Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Thoughts

I know we're probably all sick and tired about hearing about the presidential election by now, but I saw this photo on the Obama campaign's tumblr and felt like I needed to share.

During a really, really interesting discussion with one of my theatre professors, Mr. C, last year, he told my class a story about a children's show he directed. It was a version of Charlotte's Web and the department invited tons of local schools to see it, including many schools in urban and lower-income areas. As Mr. C watched the students come into the theatre, he was so excited. For many of them, it was going to be the first time they had ever seen a play before. Throughout the performance, he spent more time watching the audience than watching the show. The kids fell in love with all of characters, but particularly Wilbur, and Mr. C couldn't wait until after the show because they had arranged for the actors to meet the kids in the lobby after the show.

Mr. C stayed behind in the auditorium after the show ended to congratulate the crew, as he had always done. He walked out into the lobby and saw the kids talking to all their favorite characters. As he scanned the room, there was a huge crowd of people around one particular person and he couldn't tell who it was. He started accounting for each of the actors and realized that the kids weren't crowded around any of the actors. The person that all these students had flocked to was Miguel, one of the custodians.

Miguel had been with the university theatre department for years. He was a friendly face in a cutthroat environment and he would always ask you how your day had been. He was also, Mr. C noticed as he looked around, the only person of color from the university in the room. What sort of message had their show unintentionally sent? From that point on, Mr. C told our class, he made a concerted effort to make sure that he casted his children's shows conscientiously and included as much diversity as he could.

When I saw the picture above this morning, it wasn't hard to connect this story to it.  It just reminds me how incredible it is to live when we do.


  1. I love the story and I love the photo.

    Diversity in performance is a good thing. I did props for Central California Ballet for several years, and one of the things I loved about the company was how diverse it was. So cool.

    Also, school shows. School shows are the best. Every year I did "The Nutcracker" with the company, they did a school show on the Friday morning of performance weekend. They usually invited classes from the small farming towns surrounding Fresno, so many of these kids were not likely to have ever had an opportunity to see a ballet before.

    Many of them would come all dressed up in their best clothes. You could hear how excited they were as they came into the theatre. Then the lights would go down, and they would all quiet down...until the curtain went up and they had their first glimpse of the color and costumes. The "oohs" and "aahs" were just the most wonderful sound in the world. Always brought tears to my eyes.

    In fact, it's getting really dusty in here right about now.

    1. Yes! I am such a big advocate for children and the arts, for reasons that would take me waaaay too long to explain in comment! My little hometown in Arkansas had fantastic arts resources even at the public high school and I'm so thankful for it every day.

      Diversity in performance and casting is also such a fascinating issue. It's definitely a good thing and I think it brings out a so many interesting things when a conscious decision is made during casting regarding diversity, whether it's to actively seek out a specific ethnicity or to try to cast "colorblind."