that are most palatable to us. Do we veer away from truth and authenticity when we do that, even when we are sincere in our attempts to be culturally sensitive, even when our mission is to tell those little told stories. Most of us running theatres and Leagues of theatres are white and if we don’t choose then who will – how will ANY other voices be heard? Even if we “diversify,” we have a small number of people of color on our staff then deciding for all people of color.

I don’t know if there’s an answer but I am honored that the League has been asked to be a part of these discussions and I would love to hear your thoughts.


Victory Gardens Biograph Theater 
2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 * Postshow
Alarms went off in a recent La Jolla Playhouse production of Nightingale when white actors played Asian characters. In Chicago, the issue was raised with Oak Park's Circle Theatre's Bollywood treatment of Pippin. Where do we stand on nontraditional casting? Is this a form of minstrelsy or is this harmless cultural appropriation? Panelists include Erica Daniels, Associate Artistic Director of Steppenwolf Theatre, Sharon Jensen of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, E. Faye Butler and Kamal Hans of Rasaka Theatre. Join us for an important town hall conversation on playing race in American theatre. The panel discussion is free. Tickets are $15 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Call 773.871.3000 for reservations.

Silk Road Rising in the Historic Chicago Temple Building 
77 West Washington St., Chicago
On February 18, 2013, at 7 PM Silk Road Rising, the League of Chicago Theatres and Lifeline Theatre will host a panel discussion and community conversation that will address challenges faced by Asian American actors, particularly as regards casting, questions that theatres face in producing plays with Asian American content, as well as broader community concerns with productions that are not perceived as culturally authentic. Panelists will include: David Henry Hwang, Playwright; Jamil Khoury, Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising; Mia Park, Actor; and Chay Yew, Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theatre. The panel will be moderated by Danny Bernardo, actor and resident playwright at Bailiwick Chicago. This panel discussion is free. RSVP to to attend.

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