Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo among 300 artists to sign petition decrying racism in US theatre industry

In an open letter addressed to 'Dear White American Theatre,' the signatories complained of tokenism, prioritizing white theatre for white audiences, and a failure to make promised changes in programming or leadership.

Reuters June 10, 2020 10:02:19 IST
Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo among 300 artists to sign petition decrying racism in US theatre industry

Los Angeles: Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Cynthia Erivo joined some 300 actors and playwrights on 9 June in decrying racism in the US theatre world, saying it had exploited, excluded and diminished people of colour.

In an open letter addressed to 'Dear White American Theatre,' the signatories complained of tokenism, prioritizing white theatre for white audiences, and a failure to make promised changes in programming or leadership.

Viola Davis Cynthia Erivo among 300 artists to sign petition decrying racism in US theatre industry

Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Cynthia Erivo joined as many as 300 artists in signing a petition that decried racism in the US theatre world. All images via Reuters

The letter follows a national reckoning in the United States about systemic racism, sparked by the death of African American George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer last month. Floyd’s funeral, broadcast nationwide, took place on 9 June in Houston, Texas, after two weeks of street protests around the world.

“We have watched you use our BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour) faces on your brochures, asking us to politely shuffle at your galas, talkbacks, panels, board meetings, and donor dinners, in rooms full of white faces,” the letter said.

It was addressed not just to theatre owners and theatre companies but also to critics, casting directors, agents, labor unions and university training programs.

“We have watched you exploit us, shame us, diminish us, and exclude us. We see you,” it said, adding that despite holding anti-racism workshops, few changes are made to theatre programs or leadership.

“This is a house that will not stand. This ends TODAY,” the letter said.

It was accompanied by a change.org petition demanding reforms in the theatre that by late Tuesday had been signed by almost 50,000 people.

Others signing included This is Us star Sterling K. Brown, Pose star Billy Porter, playwright Lynn Nottage, Black Panther actress Danai Gurira, and Orange is the New Black Emmy winner Uzo Aduba.

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