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. Listen.
Training programs: STOP and consider those who are missing from your spaces. Enhance your admissions and hiring practices by interrogating the culture of your educational environments. Stop perpetuating practices that continue to overlook, underestimate, and disempower BIPOC students, and their BIPOC faculty (if you have any). Stop expecting the BIPOC members of your educational community to endure the emotional labor of confronting white supremacy culture all day every day.
BIPOC colleagues: LOOK to one another for affinity, solidarity, respectful disagreement, and empowerment. There are countless ways that generations of BIPOC artists have already made significant contributions to destroy the strongholds of a hierarchical, exploitative, extractive, scarcity-driven system of indoctrination masquerading as education. The groundwork for this next phase of change is already underway and looking to us to carry the baton forward. This movement is for all of us and we need each other.
BIPOC students: LISTEN. Continue to forge forward in the pursuit of your art, even though you’re forced to walk through the halls of your institutions carrying the weight of their experiences and unmet expectations. Follow the dollar and understand how money impacts the decisions your institution is making. Don’t perpetuate the erasure of BIPOC leaders, many of whom are still in the fight, by pretending that this moment began with you. Learn who they are. Study their strategies. Reach out to them. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; you can learn from the strategies of our ancestors. Be mindful: you ain’t start nothin’, you’re a part of something.
We are reminded of the abundance of joy we are due. We encourage you to unearth our joy-filled history to bring context to the rich BIPOC traditions you are a part of and will continue.
Even though many of these training programs were built without us in mind, we are here. And since we ain’t going nowhere, we should seek to transform our relationships with training institutions into mutually beneficial ones, from recruitment to graduation and beyond. We deserve nothing less. As you continue the fight to manage your justified anger and rage within these historically racist institutions, protect your mental, social, emotional and physical health. Resist burning out — that is exactly what the system wants. Take a look at the Nap Ministry, develop your own restorative practices, and find a means to rest. Stay the course and think about the generations behind you, waiting to walk through new doors that you have opened. This education system ain’t your fault, but REAL EDUCATION IS YOUR RIGHT. We encourage you to charge ahead in the fight to make university and training programs better than the ones we’ve inherited. WSYWAT has got your back. Class Dismissed.