Lloyd Richards (1993)
After many, many years of addressing these same issues again and again and again, I have perceived more movement recently than in the past, both as it relates to actors and directors. I remember a sense some years back, relative to black actors, that the field thought, “Don’t worry about them, they’ll be there when you need them.” If they survived, of course. The wonder of it now is that when I get ready to cast black actors, they often aren’t there, the ones I want — because they are working. That’s a measure of progress, even though it has made it difficult for me as a director at times. That’s not to say that all black actors are working. We all know better than that.
In relation to directors, it is rare that people are enlightened, knowledgeable, and exceptional enough to think of you as a director first and not a black director. There are a few artistic directors now that have approached me about other kinds of directing work, who are knowledgeable enough about my history to know I have directed all kinds of plays. I count that (little progress) as well.
When I go to the theater, the effects of non-traditional casting efforts are sometimes evident on the stage. Not enough, to be sure, but they are there. This has come about either from felt pressure, or, from what you really want, sensitivity. A continual sensitivity to the fact of our society as it walks up and down the street in front of us. Our art should represent what is in our streets and the wonderful amalgam of that. This is not yet fully achieved.
One can never be sanguine, however. What I have finally accepted is that there are certain battles that will never be totally won. We have to re-win them every decade, every generation. I used to be shocked that the war I went to fight in didn’t end anti-Semitism. I thought we had won that war. The war for freedom of expression. I thought we had won that. The war against racism. I can by no means accept the fact that we have won anything. We have to keep fighting for it.
I express my regrets and apologies to future generations that they have to fight again what we have won already in our time. But they have to accept that with good grace and fight with vigor. The goals are worth the effort.
Return to: Looking Back: Contributors