Teresa’s Weekly Update: Human Rights Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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Today, as we sat in our weekly TCG leadership team meeting, Managing Director Kevin E. Moore announced that history was in the making. His phone had just buzzed with news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and their dismissal of Proposition 8’s appeal. When the Defense of Marriage Act passed in ‘96, a Democratic president and 85 Senators supported it. When Californians approved Prop 8 in ‘08, gay marriage was only legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Now, according to The Atlantic: “Thirty percent of Americans now live in a state where gay couples can legally marry, and nearly half live in a state that recognizes gay relationships in some form, be it marriage or civil union.” While there is much work to do in order to bring about equality in all states, I find hope in the momentum that has built around this important human rights issue.

I was also reminded this week of theatre’s power to spark awareness of human rights issues and empower change. Last night, I attended ROADKILL at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Conceived and directed by Cora Bissett, this site-specific, immersive performance in a Brooklyn brownstone tells the gut-wrenching story of a 14-year old Nigerian girl sold into sex slavery.  I was thoroughly moved and heartbroken, and learned that human trafficking generates $32 billion annually and that 50% of the victims are children. The play is accompanied by The Roadkill Forum, a series of conversations and symposia developed to help spark change and eradicate this injustice.

I also attended Jacqueline E. Lawton’s The Hampton Years at Theater J in Washington, D.C. Developed as part of the Locally Grown: Community Supported Arts Festival, the play chronicles the 1940’s creation of a studio art program at the Hampton Institute, a trade school founded in 1861 to educate freed slaves. The play engaged deeply with the complex tensions between offering young African Americans education in self-sufficient trades or the arts, and the subtle—and not so subtle—expressions of institutional racism in the ‘40s art world. When theatre reflects our society and history in this powerful way, it can help us see our beauty and weakness with greater objectively, and map out roads to change.

Here’s a change to celebrate: I’m pleased to announce that improvements to the U.S. visa process for international guest artists are now included in the comprehensive immigration reform package under consideration in the U.S. Senate! We will keep you updated as this provision, aptly called The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS)”, moves forward to the House. As more theatres work with artists from abroad, we must pay attention to this provision and reach out to our legislators for support, so stay tuned for Action Alerts from the Performing Arts Alliance.

Finally, I want to extend a big thank you to the many TCG Member Theatres who have already renewed their membership. As a reminder, the extended and final deadline for TCG Membership Renewal is this coming Monday, July 1st, so please click-through and join us to continue supporting all of the professional development, publishing and advocacy work we do to make a better world for theatre and a better world because of theatre. Once you’ve renewed, please also note that your season information is due July 12 for inclusion in the season preview issue of American Theatre.