A coalition of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) theater workers has released a detailed, 29-page set of demands and strategies to combat racism in the Broadway theater, recommendations that dive deep into the foundational structure of the industry.
The coalition, known as We See You, White American Theater, calls for what would be a massive shift in employment demographics in which BIPOC workers would make up “the majority of writers, directors and designers onstage for the foreseeable future.” Nonprofit theater companies should staff a BIPOC majority of leadership, middle management and literary departments.
Under the terms of the document titled BIPOC Demands For White American Theatre, Broadway would be required to rename half of its theaters for artists of color, staff cast and creative teams so that BIPOC workers make up half of their number, and impose term limits on industry leaders. Broadway companies also should provide on-site counseling and discontinue security arrangements with police departments.
Read the entire document here.
The document, which We See You describes as a “living document” subject to change and expansion and as an “omnibus declaration of interlinked strategies,” also calls for an end to the industry’s working relationships with stagehands union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Casting Society of America until both unions make significant changes to their leadership and practices, chiefly with regard to hiring.
The We See You coalition announced itself with an open letter to the theater industry last month, one of several new or existing theater organizations to demand change as protests grew over the police killings of Black men and women. (Others included the Broadway Advocacy Coalition and Black Theater United.) We See You’s open letter was signed by hundreds of theater workers including 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. and Katori Hall.
The coalition, which does not have named leaders or spokespersons, says in the document that the demands are “culled from years of discussion between members of the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre communities immersed in the dynamics of which they speak, and bears the contradictions of our many concerns, approaches, and needs.”
“Racism and white supremacy are cultural formations constructed to rationalize unjust behavior for economic gain, and eradicating them requires radical change on both cultural and economic fronts,” the document states. “We also wish to underscore that our emphasis on antiracism should not be taken as an excuse to overlook sexism, ableism, ageism, heteronormativity, gender binarism, and transphobia, as our identities are intersectional.”
Also due for change, per the document: The Tony Awards, both in the percentage of nominators and voters of color, The Broadway League, and theater journalism. We See You calls on news outlets to switch from a salary structure for critics and theater writers to contract-based employment to up the industry’s percentage of BIPOC writers. Producers, We See You says, should buy ads only from those publications meeting those criteria.
The document also addresses both the selection and the look of plays and musicals: BIPOC directors hired for existing work created by white artists should be granted “free interpretive rein” by the creators’ estates, and costume shops should be trained in styling Black hair and make-up artists in working with Black actors.
Additional topics included in the document include compensation, audience development, ticket prices, academic training programs, and marketing practices, among many others.
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