Race in Entertainment and Color Blind Casting
Here in our second discussion, we are working through the history of African American Theatre and its influence on American culture from the turn of the last century to today. You have now read about the rise of African American Theatre and entertainment in America, its influences and the direction it has been on to our modern era.
With all of this background now from your viewing of our films, documentaries, supplemental materials provided to you through Titanium and your own personal sense of multiculturalism in the Theatre, T.V., and Film, please read the following excerpt from Brockett and Balls text, The Essential Theatre about August Wilson’s view of African American Theatre. (August Wilson is the playwright who wrote Fences)
Race, Funding and Multiculturalism:
At the 1996 Theatre Communications Group Conference, August Wilson made an impassioned speech about the lack of support for African American Professional Theatres, which he judged essential if African Americans are to explore their own culture and History in a context that is not dominated by white society. He pointed out that present funding policies reward mainstream white Theatres for occasionally including a minority play in their repertory, a practice that keeps African Americans subordinate by making their lays only a token part of Theatres offerings nut sufficient to divert funds from African American Theatres. He also denounced “colorblind” casting that places African American actors in roles written for whites, “which is to deny us our own humanity.” Overall, he saw these practices as keeping African Americans in a subsidiary role by making it difficult for them to explore their own history apart from the dominant culture.
This speech led to a heated exchange between Wilson and Robert Brustien, Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theatre. Brustien charged that Wilson was advocating cultural separatism. Whereas he himself favored bringing everyone together so we may achieve a “single value system.” Many others were soon involved, and in a January 1997 New York Town Hall meeting, Brustien and Wilson debated the issue. Ideas remained the same but positions remained largely unchanged.
In March 1998, a five day conference of African American Theatre personal was held in New Hampshire; one day of the five was open to others –about 300 people including Theatre personal, and business and foundation executives. At the open Meeting many proposals were made, most of them positive, but few solutions were reached. Future meeting were planned for more detailed consideration of particular issues. In 2002, the controversy was still ongoing. (Essential Theatre, Oscar G. Brockett and Robert J. Ball 8th Edition, 2004)
Do you agree with August Wilson about color blind casting and it denying the humanity of those actors playing roles written for white actors in the American Theater?
Could color blind casting say that we can look above and beyond race to the nature of what humanity is and how we can experience it?
Can you explore the human condition and experience devoid of the divisiveness and history of race and race relations?
Can the human experience BE voided of race and still be compelling?
Is Brustien’s “Single Value System” a more thoughtful and socially uplifting approach to the way we should be telling stories?
How do you think the “Single Value System” would work in your own words?
Notice that this article was published in 2004. Based on all of your information now and your own familiarity with pop culture, film, entertainment and the Arts, how do you feel we are different now 13 years later with respect to multiculturalism in the theatre, the Arts, entertainment, film and television, pop culture and most specifically with African American actors? In 13 years how do we even feel about saying “African American” as opposed to “Black Actors”
Start a thread and in the subject put (your full name) – Be sure to copy the questions above and post them with your answers!!! – Minimum 150 words – Use complete sentences and correct grammar.