Diversity in society is a huge issue to consider. Everywhere is trying to be more encompassing to disabled members of the public, there is more than ever a stamping out of racism and discrimination in all senses.
But why, while much of it is now law, does the arts sector, and notably for this blog post, the theatre, is it not the same?
Act For Change has been alive for around 1 year now, set up by performers who came from what would be known in society as ‘minority groups’. This relates to gender, race, sexual orientation, ability and so on. Its’ aim is to stamp these discriminatory habits even more out of the theatre world.
With testimonies, a Q & A challenging the NT Artistic Director, discussion from a panel and Q & A with the audience, ending on a video of more of those in the industry discussing the subject, AFC covered all basis. And made a real imprint in this industry.
Not enough is being done in encompass disabled performers. While across conference it was a valid consensus that there is an argument of whether the industry should make more theatre showing the stories of individuals in all these sectors or whether casting should be looking for sheer talent and not who they are. While it is a fine line, it seemed that less is being done for disabled performers. Not many are an option, and not much theatre looks at their stories.
A perfect quote I found from the night said, ‘If you want to tell a story you have to tell your own story’.
Different ethnicities, genders and orientations felt the same. Theatre is a way of breaking barriers and addressing taboos and why, on that note, should issues not be addressed that are found in these communities? But why also, are these communities not also celebrated in theatre more? Let’s be honest, many other cultures are more vibrant and exciting that the tweed, tea drinking, white, middle class stereotypes that are continuously produced on stage. Why do we not see this?
Many performers also felt that there was the issue of not being cast because of who they are. Where are the character’s that just happen to be gay? Or female? Or Asian? Does this really need to be such a vital factor? There are gay bankers, female lorry drivers, Asian actors! Why is it that people cannot focus on talent and not on the view of the person entering the room.
Conferences just like these are important to change opinions. Since the blunt interview with the NT artistic director, there has been a change where more theatre is now going to be brought to the NT with a basis on disabled stories and performers, what a difference this makes.
Theatre needs to be not only bring realism and for something for people to admire, but it does need to bring escapism. It needs to stop being run by the elite, and more representative of the people.
More info on Act For Change can be found here;