When your diversity is just a calling card, I’m not really interested.
I went on an audition the other day. On the call, the company had specified that they were casting only women, non-binary people, and people of color. This was awesome, as it always is to see these things in writing. And when I found out that the Artistic Director of the group was a white man, this was even more exciting: he’s trying to balance out the number of non-male and non-white voices in the room. The director was a woman, too. All signs were pointing to Real Inclusivity.
And then I found out that the first person they cast was a Straight White Man.
And I think I’m not really interested anymore.
At what point are you not held to the standards you’ve set for yourself? Why set standards in the first place if you do not intend to live up to them? Do you do it to look good, or do you do it because you think people won’t show up unless you do? If the later is true, why don’t you then cast the people who showed up? I know they were there. I saw them there. And they sounded really good, I could hear them through the door.
So, like, what’s the point?
My brother asked me a few weeks ago, after seeing The Glass Menagerie on Broadway (where Laura is played by Madison Ferris, an actress with muscular dystrophy and the first actress who uses a wheelchair to play a leading role on Broadway), if it was wrong for theaters to cast inclusively if they were just doing it because it’s the marketable thing to do. I was taken aback. He’s 16, he’s not supposed to be this intelligent and nuanced yet. And I didn’t know how to answer him. My first impulse is YES! Diversity for any reason is good! And the theaters will see that casting with inclusiveness in mind is a good thing for so many reasons in the short run AND long run and then it will just become normal. Until then, if theaters need a bandwagon to jump on, diverse casting sure is a good one.
And this is why this “we’re casting only not white men!” and then casting a white man bothers me. Surely you know what you have to gain by casting inclusively, since you were exploiting that fact on the casting call. So why not stick to your damn guns and just cast literally ANYONE else?
I have no way to close all these question marks. I just know that transparency is key. As Kristoffer Diaz says in his speech To The Mountaintop at the TCG National Conference:
I know that when it comes time to plan the future of your institution, some of you — many of you? most of you? — don’t exactly have a prominent space for those values in your decision-making matrix.
And that’s okay.
No, really — I think it’s okay.
I should, however, also mention that I value truth in advertising.
I’d rather you not post your bullshit commitment to diversity if following it was never a priority. Thanks for the effort, but actions speak louder than emails.