How to handle consistent bias?

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  • 2 Post By wheretostart
  • 1 Post By spiderlashes5000

My community theater is doing a production, specifically "Footloose." When I auditioned, I went for Ariel as my 1st choice and Rusty for the 2nd. I can sing; I've been taking voice lessons for a couple of years. I can act, too, especially the highly emotional scenes. I don't dance particularly well, but I learn fast. For the last 3 years including this year, I've noticed that the main characters always go to the white people. In Footloose, every main character is white, except for Chuck. The guy who plays him is black, but he's favored by the board of my theater. Last year the main characters were white (Legally Blonde) and the year before (Aida). These selections were for the high schoolers. In the middle school production of Music Man, they chose a white boy who couldn't sing over a black boy who could because he had a well known last name and because of his color. I'm so frustrated because the president of the theater is always stating that the theater should bring together the communities, and so forth. But how can they do that if they continue to pick people based on their race?

Anyway, the people who got leads in last years production got supporting roles/leads in Footloose. Is that right? Recently, the choreographer of the show made a comment that all of Williard's friends were minorities and then he chuckled. I stayed silent. But the thing is, I don't know if I can deal with this anymore. There is too much bias, and color-casting. The guys who play Williard and Ren are related to the director and know the producer; some of the lead and supporting girls are related to the choreographer. Also, the main dancers go to the studio where the choreographer took dance from years ago. I do understand that this happens in the real world, but shouldn't middle and high school productions colorblind? Is that even possible? I'll never know if I'm any good as an actress if the only time a black person can get a lead is when the play is about black people or features them, i.e. "Dreamgirls" and "Hairspray." It seems, and this has happened on many occasions, that a white person can get a role that was originally for a person of color, but it can't be the other way around.

I know this was pretty long, but I just needed to vent. I don't know what to do now. Should I talk to the president, or just stay silent?
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Last edited by ElizabethFaith; 07-19-2013 at 12:23 AM.
Write a letter to the director. And isn't Aida set in Egypt? But the lead was given to a white person? They need to fix that!
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Last edited by The New Black; 07-19-2013 at 10:17 AM.
Yes, somewhere around Egypt. The lead was given to a girl of Indian descent (as in India, not Native American). But the lead's friend was given to a white girl.
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Is there a community or youth theater nearby? My experience was school was more biased than what I saw outside of school. Teachers, coaches, directors, etc had their favorites and they got all the attention. It seemed to be worse in some of the more creative classes/clubs. It's either someone they know/like, or someone they see as having "potential" and they have to do anything they can to see that they get somewhere with it.

If you're going to do the letter, I'd get others to sign on. Some adults don't like being questioned by teens/kids and will automatically dismiss what you say. So, if you could get some other adults to help in that might get you further.
I bet that can be tough for everyone involved in theatre. I can see that a persons skin color, hair color, body size, etc can have a lot to do with whether or not they can play a character.. and other times, it may not matter. I bet directors walk a fine line between keeping their "vision" of the story in tact, and being fair to everyone. My community has two local theatres - one for children, and the other for adults. I do know that when the story is musical, better singers/dancers will get the part over an amazing actor who cant sing or dance. They are very good at choosing stories that fit the pool of talent available.
Maybe you can suggest a story that would allow you and any others in your situation to be the best picks for lead roles.
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I agree with Cympreni. Race and color have always been an issue in acting and the biases that many in power have who make the decisions. However, I think the bigger obstacle is that the director favors everyone he knows. If you got in with his crowd, you would be chosen more often. If you do send the letter, I second getting others involved. I also suggest looking for community theaters and leaving the school one behind.

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My mother is going to speak with him next week. I don't know how he'll take it, but I hope he'll listen to her. They know each other pretty well. The parents that have also noticed the problems that exist will not speak up, though. They don't want to have anything to do with it. A friend of mine that I met in a previous play that I was in said that she had heard that the theater was biased.

Multicultcurly: This is the community theater. I apologize if I made it sound as if this were a school theater. The community theater does productions for 2nd and 3rd graders, 4th and 5th graders, middle school children, and high school kids in the summer. Oh, and the director is a 'she' I can't really get in her crowd because she teaches at a Christian school and I'm homeschooled. She only directs in the summer.

Wheretostart: Thank you for your insight! I agree fully. Some people that I've met in theater have been denied roles because of their weight. They were wonderful singers and dancers, too! I've never been casted as a parent because of my height. I'm 5'2". I'll try to suggest a story, but I doubt they'll listen. My mom once asked if she could get on the board (she'd be the only woman of color), but they said they'd contact her, and never did. She even suggested that they do "The Help." They said they would but that was last year.

Cympreni: I'm homeschooled so I don't know much about how the school theaters are. I have friends that go to the public schools in my area, so I've heard that they are biased as well. I'm not going to do the letter; it'll be too easy for them to dismiss it. My mom will talk with him.
Curly and PROUD!!!

My hair has a mix of low/med/high porosity, and it's medium textured (some are still fine, though!)

CG since Sept. 2011
Cowash: Vo5/Suave Naturals/Tresemme Naturals*
RO/LI: GVPCB*, Tresemme Naturals*
Low-poo: Shea Moisture Moisture Retention
Stylers: KCKT*, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Honey*

* represents my HGs!!! Finally!!!
I think you and your mom should apply for a grant to start your own theatrical company to perform the material you want and cast the roles the way you see fit! maybe see if you can work it into your curriculum and get school credit for it. Best wishes.
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