Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boston Theatre Search Commitees

The Los Angeles Times reports on Sheldon Epps, the Artistic Director of Pasadena Playhouse and his reception of an award from the James Irvine Foundation:

The citation noted that Epps, "one of the few African American artistic directors of a major regional theater in the country," has succeeded since 1997 in engineering a "remarkable renaissance" in which the Pasadena Playhouse has increased its audience while diversifying it by age and race.

Here in Boston,our two anchor regional theatres are currently searching for new artistic directors. Both the American Repertory Theatre and The Huntington Theatre Company will need to fill the top spots very soon.

Is there a possibility that either theatre could come up with a person of color, or a woman, on their short lists?

With regards to these two areas, our artistic leadership in Boston, while showing some bright spots, is still mostly a white man's game. Jacqui Parker as the Artistic Director of Our Place Theatre Project and Kate Snodgrass's helming of Boston Playwright's Theatre are just some of those bright spots. And there continue to be, in the fringier and smaller theatre ranks, people like Akiba Abaka of Up You Mighty Race Theatre Company and Rose Carlson at the Devanaughn.

But is it, perhaps, time to see things change at the big houses?

I fully expect to hear the chorus of very legitimate arguments that, "it shouldn't be about black, or woman, or diversity, it should be about the best person for the job!" I am fully willing to hear those arguments, but be prepared to explain what the "job" is.. On the weblog Parabasis, run by Isaac, the question about what artistic directors are doing great work was thrown out, and a commenter stated, " I think it's an interesting question, because I'm not exactly sure what an artistic director's main function is supposed to be." She then went on to list artistic directors who were successful in different ways.

The missions and visions of the ART and the Huntington are, of course, up to their organizations. And I am sure they are looking diligently for the right person to achieve their goals.

But still...couldn't that person be of color or a woman? And would that have an effect on the community which those two institutions serve?

Any comments on this are welcome, along with any suggestions people might have.


Scott Walters said...

"The best person for the job" begs the question "what is the job," but it also begs another: what is "best"? Lani Guinier, Clinton's withdrawn nominee for Asst Attorney General, said in a speech I attended that those who succeed are those who are given the CHANCE to succeed. But look at the ART and Huntington's audience -- does it reflect the community? If not, is it likely that the artistic directorship will? ART probably won't even deign to hire an American, but will probably find some Eastern European for the cache of his accent...

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