As protests and rallies against racial injustice and the killing of black lives continue, there is a seismic shift happening in the country as the civic unrest is shining a blinding light on systemic racism against black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) — and the world of theater is the latest to get that spotlight.
An open letter addressed to “White American Theater” and demanding change was published Monday. The letter was filled with ugly truths that those who have worked in the theater industry have experienced for decades. Among the 300 BIPOCs who signed the letter were Lin-Manuel Miranda, Viola Davis, Sandra Oh, Uzo Aduba, Sterling K. Brown, Cynthia Erivo, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Danai Gurira, Andre Holland, Conrad Ricamora, Tanya Saracho, Anika Noni Rose, Jessica Hagedorn, Leslie Odom Jr., Katori Hall and others.
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The letter bluntly calls out the industry: “We see you. We have always seen you. We have watched you pretend not to see us.”
“We have watched you exploit us, shame us, diminish us, and exclude us. We see you. We have always seen you. And now you will see us.”
It continues to drag theater’s history of tokenism, white privilege, patriarchy, blatant racism, bias and hypocrisy: “We have watched you amplify our voices when we are heralded by the press, but refuse to defend our aesthetic when we are not, allowing our livelihoods to be destroyed by a monolithic and racist culture.”
“Join us in demanding change for BIPOC theater artists at http://weseeyouWAT.com. #WeSeeYou #TomorrowTherellBeMoreOfUs,” Miranda tweeted, sharing the letter and a petition with everyone.
The open letter comes as the protests following the killing of George Floyd and other black lives continue around the globe. It also comes when there seems to be a reckoning in all industries when it comes to racial inequality. More recently, Griffin Matthews shared their racist experiences with the theater industry while many organizations have been called out as hypocrites as they support the protests but have a history of discrimination.
Read the letter and watch Matthews’ video below.
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