For Playwrights

On Monday I attended Artistic Freedom & Artistic Responsibility Forum at Seattle Repertory. There are many accounts and recaps of the event from The Stranger, Seattle Times, and this heartfelt response from Sharon H Chang. You can also watch the whole thing at Howl Round or look up the #SeattleAFAR Twitter feed for more reactions. 

During the conversation, Pamala Mijatov (my director for Chaos Theory) dropped my name because of a casting note that I try to put before my plays in some form or another. She read the note and encouraged people to use it as a cross stitch sampler because she’s clever with them words. Shortly after the forum, I started receiving requests for the text in full so I decided to post it here. Feel free to take and modify as needed for your plays and in your casting notices.

While I’m happy that it was mentioned, I’d also like to say that it’s not a solution to the problem of diversity on stage. And it certainly doesn’t address the problems of diversity in other areas of the theater production including administration, directing, dramaturgy, design, etc. But it’s one possible tool you could use as a playwright. 

If diversity is important to you as a playwright, tell your director. Insist on not defaulting the ethnicity of your characters to white, able-bodied, skinny people. Be demanding about it. You should also seek out artists who you’d like to see speak your words. For better or worse, like hires like. So the way that we buck that trend is to recognize it and work against it. We’re only going to get better as a community if we are actively trying to improve. So, especially if you’re a white playwright working with predominantly white people, this little notice on the second page of your script might help to serve as a reminder that it’s 2014 and we are a diverse nation with diverse people. Our productions should try like hell to reflect that. But it’s only a reminder. And a reminder only works if you act on it.

“About casting: Families can be multi-racial, members of friend groups do not look like copies of each other, and the default appearance of characters should not be able-bodied, slim, caucasians. In short, this should not be a homogenous looking cast, and certainly not all white.”

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