color question

Tony has raised the question on his blog today about color http://jayraskolnikov.blogspot.com/2007/08/race-and-theatre.html , and it's something I've thought about a bunch lately.

There's lots of discussion going on in "blog-land" about community and theatre's place in it, and this is certainly something that is a part of that argument.

For SRT, we have never done what one could identify as an "African American Play" or a "Hispanic or Latino Play", etc. , however we have certainly have had several different minorities be a part of some color-blind casting over the years. (Not a pat on the back, just laying out the facts)
Unless we happen to have an artist of color join the company as a company member, I don't think we'll actually DO an "African American Play" etc and here's why - we are an ensemble-based theatre company, so we choose a season that will not only challenge us but also reflect the ensemble.

Recently, though, we had our annual playwrighting festival, which we now have a panel of theatre professional sit in on and help choose a "best play" - we also ask for these panelists opinions on the festival as a whole, things they liked, things we can improve. And one panelist said that they wished they had seen some more "diversity" to the evening. I agree with him - at a festival we should certainly be making our best efforts to showcase diversity, HOWEVER... here are some challenges we have with that.

First, as we don't recieve pictures of the playwrights with the submissions, we simply need to select the BEST plays we can, and hope for diversity amongst those. This past festival, we recieved 3 plays that featured characters of color. One, that featured some Asian characters, and two that featured African American characters.
The one that featured Asian characters almost made it into the festival, but the technical requirements of the piece forced us to say no in the long run.
The 2 that featured African American charcters were simply not good plays. We have no idea of the race of the playwrights, but in my opinion, the way the charcters were written - if the playwright was white, then they were racist, and if they were black, then they were just perpetuationg some of the worst African American racial stereotypes - and I'm not about to be a part of that.

So, now, on to auditions and casting.
For the 6 plays that were chosen by the 6 directors, only ONE play really had any kind of NEED for white characters. The premise of the play was a middle aged couple who goes on a trip to India and to really capture the "fish out of water" sense of the play, a white couple would certainly capture that BEST, but if the director had seen actors of color who were BETTER, I'm sure she would have chosen the quality of the acting over the skin color.
For the remaining 5 plays? No racial or ethnic "needs" of any kind. Just a mixture of relationship plays and 2 that both had some fantastic surreal qualities. Any of the characters in the shows could have been played by anyone of any color or look. (I directed one of the 6, and I can personally say that I didn't care about what colors walked through the door.)

For the auditions, we had a handful hispanic and latino actors come, one African American (I think) and one asian american.

This happens all the time.

We put out the audition notice, and we always say that we enourage all ages, all races, colors, ethnicities... and then we get no more than 5 or 6.

We did cast ONE hispanic/latino male (because he's GREAT! He's actually so great he was in 2 of the 6 shows) and the rest was the usual. White women, white men 20's to 30's.

How do we change this? I feel as though we need to broaden our audition advertising , but how do we do that?

This is not something I know the answer to - I'm looking for the guidance - and looking for other people's experiences.

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