Theatre & Bigotry — Jaz Dorsey — AAPEX

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Theatre & Bigotry

It's like something out of Kafka.

While I am sure that most artists and creators of theatre are extremely compassionate when it comes to the world at large, I encounter more bigotry on a daily basis in the arena of the theatre than in any other place in my life.

First of all there is the "Protestant Ascendancy" of New York. While there are certainly plenty of NYC theatre folks who have plenty of respect for theatre in the rest of the country, there are still far too many decision makers who believe that NYC is THE validator of theatre. It's bigotry to think that theatre in Cleveland or Atlanta can't be the equal of theatre in NYC.

And outside of New York, how often do you hear the lament that the theatre is very "cliquish" in this or that city. And it's true. And the problem with cliques - just by their very nature - is that they spew bigotry and they spew it into the greater community, which undermines the theatre as a whole.Cliquishness is not good for the mental health of the community and It does NOT build a population of Americans who are going to get excited about the theatre.

There's also economic bigotry as well - those who get the grants are the "chosen." They are the ones that get ALL of the local press in so many cities, making it almost impossible for the independent and unfunded artists and projects in a community to get the attention they deserve.  

Unfortunately there is more talent than there is money. Please don't hold that against the artists who are not allowed to get in line for the money.

Bigotry towards community theatre is ridiculous. Most of us got our start in community theatre. Every community theatre out there is just as much a blessing to Broadway as Broadway is to community theatre.

Personally I find the attitude towards university theatre to be very bigoted. This is the most vital theatre that there is and all of us in the theatre should be encouraging our friends and fans to enjoy what happens on university and college theat
re stages. That's where you are going to see Chekov and Brecht and not just Shakespeare.

I won't even go there with the situation as far as African American playwrights goes. Or ageism.

And nowadays, more and more, there is a level of producers who is neither commercial nor community and who are not eligible for the 501(c)3 nonprofit status who are struggling to fulfill their artistic destinies. These folks should be our heroes - not shunted off in to dark corners.

Talent is NOT a geographical phenomenon - an act of theatre is only as valuable as the effect it has on an audience at any given performance.

Jaz Dorsey
The Actors Reading Room

Nashville, Tennessee

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