The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre,
The Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company,
The Twin City Theatre Company,
University of Illinois Theatre Department,
Parkland College Theatre Department,
and the other C-U community and school theatre organizations
It’s time for our theatre organizations to say it loud: Black Lives Matter.
On the last two episodes of C-U at The Show, Latrelle Bright, J’Lyn Hope, and Christina Jones were asked to talk about the next steps we can take as a theatre community to become inclusive to Black and/or Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and People of Color (POC):
“It is a privilege to know that each season, there will be shows reflecting your existence. Imagine if none of them did.” - Latrelle Bright
“Let’s have space, and yes, let’s start being more inclusive. There are shows I don’t even audition for because I don’t think there’s room for me. But let’s start creating environments where there is room. Sometimes, that’s as simple as encouragement. As simple as having a person say “I think that you have a place.” It may not be my table, but I’m going to pull up a chair for you. And even if you don’t sit there, there was a chair. We need more chair-pulling people. More people who are at the table to offer seats. And that is going to take a long time. But that is something we can start.” - J’Lyn Hope
“If we start taking these steps now, even if it takes a long time, it’s still going to happen. Complacency isn’t going to get us anywhere.” - Christina Jones
We echo their concerns and aspirations for the Champaign-Urbana theatre community. We’d like to provide some concrete suggestions for action to be more inclusive to BIPOC and POC. We’ve also provided some resources to consider in this journey.
The arts are intended as a reflection and celebration of the human experience, love, struggle, and culture. For far too long, the arts in the Champaign-Urbana community have served primarily as a reflection and celebration of white culture, excluding and ignoring anyone non-white in their creation and execution. Often, the arts appropriate minority stories for white benefit, inflicting harm to people of color both on- and off-stage. It’s time to change our practices for the better.
We ask that you commit to positive change in the following ways:
To be clear, the white artists included in the writing of this document acknowledge our failure to have acted more decisively prior to this moment. We have been negligent in using our voices and power to bring about equitable change, and we still have much to learn. We pledge to advocate for a better, more representative theatre community, and to listen to the voices of people of color. We pledge to step aside and allow space for BIPOC and POC theatre artists.
We implore each board member and company leader to work steadfastly towards creating true progress in your organization. Do not delay in starting the work. The Champaign-Urbana theatre community has a responsibility to reflect its people and their experience, progress, and culture.
As J’Lyn says, “Don’t just be the change—let it change you. Evaluate your own personal biases. Have conversations with other people. Encourage dialogue that suggests change.” As Latrelle says, “Be humble and listen.”
The Champaign-Urbana theatre community
RESOURCES FOR THEATRE ARTISTS
Latrelle Bright on C-U at the Show, Thursday, June 4th @ 5:30
J’Lynn Hope and Christina Jones on C-U at the Show, Thursday, June 11th @ 5:30
We See You, White American Theatre
There’s No Business Like Show Business: Abandoning Color-Blind Casting and Embracing Color-Conscious Casting in American Theatre:
White supremacy & anti-blackness: a covert & overt beast
MULTI MEETS POLY: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go on a First Date: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBJqAoYYw4E
Phrases We Should Work to Eliminate in the Rehearsal Room:
We Are Not Doing Enough:
Black Theatre USA Revised & Expanded by James V. Hatch, Ted Shine Volumes 1 & 2:
Queer Black Playwrights to Know and Support:
12 Streamable Plays That Depict Black Lives Pierced by Racism
TOWARDS A FRAMEWORK FOR RESPONSIBLE TRANS CASTING, PART 1: WORDS, WORDS, WORDS:
Ianne Fields Stewart, Cultural Competency Consultant Services:
MEET IANNE FIELDS STEWART: THE ACTIVIST AND ACTRESS WHO IS COMBATTING FOOD INSECURITY IN THE BLACK TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)