- by Jacob Coakley
Our new blog will highlight diversity backstage
Last fall, Stage Directions published an article by David Stewart, production director at the Guthrie Theater, about efforts in the theatre world to increase diversity backstage: “The Keys Are in the Room.” The article was titled after Sharifa Johka’s comments at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group Conference, where, in a panel discussion on diversity, Sharifa was adamant in her assertions that qualified, talented and diverse artists did exist and that it was vital for people with the power to hire actually commit to finding them. The article also noted what a powerful experience it was for young designers and technicians of color to interact with each other at conferences like USITT, and to break some of the isolation that can exist in theatre programs and companies for people of color.
The subhead of the article was “A quick look at what’s being done to increase diversity and inclusivity in production.” While that article may have only been a quick look, we are continuing in that spirit with our new online blog, “Illuminations.” Illuminations will be a regular feature on the Stage Directions website (www.stage-directions.com/illuminations) where we will interview and highlight theatre artists and administrators who are not as visible in the world of production and theatre operations: people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women.
Interviewing and blogging for this new Stage Directions section will be Ross Jackson, Porsche McGovern and Suzi Steffen. Ross is an Equity stage manager who has worked in LA, NYC, Portland, Dallas, Knoxville and others. Ross identifies as a black male and frequently explores Critical Theory and Contemporary Social Issues with his mentors from UC, Irvine, where he earned an MFA in Drama-Stage Management. He has also written on anti-blackness in a collection organized by Nonprofit Quarterly and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Porsche is an Asian-American female lighting designer who has worked with Playmakers Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Spookfish Theatre Company and more. She has also written about gender and design in LORT for HowlRound.com. Suzi Steffen is an arts writer and editor living in Eugene, Ore. She taught journalism at the University of Oregon and was the visual and performing arts editor for the Eugene Weekly and editor-in-chief of the magazine Lane Monthly. She is also assistant editor at ArtsJournal.com.
I am ecstatic to have them on our team, sharing these stories and representing the population of theatre professionals that don’t look like the status quo. Our first story is an interview with Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew—a theatre designer in lighting and video, as well as a puppetry artist—and is online now.