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.
Managing Director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Managing Director, Westport Country Playhouse
Managing Director, Actors Theatre of Louisville
Co-Founder, Dog & Pony DC
Managing Director, Portland Center Stage
Artistic Director, Company One Theatre
Artistic Director, The Rude Mechanicals
Professional Leadership Programs Assistant, Steppenwolf Theatre
Director of New Work, Company One Theatre
Associate Managing Director, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Associate Director of Conferences & Fieldwide Learning, TCG
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