One of the most urgent conversations to emerge from the 2012 National Conference in Boston concerned the perennial theme of diversity. However, we noticed that the frame of that conversation had shifted from challenge to opportunity and the dialogue had evolved from should we do this to how do we do this? To further this critical evolution, we’ve dedicated our 2012 Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge to exploring working models of diversity and inclusion. How can we power our theatres and communities through the “charge” of diversity? Registration is now open, and I encourage all senior staff and trustees to join us in New York City on November 9-11 for an intimate gathering on this essential issue.
Of course, this issue is much larger than our field, and as Young Leader of Color Jacqueline E. Lawton reminds us in her new blog series on diversity and inclusion, President Obama himself issued Executive Order 13583 last year in order to promote these values. Jacqueline beautifully expresses the magnetic, electric charge that comes from diversity in her inaugural post, calling for us to “shift from a multicultural society that merely acknowledges and tolerates difference to an inclusive society that cultivates and thrives on difference.”
That charge was vitally present in the latest Los Angeles meet-up of the burgeoning Latinos in Theatre Group. I participated in a focused and energetic meeting of around 40 artists and administrators, actors and educators, playwrights and more at Josefina Lopez’s CASA 0101 Theater. Led by Kinan Valdez, Diane Rodriguez and José Luis Valenzuela, questions moved from the tactical: how can theatres with spaces make room for itinerant artists and companies? to the visionary: what if the work of Latino theatres and artists were a driving force of the next 50 years of our American theatre movement?
The next 50 years seemed well under way when I visited with Watts Village Theater Company’s artistic director Guillermo Avilés-Rodríguez, managing director David Mack and associate artistic director David Guerra. I was inspired by their commitment to arts education and to reimagining theatre through productions like Meet Me @Metro, a live-streamed, multi-subway theatre romp now in its third incarnation. Those who tune-in may be moved to visit sources of neighborhood pride like the Watts Towers, Watts Towers Arts Center and Watts Coffee House. Known by many only for the riots of 1965, this neighborhood has transformed into a hotbed of civically-engaged, aesthetically-daring art.
That transformational spirit also lives in the recipients of our fifth round of the MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program: Think It, Do It. Five theatres have been awarded grants to either research and develop new ideas or experiment and implement innovative models. From an artisan exchange to a national database of artists with disabilities, this program will not only support the creative thinking of the recipients, but serve as a laboratory for the larger theatre community. We look forward to following their progress and sharing it with you.