Jack Reuler (1992)

Multiculturalism is here to stay: it is good politics, it is good business, it is good for business, and IT’S JUST PLAIN RIGHT. I could hear a collective sigh of relief from administrators, search committees, and boards when Manhatto-centric, L.O.R.T.-ophilic TCG published its “Rethinking Multiculturalism” issue of American Theatre (October 1991). “Ah, it’s finally passed,” exhaled the threatened.

The players in the non-profit regional theater movement can be politicized by Jesse Helms and the threat of what might be taken away, but cannot muster the same (or greater) righteous indignation by what has not been given or shared, namely an accurate reflection of society on stage, backstage, and in administrative offices or board rooms. Ours is almost a more insidious censorship because with the NEA we say that we’ll do our art with or without its money, but with race we’ll only make aggressive efforts if they’re enjoined by cash incentives . . . and then have the audacity to call it “risk.”

Theater 1991-92 has proven its adherence to a glass ceiling mentality as artistic directors have been sought or engaged by Yale, Center Stage, Arizona Theatre Company, New Jersey Shakespeare, Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland, American Players Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, A.C.T., Dallas Theater Center, Virginia Stage, NYSF, Indiana Rep, New Mexico Rep, Portland Rep, and Trinity to name a few. While I’m sure each has had its own rationalized hiring procedure, the net result is that no people of color now lead these flagships.

Issues of race in America are not remedied by “quick-fix solutions,” whether funding or otherwise. Theaters cannot afford to withdraw from their fledgling integration efforts because of the recession: artistic health and financial survival are inexorably linked to “inclusion” in the ’90’s and 21st Century. I am encouraged by the efforts that are being made — roundtables, recruitment, training, and prospering ethnic theaters — and hope that those efforts continue after “multicultural-specific funding” disappears.

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