I have been trying to write this blog post for the past week. I have started and stopped, trying to wrap my head around the subject. Talking to other people and reading things online has made me talk in circles to the extent I don’t know anymore.
What am I talking about? Writing about diversity.
I still consider myself new to playwriting regardless of the number of plays I have written and I overthink everything. When you’re writing your show, you’re thinking about the characters and who they are, how they sound, look and move in the world. At some point you have to write the character description. You know, that page right after the title page where you introduce the reader to your world.
The character breakdown:
Amy: Female, 30s, African-American, Grounded and stern.
Josh: Male, South Asian, Middle Eastern male, extremely handsome, winning smile.
Steve: 20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities.
Each of these tells about how you envision your play. The character name, age or age range, ethnicity and some telling trait. As brief or detailed as you want.
But, recently with an increase in the need for diversity, sometimes an ethnicity or age is added to just add diversity with no thought to the actual story.
This in turn, leads to me to thinking who can play what. And for me, my plays are about American Indians and just writing my character description has become a thoughtful exercise.
In 2015 Howl Round had a week long takeover by Native voices on the American stage deemed #InsteadofRedface. A collection of American Indian voices as they share their experiences in (North) American theatremaking.
But what does it mean? #InsteadOfRedface? Are the playwrights the only ones who have to be Native? Does your cast have to include Native characters as well? If it’s done in a theater class is ok to cast whomever? And is Native not enough? Do we include Indigenous people as well and is it ok for them to play Native roles? And do all the roles have to be actually be played by Native people? And how Native do they have to be? Like I just took a DNA test and I’m 5% Native, so I can play Native roles now ok?
So many questions.
I’ll keep thinking on this…
But you should keep writing!
Happy Writing! Jennifer