End the practice of white actors playing characters of color and create equity in casting

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In light of recent casting controversies at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre and St. Louis’s Municipal Opera Theater (The Muny) involving white actors cast in roles portraying people of color, we urge theater leaders across the country to reexamine their casting practices and policies in an attempt to avoid similar situations in the future. It is important to acknowledge that this practice has and continues to be widespread and pervasive. We can make this an issue of the past together.

As Theatre Communications Group has articulated, “theatre has always been a place for transformation, however we must acknowledge the past oppressions and ongoing inequities facing people of color, including an uneven playing field where the vast majority of opportunities, onstage and off, are held by whites.” This statement is supported by a landmark 2017 study by Actors Equity Association which noted that there are stark and pervasive barriers to employment in our industry for people of color across all Equity contracts. From 2013 to 2015, 71% of principal contracts went to Caucasians, 7% to African Americans and barely 2% to Asian Americans.

We must end the harmful practice of white actors playing characters of color while using every opportunity at our disposal to level the playing field. As agents of powerful change in our communities, we pledge to do our best to serve as examples and lead our communities toward a more equitable future.

Signatures:

Chad Bauman
Managing Director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Michael Barker
Managing Director, Westport Country Playhouse

Kevin Moore
Managing Director, Actors Theatre of Louisville

Rachel Grossman
Co-Founder, Dog & Pony DC

Cynthia Fuhrman
Managing Director, Portland Center Stage

Shawn LaCount
Artistic Director, Company One Theatre

Ellicia Elliott
Artistic Director, The Rude Mechanicals

John Rooney
Professional Leadership Programs Assistant, Steppenwolf Theatre

Ilana Brownstein
Director of New Work, Company One Theatre

Ryan Meisheid
Associate Managing Director, Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Tiffany Wilhelm
Pittsburgh

Hannah Fenlon
Associate Director of Conferences & Fieldwide Learning, TCG

 



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