To me watching, interacting or being in something where everyone is the same wouldn’t be much fun or intriguing. Being in this world with only one type of person, everyone looking the same and everyone acting alike doing similar activities would just get old. In theater we learned all year that the theater isn’t about being like everyone else, speaking or singing, even dressing as everyone does. Theater is about expression, theater is about being your own individual who wants to make a difference and express themselves anyway they can. Race is so important in theater because it integrates the community of theater, can make us learn from one another and can make us see who we truly are on the inside, instead of pretending to be something we are not.
“We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same. We are united by the reality that all colours and all cultures are distinct & individual. We are harmonious in the reality that we are all held to this earth by the same gravity. We don’t share blood, but we share the air that keeps us alive. I will not blind myself and say that my black brother is not different from me. I will not blind myself and say that my brown sister is not different from me. But my black brother is he as much as I am me. But my brown sister is she as much as I am me.” (C. JoyBell C)
This passage leads this discussion of perfectly in stating that all men and women white, brown, yellow or black are equal. It also states that men and woman may be different in this world but all unique in a way that makes them a fit in society. We as people need to look past differences we may have and as a united group stand together. This passage states that we are apart of others just as much as they are apart of us. I think this has more mental meaning, people may make up our moods and set our perception of the world just as we can impact other moods making some happy, excited or even sad.
Theater like everything depends upon teamwork and cooperation among individuals. Here in America, we still have racism, sexism and fascism going on in every part of our country and communities, although sad it may never change. “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust” (Thurgood Marshall). From the time this country was founded until today and even tomorrow, some people will be like that and have hate and ignorance in their hearts. But in the theater community, what color you are, what religion or sex does not matter in today’s society.” The African Company performing in the African Grove Theatre is considered the first formal black theatre company in America. African Americans were first allowed to produce, write and act in their own plays starting in as early as the 1800s (Search Cultural Caravan Productions.)”. Many writers receive hate messages or discrimination ofr there work, many times not releasing their work. Although, writers such as “Henry T. Sampson, Bernard L. Peterson, Jr., and James V. Hatch were in the first African American theater organizations, companies, theaters created and performing groups (Search Cultural Caravan Productions.)”.
“William Wells Brown’s the Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1858) was the first African American play published, but the first real success of a black dramatist was Angelina W. Grimké’s Rachel (1916) (Search Cultural Caravan Productions)”. The Harlem Renaissance 1920s-1930s was the time the African American theater flourished. Groups popped up in Americas largest cities Including Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. It wasn’t until the late 30s that their plays and scripts starting winning awards and being recognized in our country. Although our country has a long list of Famous African Americans in all subjects including sports, music, art and theater to name a few, they never truly were recognized for their excellence and accomplishments.
The Theater community originally was white, as everything else in the world first started predominately, except a few. The roles were played by White men, the female characters, the children and all background characters were white. They even used blackface to act as black characters and act for audiences of the white race. “Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah). In early years the African American performers were forced into three decisions while the whites dominated the stage. Give up their profession in the theater world, play as servant roles also known as “Darkies” or they could travel to Europe and perform with large European companies.
To integrate African Americans into theater and movies, they came up with a term called “Color Blind Casting”, meaning the director did not consider the race of the actor or the character. Also “Gender Neutral Casting” was also introduced to show that male and females can play reverse roles in the theater business. These terms integrated the theater and entertainment industry forever, leading to expanded roles for African Americans and all races who have been disregarded.
Culture is an immense part of world history and is what separates and creates the different parts of the world. African Americans have always been associated with singing songs, speaking loud against hate while staying as a community through their history. Recently a New York times theater review of “Big River” performed in the New York City Center. She bought up an issue with an African American role, which was quickly fought against by two white men. They stated that a female shouldn’t bring up any issues with the character over race mainly because the role was a slave. Social wars followed this critic up and messages passed back and forth arguing over race, why now when our country is in this state or separation and why this play?
Even today, race is a discussion that is always fought upon and racism is a large disagreement all over the world. White men think they are privileged in this country as they were in the past, but integration has brought them down, as it should. No man, woman or any race should be superior to the next. It is a known fact that the media we consume shapes our perception of the world: after all, media has economic, political, social and aesthetic purposes. On the stage it is the same way today, theater is a community and they stand by each other. If I learned one thing in this course it was, that theater only needs a stage, an audience and an outspoken man or woman to express themselves within a character. No matter how experienced you are or how many times you’ve been in that role, people never stop learning new things each and every day. The best way to learn or better yourself is to learn from others and that is were race comes in. If people from the same culture or same community come together and do the same thing over and over seeing someone else do something may change their ways for the better. It is the same way on the stage, and in real life activities that learning from others is what makes us better as a whole.
Today around the country we are so integrated but still issues stay around. The world has rules in place especially in business and sports. No discrimination or sexism, so much that there should be a percentage of jobs given out to different races or cultures. The theater business is not what it used to be as the only or main source of entertainment, it is no longer on top. Although movie tickets are much cheaper, Broadway has really taken off in recent years as children are now being introduced to it with Disney plays such as Aladdin, The Lion King and Frozen a new hit. Today children in Middle school, High school and College are pursing theater and music more than ever.
At my High school, we had a fall and spring play for the theater club and choir to perform in. These plays were outstanding, and the amount of work dedicated each day after school or times on the weekends are as much as an athlete, if not more. Having the director as a teacher and being in choir all 4 years of high school, I found that a majority of those in choir acted in the plays. High School is a place where discrimination, bullying and cruel words can be said to anyone. Those with less self-esteem and not confident in themselves tend to hurt others. Theater was one place where you did not any words of hate or disrespect towards others, rather you saw encouragement from people and true laughter for something they love.
High school is also a time when racism can be a large issue and in our country separates people and groups. Growing up in an area where white is the popular race, I have never experienced racial abuse or racial terms my way. Although, there are many different races in our community as well as many in our area I have heard racial slurs pertaining to my friends and those I know. I believe and know that there is no place for such racial abuse anywhere on this planet. My community is predominantly friendly and integrated, but I can only imagine the past when the civil rights act was on going or even communities today that aren’t integrated and stay within there own race.
Personally, after being in Choir in High School I found theater and acting so inspirational I joined the last year. After meeting new friends, going through rehearsal and setting up the props and costumes with makeup, it was all so amazing. It was an experience I will never forget and couldn’t be happier in the decision I made. Taking this course of acting I was nervous not knowing what to expect, but It has taught me history, techniques and all about what the audience perceives and how the actors read that. I think that this course has also taught me not only how people express themselves but how it could give people taking this course confidence to join groups such as theater in the future. “I don’t fancy colors of the face, I’m always attracted to colors of the brain.”(Michael Bassey Johnson)
Throughout the semester we have learned that expressing yourself and truly engaging in the character is what theater stands for. Race is a discussion that will lead many conversations, a movement that lead to death and despair, but it most recently will not break the theater community and the communities of the world. With these issues in politics and in issues everyday the theater community is a place free of them where people can act as themselves or portray what they feel. Race is so important in theater because it integrates the community of theater making everyone feel equal, it can make us learn from one another and try new techniques while it can make us see who we truly are on the inside, instead of pretending to be something we are not.