Last week, Rick Orr announced he was stepping down as Artistic Director of the Station Theatre, a theatre that he founded almost 50 years ago and that he has served on the board of and in that capacity for the entirety of his tenure.
In the Summer of 2020, the Station Theatre Board set forth a commitment to become more inclusive and diverse, and since making that announcement has been under constant attack from those who either misunderstood or disagreed with the need to make such changes. These things happen. Change is tough and change during a pandemic is even more complicated as nuance and dialog can be lost and diminished in a world limited to masked, zoomed or emailed communication. Passionate, creative, strong people can devolve into angry, confused, and distrustful versions of themselves when misinformation or incomplete information is provided to them. "Supporters" of Rick have spent the last 15 months on various email campaigns accusing the Board of trying to push Rick out - a falsehood - but their real agenda seems more like an effort to preserve what they have always enjoyed at the Station in the privilege and opportunity his leadership has provided them.
The Station Theatre currently presents as a microcosm of our divided country. For while it's intimate and storied walls have been in many ways a gem in our community, even gems have their flaws. As awesome as the Station legacy is, there is no getting around the fact that less than 2% of its shows in the past 10 years have been by black playwrights and less than 2% the actors shown in the first 40 year history book were actors of color. This lack of representation is completely at odds with what a community theatre should be.
We highlight this not as a personal attack on the founders or the hundreds of company members and volunteers who have contributed so much over the years, nor is it a condemnation of the theatre supporters or our community at large. It is simply that there is a clear problem with an obvious solution. Those who fight against the direction of inclusion will not succeed. Those who declare the need for change as disrespecting those who put their blood, sweat, and tears into the walls of the Station are missing the point. Respecting and loving something doesn't absolve you from the responsibilities of self-reflection, evolution, growth, seeking, listening and learning.
While, we at C-U at the Show are saddened and, frankly, surprised by Rick Orr's recent resignation from the board of the Station Theatre and as Artistic Director, we hope that people who are passionate about community theatre and the Station in particular will continue to support it and embrace opening their doors wider and making more connections to the larger community.
We want to be part of an artistic community that reaches ever further to give voice and opportunity to those who don't have a platform or a forum to tell their stories. To those who have enjoyed such plentiful and rich opportunity and privilege over the decades and are unwilling to pass the mic and share the stage, history has its eyes on you. But it is our hope that inclusion, representation, opportunity, and diversity can reach their true meanings.
Especially now, when we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, art and theatre in particular are needed. We strive for a healthy, cooperative, inclusive, dynamic, welcoming, space that pushes the boundaries, makes people think and grow, and always entertains.