Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Theaters lack diversity

By Thurman Jones
NDG Publisher

The live performances of the theater are some of the bests of times a child, adult, or family could experience. The actors bring forth their characters and the lines that must be given at a moment’s notice without fail.

Let’s not even talk about if that live performance is a musical. The pitches, tones, and scores are bellowed out in unison or on many occasions, in solo!

Plays, musicals, operas, monologues; it honestly doesn’t matter. What matters is, when one watches a live performance, they are taken away in a “realness” that Hollywood cannot present.


(Stefano Stacchini / Unsplash)

Unfortunately, people of color are often neglected from the experience of live theater, especially when it comes to productions dealing with a largely Caucasian cast and audience. The reason is not a lack of financial means but a lack of advertising in the African American community. Live theater productions, such as plays and musicals, are only advertised when the cast caters to the African American audience — the most famous playwrights being Tyler Perry and the late Shelley Garrett.

The African American audience packs out theaters nationwide and can probably quote lines from their iconic plays.

But what about Broadway productions outside of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Color Purple?” What about “Into the Woods” or “Jersey Boys?” Those plays do not target the African American audience but rather audiences that don’t look like the readers of North Dallas Gazette. We are often left to subscribe to theater house newsletters or to look elsewhere to find out the latest Broadway or off-Broadway productions. Those plays are rarely, if ever, given a chance to market to the African American audience.

The reason is definitely unclear, but my speculation is that Caucasian theater houses or productions do not believe that the African American community is sophisticated enough to enjoy or even understand their presentation. Maybe they believe that we only want to gather for R&B and rap concerts, picnics at the park, or some free event that the radio station is giving away.

It’s unfortunate, that we are only good enough for a couple of free tickets but not good enough to advertise to. It confuses me to believe that with all the entertainment productions that come through Dallas-Fort Worth, that the African American community is left with music, sports, and popular movies that are yet again geared towards us.

Are we not cultured enough to experience the arts that are not slapstick or full of drama? (No knock to those playwrights who write these types of plays.)

In 2022, why do we have to beg for a seat at the table or rather a seat in the theater? Why do we have to beg for better advertising to our community or for plays that have substance? Why do we have to wait for the movie version of a play rather than going to see it live when it’s in Dallas? Why does our community not know where the Meyerson or Winspear is located? Why do they not know the production schedule of ALL plays, not just the ones with a predominately African American cast?

It’s time that these production houses like Winspear, the Black Box Theater, and Dallas Broadway, partner with the African American community to not just promote African American driven productions, but all productions, to ensure we are cultivated outside of music and sports.


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