What is the point of doing this for just “one year”?
The Jubilee is a tool. The tool is intended to move the American theatre toward equity. By inviting every theatre in the US to participate we are hope to foster new relationships. We want audiences to know and adore more of the best playwrights who have been ignored. We want to disrupt patterns of inequity that have become habitual.
You know not every theatre is going to do this, right?
No. Maybe. Who cares? If one theatre does it, it’s great. We’re at sixty-something today. The goal is to move the American theatre. It probably wouldn’t be as fun if we could actually mandate it from a congressional level. It’s voluntary. It’s a party. If it doesn’t sound fun to you, don’t go. But getting one, or ten, or one hundred more productions from underrepresented parties would be a great success. Raising consciousness would be a success. And we’ve already started having fun, which is a great success!
What happens when the Jubilee is over?
We do hope that new friendships are created, between playwrights and theatres. Between audiences and playwrights. Between theatres and new audiences. We hope we can never go back to a system that is so biased against our friends and wives and daughters and sisters. We hope the theatre looks more like our actual communities. And we hope that we can look to improve other areas of the world where people feel shut out.
What if a theatre signs up for the Jubilee but fails to live up to its pledge?
The Jubilee has no enforcement committee and is not looking to become a police force. It’s a party, not a law. We hope all theatres will pledge. We hope that all theatres will fulfill their pledges. We hope if a theatre has trouble fulfilling its pledge that it will reach out to us, to other theatres, to you. But we do not plan on punishing or publicizing a list of successes or failures. The change in the American theatre is the success.
Why is the Jubilee so far in the future?
It’s not. Or at least, not for long. We’re just so far in the past. We want to give theatres time to think about the pledge and to make substantive changes to support the work of the Jubilee. To reach new audiences, to commission new artists. To fulfill any and all existing contracts and plans with theatres.
What about theatres that already do this work?
They have been inspirations and leaders in this movement. They are our elders. We are relying on them to speak to us about how to and to help us clarify our goals and our language.
What if there aren’t enough good plays?
This is one of the great myths we hope to counter. Most theatres do not aim to produce only men or two thirds straight white men. Most theatres aim to produce the best plays available to them. But in some ways the limitations of the theatre’s past become their own patterns for the future, if two-thirds of all productions are men, then the list of “successful” plays will be skew male. By pointing artistic directors’ eyes toward writers they haven’t seen, we hope to expand the list of writers who make good plays. The Kilroys have shown that there is a huge list of plays smart people consider great that are not being produced enough.
What about Straight White Men?
Love them. The person typing this particular answer to this FAQ is one! There is not intent or desire to do harm to any straight white man. We think the Jubilee will end up being a benefit to all of us. Straight White Men deserve to see the widest array of work, to be inspired by artists that reflect their community and to earn their success in a balanced field, not in a game that favors them.
What about Shakespeare?
Love him! Great plays. We hope Shakespeare festivals discuss and decide how they can participate. Creative solutions are more exciting than trying to say it doesn’t work.
What about directors, designers, technicians, actors, etc.?
They all deserve their own Jubilee.
What can I do as an actor?
You can agree not to accept roles written for actors of color or actors with disabilities. You can refuse to appear in plays written by straight, non-disabled white men.
When will it all be over?
There is no end to our need to grow and educate ourselves. Gay rights and transgender rights were emergent in popular culture in our lifetime. We hope there will be more emergent groups and classes of people that focus our attention in new areas.
Want to Join the Jubilee?
Sign the pledge on behalf of your organization by clicking here. Sign the pledge as an individual by clicking here. If you’d like to help with Jubilee organizing efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the Committee of the Jubilee.
I read an article about the Jubilee in the National Review. What’s your response?
The members of the Committee for the Jubilee are always excited to hear about enthusiastic support of diversity in the theatre. So we will begin our response to the National Review article (“Why is the NEA Funding Discrimination,” March 9, 2017) by quoting this wonderful paragraph by David Marcus:
“I’ve worked in theater for nearly two decades, and during that time the issue of diversity has been front and center at every organization with which I’ve been involved. This focus has paid dividends: Individuals and companies have made choices that have led to the most diversity that the art form has probably ever seen. It is that focus and those choices made by artists of every race and type working together that build meaningful and lasting diversity.”
In this, we share a common value. We, too, want artists to “build meaningful and lasting diversity.” For it’s only through diversity and inclusion that all artists will have the opportunity to compete in a more balanced marketplace, driving everyone — straight White men included — to create their best work.
We have a difference of opinion about how we get there. And that’s fine. The Committee for the Jubilee is a dynamic group that refines and adapts its ideas to serve this shared mission. We never consider ourselves fixed or strident in our methods. We welcome the National Review’s addition to the dialogue and believe it could be a great benefit to our goals.
However, there are several inaccuracies in the National Review piece we would like to address.
First, the call to action by the Committee for the Jubilee is not “from HowlRound,” as claimed in the first sentence of the article.
As a platform for members of the theatre commons to share ideas and opinions, HowlRound accepts articles, blogs, calls to action, and opinion pieces from members of the theatre community around the globe. In that spirit of dialogue, HowlRound made space for the theatre practitioners that comprise the Committee to host the Jubilee information on its platform. We are grateful to them for that.
Second, the Jubilee isn’t “barring playwrights from selling or producing their work on the basis of race.”
All theatres have the right to program a season that speaks to its mission. It is also any theatre’s right to program and participate in a national, year long, festival honoring superlative work by underrepresented voices, and simultaneously adhere to anti-discrimination laws established by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
It is also important to note, when discussing the impact of theatre, the National Review article seems to posit that harm can only be quantified on the production side. We believe we must be inclusive of audiences, including the artists among them, and we address this in our FAQs. Audiences of all demographics, including straight White men, have been harmed by not seeing the full breadth of artistic excellence this nation has produced.
So how do we move towards greater equity and inclusion in the American Theatre? The Jubilee is one effort among many occurring in theatres across the country with this goal in mind. A look at statistics and objective measurements can help us quantify. Statistics help us assess where we are and what equitable competition might look like. But art also involves a qualitative measurement. The Jubilee advocates for education and discovery in order to foster relationships and perspectives, not for permanent quotas based on demographics.
Using the Dramatists Guild’s most recent numbers from The Count, one sees that production of work by men outnumbers work by women at a rate of more than 3 to 1—80% of all plays in their report were plays by men.
In the National Review article it is suggested that, “it is not clear that the problem the Jubilee 2020 is attempting to address is even much of a problem. American Theatre magazine compiles a list of the “Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights in America.” So far, the magazine notes, “2016–17 is the most diverse season yet, with 8 playwrights of color and 6 women represented…” Here, I would note first that only looking at the most produced playwrights leaves out a true picture of the field. But even taking these numbers, if 6 of 20 of the most produced playwrights are women, that’s only 33%. And that’s a problem. Using the numbers from The Count report, only 10% of all plays produced in America are by people of color. Non Hispanic Whites make up 63% of the U.S. Population. So people of color are underrepresented by almost 200% (roughly 10 per cent of plays are by people of color and in an approximately balanced world that would be closer to 30%).
The National Review article states there is a desire to work together to build meaningful and lasting diversity. One way is to build more theatres that aim specifically to serve underrepresented communities. Another way is to marshal our existing resources and make sure they are used to serve our nation’s actual population.
In terms of the actual pledge, signees never state any exclusion. Signees offer to “support a diverse, inclusive, and intersectional vision in the 2020-2021 season,” as a way of “celebrating the work of these traditionally marginalized voices.” Neither supporting nor celebrating is forbidden by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
The Jubilee is not a mandate. We enjoin theatres to consider what the process and the impact of leveling the playing field through their season selections would be. Then we invite theatres to join us in supporting and celebrating a movement toward equity. It is often pointed out that the Jubilee has no enforcement mechanism or police committee. The Committee does not want it to have one. If a theatre joins the vision and fulfills their mission by producing Shakespeare directed by a woman, no one is going to exclude them. If every theatre in the U.S. spent the next two and a half years searching for plays, artists, and projects to produce during this national year long theatre festival, the most expansive version of the Jubilee is fulfilled. The most expansive vision of the Jubilee is not harmed by productions of plays by straight White men. But we ask you to consider what everyone might gain from only a single season-long focus on celebrating our nation’s best artists from traditionally marginalized communities. These artists develop the essential connections of commissions, foundation support, and relationships with audiences and patrons.
We all benefit through the Jubilee. Under the current status quo, we are all denied the full breadth of the artistic landscape and the full range of voices in the United States. And all artists are denied the opportunity to compete in a more balanced marketplace, which would drive everyone—straight White men included—to create their best work.