We are at the precipice. Everything in our society could change tomorrow, simply because it cannot sustain its way of being any longer. How are we envisioning that future, in the arts and beyond? Here at Rescripted we are envisioning an empathetic future, driven by advocacy and dialogue, rather than this present cycle of trauma and fear. My vision for Rescripted was simple: train and uplift voices that will make the industry a hospitable place for everyone to work. The impact of that vision, that intention, has been unbelievable. We have now trained critics in the double digits who are writing professionally, we are creating transparency and accountability in our work that established publications are beginning to echo. We highlighted communities and theatres that were habitually overlooked, causing other publications to pick up their stories as well. Ever so slightly, I see the viewpoints and the values of other critical institutions changing in response to the energy this group of artists has brought to the city through our writing. Therefore, I want to end 2019 by offering visions for our artistic future.
A Future Where All Theatre Artists Earn a Living Wage
Artists cannot survive when their art considered charity that is done on top of their 9-5 job, which is essentially the message we’re sending through our non-profit structure. Charity in America, whether we like it or not, for most people is the thing you do when you have additional time or finances. My profession should not be considered an add-on only when time permits but a vital function of society. Art, specifically theatre, is vital to the very creation, reflection, and adaptation of society. A group of theatre artists can create that pathway to empathy in front of you that teaches you, on the most micro level, how to create that empathy within yourself. This is a different type of impact than film or television, because the screen does not demand your presence.
A Future Where All Artistic and Cultural Leaders Have a Basic Understanding of Culture.
I envision an expectation that if you’re working in the cultural management sector you are required to keep up on culture. This includes but isn’t limited to, new forms of theatre, new and exciting artists and their artistic lineages, as well as dialogues on gender, sexuality, race, ability and other socially relevant topics.
The purpose of theatre is to present situations and create dialogue that reflect the most pressing issues forming our society, whether challenging those issues through entirely new worlds, or using a classic to examine how social stations translate to the present. Therefore I am consistently astonished at how out of date our theatre leaders are permitted to be.
Keeping up with the tides of human definition and evolution are inherently worth your time as the leader of any cultural institution. A lack of understanding and education about how society works and the challenges their audiences face should be viewed as unacceptable qualities in a cultural leader, especially when accompanied by a dismissal of or unwillingness to learn. I would expect any social media expert to know MySpace is dead, so why is someone in the business of identity, empathy, and social transaction not expected to be up on the latest terminology and tools of their community?
A Future Where the Dominant Community Stops Expecting Education from Those They Harm.
My final vision for 2020 is we leave behind this assumption that anyone creating harm has a right to the empathy and education of the community they are hurting. Anyone creating harm does not inherently deserve the time and energy of those they have hurt. This system of demand is built on need and infantilization – you must teach me so I can be a more efficient gatekeeper for you and your kind – the fact is, most marginalized artists don’t need you to make space for them anymore. We are building spaces, resources, and teams every day. It’s your job to educate yourself in order to keep up with and reap the benefit of the diverse perspective. There are people who want to learn and people who take advantage of the fact that they should. The folks taking advantage of the changing tide to be lazy, make it difficult for the folks trying to do good. This leaves young POC leaders debating whether they should take the chance of spending unpaid hours they don’t have educating someone who might be in it for the optics, which often ends badly.
I have been the young person of color trying to educate and subsequently have endured some dark moments of manipulation, gaslighting and even verbal abuse. So have countless other young black and brown people who have been somehow led to believe they are the one who’s going to change That white Artistic Leader’s mind about Diversity.
Breaking this manipulative cycle of this Talented Tenth Tokenization takes extensive and repetitive practice and discipline. It is a predatory arm of the American theatre borrowed from white supremacy that has the ability to transform our most brilliant minds into spineless gatekeepers. Taking ownership and transforming this vampiric practice into a consulting business and mutual learning experience that benefits my own artistic leadership as well as the person I’m consulting is one of the greatest victories of my professional career. In 2020 Do Not let people make demands on your time without compensating you, even if they swear the changes will make your life easier.
My Vision for You whether you are patron or artist, is that you bring every lesson you learn in a theatre about teamwork, empathy, resilience, and love into your greater life. I envision your community and confidence to execute your vision strengthening. I envision your worthiness, and your recognition of that worthiness. I envision you using your voices to create change in 2020.
Wishing You An Abundant New Year,
Photo: Fatima Sowe Photography