Straight off the bat I'm in a massive position of privilege and have benifitted from going through my life as a white man and that is the upmost of all privileges. Further to that I fully acknowledge that if you're not a part of the solution then you're a part of the problem and there is a problem with diversity in British theatre. I am not a person of power, I do not commission, I do not programme, I do not cast, I do not do anything like that... How ever I do write plays and ocassionally they get produced, I lecture as a professor of Playwrighting at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I teach on the New Views scheme for the National Theatre in schools all around the UK, I am the "resident" or at least "go to" playwright for the National Student Drama Festival and I am, soon to be, an associate of a new writing theatre company in which my capacity will be to recommend and mentor (younger) playwrights. In those capacities I want to be better at equality. Simple. I want theatre to be a space where we all can see ourselves on stage and in the audiences. I want it to be a space for EVERYONE. I want to be educating the people I educate to be better and it and I want to be better at it within my own practise. This is the only way we can make the change we want to see - by educating the next generation to make it something that is just "standard" and not to be celebrated.
I made the mistake of asking Twitter for advice on what I could be teaching and doing in my positions as a Playwright, Teacher, Associate Artist... It yielded some INCREDIBLE ideas, some more hostile reactions and, of course, some trolling. Before I begin to outline the pledges I'm going to take forward into my own work and to my students I want to say Thank You to the people who brought awesome ideas and to the offended people - you learn as much from offence as you do from anything else.
Here are my pledges that came up for my own work and my students:
- When writing bamer/ disabled/female/nb/etc characters, consult people who identify as that and listen to them.
- Hetronormative storylines don't have to be the normal. we can have love stories that are other than that and not make a big deal out of it.
- Your creative team has to be as diverse as it can be. the artistic benefit of this is that you will get loads of perspectives on the question you're exploring and the practical benefit is that it will create a greater equality.
- Don't include a token ethnic/female/lgbtq character in your work for the sake of it. That's almost as insulting as no representation.
- Keep encouraging blind casting. Whether it's gender or race or any category.
- Make conversations about equality at the heart of teaching practise. Keep the conversation going every session for the entire 3 years. Make it normal. It must become the standard not the celebrated.
- Treat every project as an opportunity to foreground others.
- Refuse all male projects.
Here are my pledges outside of teaching and playwrighting:
- Mentor someone outside of formal teaching.
- Promote BAMER/female playwrights you admire to the venues/directors/producers you know who they might be right for. (NB the word BAMER in stead of BAME)
- Call out your white male counterparts within the industry who aren't championing equality.
- Don't sexually pursue women in roles junior to you and call out men that do.
Please lets keep adding to this list and enforcing it so the next generation can enjoy a more equal theatre for everyone than we did.