DIARY OF A 'failed' ACTOR. Ep.14# Diversity.
One of our followers, Haruka Kuroda, asked us to examine the subject of Diversity, to discover whether the U.S. or the UK were leading the way in breaking down walls and pushing forward in rendering articles such as this irrelevant. Haruka herself is a Japanese actress, presenter, fight and movement choreographer, and children's theatre devisor living in London, so is experiencing first hand what is or isn't being done to correct the imbalance in the UK.
Whilst in communication via Tweet with Haruka on pursuing this topic, we were joined on the thread by someone who pointed out that even positive discrimination is discrimination. Very true! I long for the day when these discussions and debates on Diversity, are a thing of the past. But, it is currently in everyone's thoughts. Erica Whyman, an Associate Director at the RSC recently chaired a debate at The Swan titled, MALE, PALE AND STALE, and this from a company who was one of the first to champion Diversity on it's stages. The Washington Post, and The Stage ran articles, and Equity is currently pushing the Diversity argument to the fore with meetings across Britain, and at the House of Commons.
One of our greatest imports to the U.S., actor, writer, director, Kwame Kwei-Armah is currently Artistic Director of Centre Stage in Baltimore, a theatre whose programme of predominantly black works he inherited from his predecessor, Irene Lewis, finds himself under pressure for everything being, 'black, black, black.....'. Kwame in a recent online article commented that the programme hasn't changed since he took over from Irene in 2011, and that Irene Lewis's programming, herself being white, was at the time considered philanthropy, but on taking over, with Kwame being black, it is now considered an agenda.
The year Kwame took over the building, he inherited the pre-programmed Bruce Norris racially charged piece, CLYBORNE PARK based on Lorraine Hansbury's, A RAISIN' IN THE SUN. Kwame recognised Norris's work as in fact being racist in content, but was denied the choice of programming it out, so he wrote his own play, BENEATHA'S PLACE as an answering piece to run in conjunction with, CLYBORNE PARK. This caught the eye of PBS who created a documentary following the creation and development of this charged season. The outcome of all of this is that Kwame Kwei-Armah's tenure at Central Stage has been unanimously extended to 2018.
The fact that he is here at all, follows the lack of credible postings for black directors in the UK. Kwame had his eye on the National, but recognised that at least a decade would have to pass before that could become a reality. I was shocked when at Theatre 503 we won the Olivier for Best Play with, MOUNTAIN TOP by Katori Hall, thereby creating Katori the first black female writer to ever win an Olivier. But, I was even more alarmed to learn that when director Paulette Randall staged, FENCES in the West End in 2013 that she was the first black director to bring a production to the West End. How can that be? As a footnote, there are now encouraging noises that, Kwame Kwei-Armah is being considered as a potential candidate as future Artistic Director for the Royal National Theatre.
Then, there's Hollywood and of course British TV and Film. Where to begin?
Well, a very good place to start is with British actress, playwright, screenwriter and producer, Yvonne Wandera, who from her training at RADA to entering the profession in the UK realised that the odds were stacked against her, it therefore made sense to her to move to the U.S. in pursuit of the work and roles she wanted. But, how far ahead of the UK is the U.S. in bursting the Diversity bubble? This is what we discuss in Episode 14. of, DIARY OF A 'failed' ACTOR, and I am extremely grateful to have had Yvonne alongside me to tackle the subject.
DIARY OF 'failed' ACTOR.
Directed by Cécile DELEPIÈRE
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE BY Alyssa Rosenberg
THE STAGE ARTICLE by Matthew Hemley
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