“The thing that’s right is to get the theater industry’s collective knee off of the throats and off of the bodies of Black, indigenous and POC people. And it can’t be through these diversity initiatives. Diversity is not equal to anti-racist.”
That’s Nicole Brewer, the freelance theatermaker and anti-racist educator who’s spent years focusing on anti-racism in the theater. On the new episode of Variety’s theater podcast, Stagecraft, Brewer shares insights that can help guide theater people as they work to make lasting change in an industry being called out for its systemic racism.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
In crafting her anti-racist approach, she said, she took the information she learned from her longtime involvement with social justice movements and applied it to the art form she loved.
“Broadway and the theater industrial complex is racist,” she said, and her goal is to help people acknowledge that and find how they can show up to change it.
“I want people to go, ‘What are the ways in which I can counter this racist system, structure, ideas, with an anti-racist practice or protocol?” she said. “I’m really trying to get people away from ‘Oh, this is taboo’ or ‘I’m not a racist’ — which isn’t a thing — to going, ‘How am I thinking about social location? How am I thinking about how I even think that something is excellent? How am I thinking about funding? How am I thinking about the words and credibility to be able to talk to certain people or to be invited to do things? How am I thinking about those people who aren’t around, and beginning to activate [my] own agency to do something different?'”
Brewer’s work in this area grew out of personal experience, she explained. “I tried to do everything that I was told that I needed to do in order to have a career in the theater,” she said, and found herself asking, “Why am I not feeling welcomed? Why do I not have a sense of belonging? Why do I have to deny a vast part of who I am in order to work?”
She also broke down the three guiding principles of anti-racist theater, and offered guidance on what she considers a vital step toward anti-racist action: formulating a personal anti-racist ethos.
“After you have spent some time with that discomfort that comes up when you hear that someone who you care about or respect has been suffering, what are you willing to do?” she asked. “What can you do, through your own analysis of your privileges and social location, what can you do to make some change?”
She reminded listeners, “You have a place in this movement.”
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.