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Future We — Push Through

Have you ever seen a woman give birth?

When it happens on television it always fits conveniently between commercial breaks, underscored with dramatic music, but in real life, birth is no respecter of time or sound. From the moment the water breaks there’s no turning back. The baby pushes against the cervix; the pushing sends nerve impulses to the brain; the brain stimulates the pituitary gland to release oxytocin causing contractions; and the contractions cause the baby to stretch and push against the cervix even more. …


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Trans and Queer BIPOC to the Front!

Black queer people and Black trans people have always been on the front line of justice, from Black Lives Matter, to Stonewall, to the recorded history they deny us. Yet, we are often the last people included in the goals and outcomes of that justice. It has long been proven that intersectionality is what makes a movement, and thus it must be included in our visions for the future.

Often as a trans artist I am asked to offer my face, my body, my voice to an institution without any recognition on their behalf of what it means for my body to be there. Everything I participate in is a negotiation with myself, and with a power dynamic beyond my control. Why is it that nobody has thought of me, before I arrived? It makes my inclusion feel like a chore at best, a burden at worst. I have to think about the costuming, the casting, the advertising, even where I will use the bathroom in advance. Nobody will do that work for me. Only in situations where I have had a mature, queer (usually also trans) leader have any of these things been considered before. As an emerging artist who has railed against what I previously viewed as willing suppression of sexuality from my elders, seeing these quiet, systemic showings of care has eroded my perspective. …


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The Strain: White Fragility

The pressure increases… it feels there’s like an anvil sitting on your chest. Or a bed of nails. Breathing is laboured. Nausea. Headaches. Exhaustion…
Yeah. These are all signs that you may be carrying around the weight of White Fragility (*see White Tears), a dangerous strain of White Supremacy that disproportionately weighs down BIPOC Artists like us.
What you’re experiencing is not a figment of your imagination. The burden that weighs you down, it’s real.

Presumably they’ve hired you for your artistic point of view; the beautiful execution of your work; your expertise; your knowledge; your history. Qualities that in any other circumstance would command respect, equality, dare I say a due deference that requires a shift in the power structure. However, in this case the shift is complicated by one thing: your skin tone. You speak with certainty. This makes them uncomfortable. (It only takes one.) Your presumption of equity has disrupted their ecosystem. Whether panicked or premeditated, there’s a violent response to the space you take up. In this moment of prioritizing their feelings aka their dissatisfaction with the shift, a swelled tear or a quivering voice erupts. Somehow, you are the problem. The reason for the spike in their temperature. …


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The Isms in the Room

While we’re talking about “isms,” can we please discuss the patriarchal overlord that is Capitalism? This economic system we’re swimming in feeds on oppression of all kinds, but racism is its main course — has been for centuries. It is nearly synonymous with White Supremacy, and the more we understand the relationship between the two the more we have to ask ourselves: how does capitalism show up in the White American Theatre and can we ever have an antiracist theater while living in a capitalist society?

The answer to the first part of that question is pretty easy for anyone with enough courage to look our field squarely in the face. Whether we’re talking about Broadway or the nonprofit theaters, the fact that we sell our art, our imaginations, our lived experiences for money…that’s the whole ball game right there. That paradigm breeds competition, scarcity, and individualism among theatermakers. It facilitates power hoarding at an institutional level, and pulls us closer to the pathology of Whiteness. Dig a half inch deeper and you’ll find the biggest donors often have outsized influence within an institution, and/or the artist who “delivers” at the box office is permitted to abuse their collaborators and staff — none of this is new. We’ve all witnessed it, been victimized by it, and been complicit in this “ism” and all its ills. …


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All Skinfolk Ain’t Kinfolk

Gather round party people,
I’ve a story to tell,
One that BIPOC theatre artists,
will know all too well.
It’s what granny would say,
When you were spurned by your kin.
“All Skinfolk Ain’t Kinfolk!”
Now, let us begin.

Kevin is Black.
As Black as can be.
Well, at least he is theoretically.
He’s got brown cocoa skin,
And coily Black hair,
And his personal style has a bit of a flair.
But this is where similarities end
And the problem with our dear Kevin,
Begins.

Kevin, you see,
Is a whip smart young man.
(He’ll remind you of this whenever he can.)
He’ll pull up to your theatre or grad school,
Straight schemin’.
Ideas overflowin’.
“Ooo, a Brotha!” you’re beamin’,
As he drifts your way…
then shuffles right past…
then finds all the white folx…
and begins to kiss ass.
You’re confused,
I know.
And quite a bit hurt,
When on top of your name,
He begins to throw dirt.
He shits on you,
And Black folx as a whole,
While you sit there and think,
“Dude is out of control.”
You’d be right in your thinking
Decidedly so.
Our Kevin, you see,
is malignant with ego,
pustulous with pride,
greed, and self-hate.
Y’all will never be homies,
He knew that off gate.
Kevin, subscribes to the Rule of One,
Two Blacks can’t be great,
It just shouldn’t be done. …


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WTF is a board?

Seriously.

Who are these powerful people supposedly puppeteering Artistic Directors, Managing Directors, Executive Directors, Chief Financial Officers and countless variations of artistic leaders?

Why is it so hard to understand where a Board of Directors’ role begins and ends?

Who decides who gets to be on the Board of a nonprofit theater?

Why is it usually filled with rich white people who don’t know a dang thing about making a play let alone stewarding a national narrative that honors the humanity of all people in that nation?

We referenced the 501c3 website, the business title for a non profit, for an answer. …


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Liberation Begins with the BIPOC Imagination

A little confession: I am a lifelong theater-maker in recovery from an abusive relationship.

I’m coming to terms with the unfortunate fact that my imagination has been colonized, despite years of resistance. I’ve been held captive by Eurocentric theatrical traditions, language, and dramaturgy that has been thrust upon me at various points in my creative evolution. Over time, it’s hardened into the very foundation of my theater practice. This assault on my creativity began with my first encounters with the so-called “theatrical canon,” which in most schools, academies, and institutions, centers a white, European aesthetic.

As theater-makers, early on we are given the message that in order to succeed and thrive, we must adhere to theatrical forms that are antithetical to the ways we wish to tell our own stories. We are asked to reckon with the realities of the white spatial imaginary, navigating a realm that doesn’t make room for the complexity or totality of our beings. This raises the question: how do we truly free our imaginations while working in a culture-at-large, that is designed to reign in our aesthetic impulses? …


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The Bipoc Leader’s Survival Guide

This one goes out to our fellow leaders. Artistic Directors. Associate Artistic Directors. Resident Directors. Directors of Engagement and Education.

Maybe you’ve been at your job for a year or two, maybe more. Maybe you’ve got an exciting offer from a PWI this summer, when the call for social justice spurred some institutions to rightfully and finally, create some new seats at the table.

Maybe you’re the first and only. Maybe you’re among a few or many.

Real talk: these theatres are striving for diversity, equity, and inclusion on paper, but are not doing the necessary work and thereby causing more harm. When you invite BIPOC people into a broken system it does not fix the system, it breaks the BIPOC person. …


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THE MOVEMENT BEGINS LIKE THIS…

Week in and week out,
I turn on my camera.
I introduce myself.
“My name is…He. Him. His.
I’m calling in from the Land of the Lenape.”
I look around the Zoom and “popcorn” to another member.
Welcome to the “WeSeeYou” weekly meeting.
Many familiar faces,
but also many black squares with only names displayed. Every week I scroll through two or three screens of them. The ones too shy to show their faces or maybe it’s just that they don’t feel like appearing on camera today because all they can muster is the strength to simply log in and listen in.
Sometimes I’m a “black screen”. On mute. Logged in. Listening.
We’re here to wage war on the White American Theater.
And make no mistake, it feels like a war.
Tearing down systemic racism is traumatizing.
The shit stings.
I wanted to quit months ago. I was tired of racism. Talking about it. Fixing it. Living it. I was tired of the meetings. The committees. The strategizing. I was tired of being thoughtful. Of choosing my words carefully. Of pontificating. Of being inclusive. Inclusivity is hard. It hurts the brain sometimes.
It is easier to stay ignorant.
To not change.
But the twin plagues of Anti-Blackness and COVID-19,
Demand that we change.
Not simply the minds of white people,
But ourselves.
We must re-order our order.
That hurts the fucking brain.
I said to my husband: I’m not going to the meeting today. I need a break.
He said: Go to the meeting. It’s your church. And you deserve healing.


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Theatrical Training Programs, We See You

Class is in session. Our theatrical training environment is in crisis, has been in crisis, and is struggling to reckon with institutionalized racism entrenched within the very structures meant to educate our future leaders. A lack of racial representation in leadership, faculty, and the student body is the troubling triad of neglect in our training programs. Some efforts have been made to increase representation across many identities, yet Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students are experiencing harm from the classroom to the rehearsal room. Like water, this revolution is seeping into all areas of our field, and the education and training space will not be spared. Your homework assignment for this evening: Stop. Look. …

About

We See You WAT

We are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We are theatremakers. We demand a just and equitable American Theatre. Join us at WeSeeYouWAT.com

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