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Editor’s Note: The Show Must Go On Doesn’t Mean The Show Must Not Change

Michael S. Eddy • April 2021Editor's Note • April 1, 2021

After a year of being dark many theaters across the country have begun to look at the possibility of reopening and welcoming audiences back. As they discuss vaccinations, safety protocols and capacity limits, theater makers are anticipating the moment they can turn off their ghost light and turn on the house lights. Certainly the ghost lights have been on for far too long.

But during these times perhaps we have remembered the actual reason for a ghost light. It illuminates our path so we can safely cross the stage. While stages have been dark our community’s ghost light has cast light on many issues we have all left lurking too long in the shadows.

This year we have seen the beginning of important and hard conversations that must continue about social justice; organizational hierarchy; pay inequalities; abusive working conditions; racial disparities; gender and gender identity disparities. All well overdue discussions, that now begun, must not be left to fade again into the shadows when the lime light is relit.

Harnessing the inquisitive and problem solving nature of theater makers we can perhaps more than most industries address aggressively and deeply the complex issues and flawed entrenched systems within theater. At the essence of theater is the ability to reflect our world, ourselves and our very humanity. However, the essence of great theater is to not only reflect but force us to delve into the questions facing our world and ourselves. Great theater provokes introspection. If theater is to do that then those making theater—individuals, companies, organizations, vendors, designers, technicians, audience members, board members—all must be honestly introspective. We must have the difficult conversations, consider the hard solutions and strive to find the paths forward. The only way forward is together and that means making sure that everyone is included in the conversation and in the solutions. 

This past month, while attending virtual sessions at both the USITT and SETC conferences, I found a lot to be optimistic about for change happening. There were in-depth conversations and a lot of honest analysis of what the problems and challenges really are; because without truly understanding the issues you can never address them. So I was pleased to hear conversations that didn’t offer pat answers or easy solutions, rather they were beginnings of what will be hard work and require all involved to make professional and personal journeys.

I think it is important to consider as we start to reopen diversity, equity and inclusion. Who are we including in the conversations, in the production meetings, in the shops, in the creative team, in our theater community. We often as theater makers speak of supporting the narrative; peeling back the layers of the story. Now is the time to do just that—peel back the layers, see into the shadows—because only then can the ghost light truly turn off and the show go on.

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