OP-ED: An open letter from BAT’s Managing Director, Artistic Director, and Board of Trustees
Dear members of theater and the greater community:
We are compelled by recent events to join other theater organizations around the nation in addressing what cannot be unseen.
The devaluation and degradation of black artists and lives is not a recent event. It is a persistent and systemic injustice. Recent events are an unambiguous reminder that black Americans and people of color have been marginalized by far too many of our institutions, in the past and the present.
The world of theater, and our greater society, remains affected by slavery and Jim Crow. These failures to treat all humans fairly must be recognized. We must take responsibility. We alone are capable of taking actions now and into the future to realize meaningful change. We must act as individuals and as a group. Theater can, and must, lead the way out of this darkness.
As an art form, the stories theaters tell have long focused overwhelmingly on the problems of white people. We must actively choose to expand those storylines. That includes developing an awareness of our own conscious and unconscious biases that limit our vision of the types of stories worth telling, the people who are on stage, and those who make up the creative teams behind them.
In theater, we are too often bound by tradition. These are the stories we have always told. These are the tales we believe our donors and ticket buyers will support. Yet, we must remember that the world is much bigger, and by not telling the stories of everyone, with everyone represented on and off stage, we are supporting the status quo that includes the systemic oppression of black Americans. As we have seen, that oppression is not merely exclusionary, it is deadly.
We must keep in mind that racial injustice is the collective product of all of us and our institutions. Only through self-reflection, mindfulness, and taking responsibility can we actively work together to eradicate racism in our industry and the larger society.
The theater has been a mirror and a guiding light for society for thousands of years. We must remember to support our black and other colleagues of color by lifting their voices. Listening to and acknowledging their experiences will enrich and inform the world of theater and beyond. It is our calling to actively participate in dismantling systemic racism both on our stages and in the bigger world.