You know when you say a word over and over and slowly the individual syllables start resonating more than the word itself, and then as a whole it loses all sense and meaning? I fear that’s what’s happening with the word “diversity,” as it gets overused and over-emphasized in so many conversations relating to entertainment today. Make no mistake, I’m all for the conversation. I’ve been a proponent of race-blind casting since, at thirteen, I fell in love with the royal family in a TV version of Cinderella. The queen was black, the king was white, and their handsome son, the charming Prince Christopher, was Filipino. I can’t place exactly why I so deeply appreciated this casting choice. All I know is that even then it made sense to me that families could be multiracial, that anybody could be Prince Charming, and that the best actor for the job should have the job, regardless of race.
But while I jump at the chance to discuss and debate opportunity issues facing artists, I’ve come to feel that much talk concerning diversity is less about affecting actual change and more about avoiding being labelled a racist. So the word is used. A lot. However, without a genuine intent to create change, endless championing of diversity renders the word meaningless. And an overused, meaningless word can create the belief that everything needing to be said has already been discussed, halting conversation altogether.
Luckily, many artists are breathing new life into the diversity conversation. Some of their pieces are below.
- There haven’t been many conversations about diversity as it relates to people with disabilities. When a lack of diversity onstage is noted, it shouldn’t only be the absence of non-white actors, but also of an equal mix of men and women and of abled and disabled individuals. Anita Hollander writes about how, instead of allowing her physical disability to hinder her career, she used it to her advantage.
- I’m slightly put off by the way Ben Whishaw is described as an “exciting new British import” when he’s been around dazzling audiences for years, but I also appreciate any writing that mentions Ben Whishaw, so here’s a look at the casting of The Crucible’s Broadway revival and how it’s diverse in a different way.
- Taiwanese dancer Huang Yi utilizes technology to diversify the stage in a modern way as he performs alongside the robot KUKA in his new show Huang Yi & KUKA.
- Alysa Auriemma’s article for Playbill on the necessity of telling stories from an authentic perspective tackles the importance of diverse artists not only onstage but behind the scenes as well.
- Don’t forget the white people! Inclusion for all means inclusion for all.