As we continue talking about diversity and parity in theatre, the running theme seems to be: What are we striving towards? What does it look like?
The need to articulate a vision and define goals has been a kind of zeitgeist for weeks now, and I'm of two minds about it.
The pragmatist in me says, "Yes, we need to define goals and create strategies to achieve them."
But the radical in me says, "We need to focus on the root of the problem."
It goes without saying that I think we need both, but outside of activist circles, calling someone radical is another way of calling them insane. This is unfortunate because a radical perspective gives us a way to analyze and transform power structures, which is where I believe the real work has to be done.
Let's be real. Racial and gender disparity in American theatre didn't "just happen." They have always been part of the history of American theatre. That history has been one that has upheld the structures of patriarchy and white supremacy. Thus, the vast majority of American institutions are built on racism and sexism. I don't mean this in the sense of the personal convictions of individuals, but in the sense of how organizations and institutions plug into legal, financial, social, educational, geographical, and cultural structures that allow them to exist. To put it simply, the vast majority of organizations--all organizations, not just theatrical ones--benefit on some level from the exclusion and disenfranchisement of women and/or people of color. In theatre, this impacts every aspect of what we do, especially when it comes to access to resources like money and space.
Without a radical perspective, there is no way we can fully understand, let alone change, that given circumstance. I will not pretend for one second that this is easy. Power structures are deeply embedded within how society functions, which also means that they find themselves embedded within organizational cultures. However, until we get a handle on how power works within an organization and/or an industry, I don't anticipate any deep or lasting change happening. I can see it happening like those corporations that realize they have a racial diversity problem, but simply hire a few people of color instead of looking at ways they can change their organizational culture so that more people of color would want to work there.
It's not that I don't believe we should figure out precisely what the fuck all of this is supposed to look like in the end. I do believe that's crucial. But unless we place that within a context of understanding and changing power structures, I can't say that we'd actually accomplish those goals we set for ourselves.