You Have to Want It: Diversity in Ensemble Theatres (downloadable pdf) by Monty Cole. When asked by six different theatre companies in one week “How do I diversify my theatre’s ensemble?” Monty Cole takes to Howl Round to write a thorough response.
I’m an emerging director and I happen to be black. And when someone who is not a straight white male identifies themself as an artist in Chicago you get one question:How do I diversify my theatre’s ensemble?
The first thing I always ask in response to the ever-present question is, “Do you want it? Do you actually want diversity?” Nobody likes lip service. Of course, there are many benefits to a company having diversity in their ensemble. Diverse theatre ensembles are able to program a wider variety of stories, reach a wider audience, and can more accurately reflect the values of their company. If one of your values is “Community” and your work doesn’t look like the people living in your community, something is wrong.
But with these perks come sacrifices from the ensemble. In an ensemble theatre company, often it’s actors and other artists who hold the keys to what type of work is produced and which artists the company chooses to work with in the future. Oftentimes, these companies are made up of wonderfully talented white artists. They hit a brick wall, however, when they aren’t willing to give up opportunities in order to grow diversity in their artistic family. It’s important for the entire ensemble to agree that this is necessary, unanimously. If even one person doesn’t understand the need, then none of your initiatives or programming aimed to diversify will serve your company.
And here’s where we run into a problem.