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That's Great, But...

In her latest Square One column, Ashley H. White of Imprint Theatreworks looks at representation and authenticity in programming.



published Friday, June 28, 2019

Photo: Evan Michael Woods
Ashley H. White is Artistic Director of Imprint Theatreworks

 

Dallas — There are 6.8 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. We have a vibrant and enthusiastic community full of diverse artists ready to tell their stories.

Why, then, in 2019 is there still a struggle for inclusion and representation? No doubt, strides have been made but in order to genuinely serve our community, we need to take a harder look at how stories are being told.

Halfway into our second season, we just finished casting Kentucky by Leah Nanako Winkler, a show which requires a mostly Japanese-American cast. I remember when we announced the show last year, people repeatedly asked us:

 

“That’s great, but where are you going to find those actors?”

 

DFW’s large community of API artists responded to the call. Turnout for our auditions was overwhelming, introducing us to countless new faces and a whole catalog of artists wanting to share in telling this story.

Coming in our third season, Southern Comfort by Juliane Wick Davis and Dan Collins, features five principal roles for transgender artists. We are, once again, committed to casting this show responsibly. Do I know five transgender artists off the top of my head? I do not, but I look forward to meeting, seeing, and creating with them.

I am also keenly aware that creating a relationship requires trust both ways. I don’t always know who will show up at our auditions, nor do I know who will submit to design and work with us on the technical side. I do know that I am going to continue to actively seek out opportunities for representation and that the entire IMPRINT team stands behind the goal of telling stories thoughtfully, truthfully, and responsibly. We are committed to providing a safe space for all artists to play and providing the opportunity for their voices to be heard.

 

“That’s great, but where are you going to find those actors?”

 

It’s not just about those on stage. I have personally stood in far too many creative rooms as the only woman, as the only LGBTQ person, as the only person under 50 years old, and felt nervous to speak. If I can’t feel confident in my voice, who can? As theatre artists, we have the privilege of providing the opportunity for a room full of people to come together for a unique experience every time the curtain rises. If we’ve done our jobs, we all walk away with new insight to the human experience.

As producers of art, it is our responsibility to tell those stories thoughtfully. If we keep feeding the beast by not being truthful and responsible in the positions we offer in front of and behind the table, and if we keep suggesting through our actions that the ideas of inclusion and intentionality are unimportant, then we are not doing our jobs.

In her Tony acceptance speech this year, Rachel Chavkin, director of Hadestown, pointed out Broadway’s inclusion problem perfectly:

“I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season. There are so many women who are ready to go, there are so many artists of color who are ready to go. And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment too… This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be. So, let’s do it.” 

This problem is systemic, and we must commit to being mindful, conscious, and aggressive in our battles. If we want to truly be inclusive, if we want people to show up: we have to provide sincere opportunities for everyone, stop marginalizing the stories, and provide safe, open platforms without stipulations. We are committed and passionate about providing those spaces and those platforms and will continue to seek proper representation in programming, positioning, and casting.

 

“That’s great, but where are you going to find those actors?”


Right here. In DFW. We look forward to seeing you.

 

» Kentucky runs Aug. 2-17 at Arts Mission Oak Cliff

 

 PREVIOUSLY IN SQUARE ONE 

 

2017

2018

  • January: The Importance of Team
  • February: Lessons Learned
  • March: Curtain Up
  • April: About the Company Manager
  • May: Another Closing, Another Show
  • June: Finding Clarity in Chaos
  • July: Theatre Directing Life Hacks
  • August & September: On hiatus
  • October: Finding Comfort through Creativity
  • November: Season One and Done
  • December: no column

2019

  • January: no column
  • February: Change Happens
  • March: No Place Like Home
  • May: Planning Ahead
 Thanks For Reading




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That's Great, But...
In her latest Square One column, Ashley H. White of Imprint Theatreworks looks at representation and authenticity in programming.
by Ashley H. White

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