Oh my word, y’all. There is quite a furor happening within the artistic community but it is an issue that goes way beyond just people in the business. A blog page and facebook group has been started by the wonderful Andrew Moodie – playwright and actor. Great, thoughtful guy. He is a ‘person of colour’ and his issue is with the hiring practices of the SHAW FESTIVAL . . . . gasp, yes the theatre I’m working at right now. The issue is with the Shaw’s history of hiring (or not hiring) of people of colour – period. . . and more specifically in lead roles. The complaint is that in the year 2008, there has rarely been an AOC (Actor of Colour) in a lead other than a role that called for an AOC.

Now the interesting part for me is I’m an AOC playing a lead this year. So there is a change. But as to my blog from weeks ago about respect for musical theatre, that doesn’t seem to get mentioned a lot – ie. that doesn’t count. I’m not going to get into that as the argument is bigger than that. They are talking about the plays of Shaw and his contemporaries – which is the mandate of the festival.

Another issue raised by the new group is the fact that the mandate is to produce works written by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries or set in the time, yet there has never been a play by a black, chinese, hispanic, etc. author telling those stories performed at the Festival. So there is a lot being put forward by Mr. Moodie.

It’s been fascinating reading the issues put forth and the passion. Andrew started the facebook group about a week ago, if even, and there are already 586 members. He is urging people (white, black, asian – anyone who wants to see diversity on their stages) to write to Jackie Maxwell (Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival) and tell her (respectfully) that they want to see diversity on those stages. It’s interesting to see where people stand on the issue. It’s making me ask myself a lot of questions.

Both groups (his blog page and the facebook page) are called: SHARE THE STAGE

Here is the blog page.

Take a look. If you can find the facebook page, go to it. Some awesome discussions. Very strong emotions in some cases as you can imagine.

As for myself, I have several opinions about the subject which I won’t share right now. I want you all to look for yourself and evaluate your own conscience about it.

Live it and love it, my friends.

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 1:42 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Thom,

    I’m not certain if I correctly understood your point:

    “there has never been a play by a black, chinese, hispanic, etc. author telling those stories”.

    I presume you don’t mean that they don’t exist, just that Shaw has _never_ done any.

    In the time I have been here, Shaw has presented…

    He Who Gets Slapped (Andreyev)
    War and Peace (Tolstoy)
    Perr Gynt, Hedda Gabler (Ibsen)
    Ubu Rex (Jarry)
    Watlz of the Toreadors (Anouilh)
    Henry IV, Six Characters in Search of an Author (Pirandello)
    Lulu (Wedekind)
    Drums in the Night, Happy End (Brecht)
    The Unmentionables (Sternheim)
    Ivona Princess Of Burgundia (Gombrowicz)
    The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, Love Among The Russians (Chekhov)
    S.S. Tenacity (Vildrac)
    The House Of Bernarda Alba (Lorca)
    Hotel Peccadillo (Feydeau/Desvallières)

    … representing a range of cultures, nationalities and storytelling traditions.

    Shaw has also presented “Rashomon”, a traditional Japanese story (although penned by American authors), in which Nigel Shawn Williams played one of the three leads: a samurai.

    I accept that Shaw’s track record in this area is anaemic, and the representation to date is hardly pan-ethnic, but I don’t think it merits the word “never”.

    My 2¢

  2. Allan,

    Thank you so much for this post. It gives me a chance to clarify a couple of things.

    1. That was my own mistake in not finishing that thought properly. It has been fixed.

    And 2. Those are not my sentiments, but my trying to explain the issues being raised by Andrew Moodie.

    But you raise good points and so I’ve included your comments here too.

    Thanks and sorry for my lack of clarity.

    The Rashomon point is a good one. I don’t know the show. I hope you mention it on the Share the Stage Facebook page.


    And thanks for reading my blog. 🙂

  3. Thanks Thom. I now understand your point more clearly.

    I don’t know if I will post on that page or not. Andrew will soon be meeting with Jackie, and I think the matter stands the best chance of moving forward if left in their hands. I regret not being able to contribute the point rather earlier in the conversation, and I don’t think the pot needs more stirring at this point.

    I broached the idea to Andrew of opening a discussion on diversity on stages across Canada, without focussing on any specific theatre. He suggested that the topic might be more appropriate for a separate page, and I respect that. Unfortunately, he has dibs on the best title!

    This whole conversation is fascinating, both personally and because Council is working on the topic right now.

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