Increasing the diversity of voices in theatre criticism

Are you a person of colour who would like to develop their chops as a theatre critic or maybe just reach a wider audience? In the interests of creating more diversity in Vancouver’s community of theatre critics, I’d like to offer my mentorship/support/whatever I can. 

I’m open to discussing how this might work, depending on the needs and desires of the person I’m working with—and there’s only going to be one at a time. Here are some of the possibilities that have come to mind so far: we could talk about what I’ve learned—and what I continue to learn—about writing reviews and situating myself in the broader theatre community; I could help you to polish your material, if you’re into that; I could help you to get a toehold by posting your reviews on my blog or by linking from my blog to yours.

I’d also like to be able to draw from your experience and analysis as I negotiate my relationship, as a white theatre critic, to the experiences of people of colour.

I hope that I get some responses to this initiative. Assuming that I will get more than one, I’d like to ask potential participants to submit a sample review of anywhere from 200 to 500 words. It would also be great if you could tell me how you see the mentorship/support going. What can I offer you? What can you offer me? What would your goals be in this process?

And, if you could tell me a bit about why you think your perspective is underrepresented, that would be great, too. My sense, for instance, is that younger voices seldom get a lot of attention.

Please feel free to share this offer as widely as you see fit.

And we’ll see what happens. ?

Folks who are interested can contact me through the email address on my blog.

Thank you, Crystal Verge

I’m feeling a bit like Paul on the road to Damascus. I think I might be having a conversion experience.

I spent all day yesterday (Saturday) writing and rewriting my response to—well, to the shit storm. At times, that response was very lengthy. I spoke to a number of people during the day, trying to sort things out.

Early Saturday evening, during our third conversation, Crystal Verge said an extraordinarily helpful thing: she asked if I thought my pleasure in the Haberdashery production of The Motherfucker with the Hat justified the suffering that it unintentionally caused the artists of colour who saw it as emblematic of their systemic exclusion. Or at least she said something like that. And I found it persuasive.

I had spent hours parsing and re-parsing perspectives on the relationship between casting, ethnicity, and performance—and, all of a sudden, my obsession started to look not so important.

White privilege? Yeah. I guess. Just a bit.

I’ve still got all sorts of questions, of course, about choosing shows and casting shows and who gets to play what characters. I am wary of artistic restrictions. But the frame has shifted. At least I think it has. There’s a possibility, I suppose, that my conversion experience is really a Cultural Revolution confession, that I’m exhausted and it’s easier to fold, but I doubt it.

I want to keep asking questions. I look forward to sitting down with Carmen when she gets back to town. And I hope I get to speak with Omari again.

And, right now, I want to include a paragraph that has stayed constant: I’m aware that, although it certainly wasn’t my intention to do so, I have hurt and offended a number of people. I framed Friday’s post in terms of Haberdashery Theatre’s The Motherfucker with the Hat because specifics make discussions more concrete. That said, I apologize for taking such a hard swing at actor Francisco Trujillo. I also made a factual error. I thought John Cassini grew up in New York. He lived in New York, but didn’t grow up there. I take responsibility for all of these things, and I apologize for them.

I also want to make it clear that, in finding a new perspective, I don’t respect the artists of Haberdashery Theatre less. I still believe there was some revelatory work in that show, some really terrific acting. That bunch has been through the wringer with this controversy and the folks I know who are associated with Haberdashery are good people.

Oh, and, by the way, a couple of people have asked why I bothered to write the post at all—and why I posted so long after the production was up. Fair questions. I was grateful for the forum “Because it’s 2016: An Open Invitation from the Latino Theatre Community to Discuss Representation”. I appreciated how nuanced, respectful, and stimulating that discussion was, and I had been thinking about it. I’m still thinking about it.

I was particularly intrigued by the question of authenticity, which arose at the forum, and I wrote the first draft of Friday’s post about a month ago. I didn’t feel like I’d thought the piece through enough, though, so I held it back. And, then, when I thought I’d framed my questions adequately, I posted. My mistake.

I want to thank everybody who has engaged in this discussion in whatever way and with whatever opinion. I want to thank Crystal in particular for recognizing my sincere intentions, accepting that where I was might not be where she was, and helping me to find my own path through this.

I know some people will still be pissed or suspicious. Some people will say, “We’ll see what he does next.” That’s fine. Some people will think that I’m not taking enough responsibility for the hurt and anger I’ve caused. But I am sorry. And this is a process. Thanks for giving me a boot.

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!