October 27, 2013

Why Orlando Jones is the smartest man alive right now (that's called hyperbole and I'm doing it on purpose)

A couple of days ago, Orlando Jones ("Not the little boy from Everybody Hates Chris. Not Solange Knowles. Not Orlando Bloom. Not the black Jeff Goldblum. Not Madea. Not Mos Def") did the smartest thing ever in the history of media folks and audiences.

He asked fans what they think (and followed up afterward).

Since diversity in theatre is a big thing of mine, I want to focus on that for a bit.

The vast majority of the time, when people talk about diversity in theatre, what the underlying question seems to be is, "What is it with Those People?"

Why aren't Those People coming to our shows? Why aren't Those People finding their work onstage? Why aren't Those People seeking out our programs and services? Why aren't Those People doing this, that, or the other thing? What is it with Those People?

(*Those People includes any group who is outside of the usual target demographic for theatre as a whole. This can include: People of color, women, LGBTQ people, working-class and poor people, disabled people, people without an MFA, young people, the elderly, and so on.)

Orlando Jones flipped the script. Instead of talking around the audience or filtering that knowledge through, say, a PR firm or marketing agency, he actively encouraged them to participate. He asked them what they needed and wanted from the media they participate in. In so many words, he invited Those People to share their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. It was a rare treat to see such a conversation happen in such a transparent way.

I really want to see more of that.

If I'm to be perfectly honest, I'm bored with the Why It's Important to Have Those People Around discussion. It's already more than clear that there is a problem and that more needs to be done. At this point, if this or that person or organization still needs to be convinced that including and involving Those People in theatre is something that needs to be done, I'm not particularly invested in converting them. I'm about as interested in doing that as I am in trying to persuade someone that dinosaurs did not hang around Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (read: not at all).

As a matter of fact, I'm tired of talking about Those People and want to do more of what Orlando Jones did and talk with Those People (which would, I guess, turn them into You People).

How would this sort of direct contact or direct confrontation impact how we go about making structural and institutional changes in the theatre community?


  1. "As a matter of fact, I'm tired of talking about Those People and want to do more of what Orlando Jones did and talk with Those People."

    Can you give some examples of how you might do that, and/or how any of us might do that?

  2. The first thing that comes to mind is simply asking, "What keeps you away? What would bring you in? How can we do better?"

  3. I was thinking more of how you might choose the people to talk to, and arrange to talk with them, in an environment conducive to actually learning something from them.

    1. I'd start by simply asking and go from here. I don't know if trying to force a certain structure would actually work.

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