Diversity is not a privilege, or even an action that should have to be specially administered, it simply should be a cultural and human practice for all beings; the world is composed of diversity and therefore all aspects of the earth and living should thrive within that larger perspective, we should not be separated by neighborhood, country, gender and race - we are all equal beings. However, the above idealized concept is unfortunately not always exercised; and when diversity is not present and practiced, in form and function, than superiority and thought of higher-ness become the norm, and this is not what the species is meant. All people have gifts that are part of the larger body of humankind, like the limbs or talents and skills of a body - we are all vital, and the diversity of the genus is completely necessary to function.
College and Universities as teaching microcosms must prepare the student and the student body for the world; diversity must be fully represented among the nation of the academic world. I constantly apply new perspectives and find the importance of inclusion tantamount. I, as a middle-aged Gay White Male, am not the disparate creature I once prided myself to be, I find myself constantly learning new aspects and perspectives of how the world must change. The ME TOO MOVEMENT has shaken me to recognize things accepted that I should have never abided. I have eternal respect for the BLACK LIVES MATTER and wish that organization existed many more years earlier. I will never understand why women, orientations, and races have to fight for equality - the genders, colors, and sexuality are, of course, equal and must be regarded as level, so I march and rise in constant solidarity.
Many of my students are people of color, women, and LGBTQIA. Theatre possess stereo-, arche-, and types in general, that actors and singers try to fit within, vocal music is still highly gender normative and although often beautiful the nature of Soprano, Alto (Mezzo), Tenor, Bass (Baritone) is limiting and overly binary. When assigning music, monologues, and scenes I will not merely conform to the standard type and accepted usually narrow-minded casting of a character. We must stop assuming type and presumed color and gender when we think about characters in plays, operas, musicals, films, television, and indeed all media, and subjects. A person’s energy and personality should guide what roles and characters suit them most, but also as actor’s we must tear down these rigid types and play who we want. The labels and boxes that many writers cite need to open and change! An interesting aspect occurs also when voice and speech teachers overly try to neutralize a persons accent - we must be careful to not perceive accent as a disability and a lesser aspect. While teaching at a conservatory I experienced a British teacher with an accent telling a Latinx student with an accent to get rid of it, immediately - this must not be practiced, we must have clarity and articulation from our speech practices but not racism and discrimination. The musical WICKED, finally, had an African-American Glinda, after years of casting notices citing caucasian - this is in a musical about acceptance - why did it take so precious long to cast a person of color? As the director of The Lighthouse Opera in the Bronx, I have been able to cast people of color in roles that are often cast with caucasian singing-actors, and the encompassment and results have been wonderfully received, accepted, and this should be the usual procedure - have vision and cast from your talent regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, orientation, etc.
I respect and honor the dignity and value of every human being. As a Classroom, or any assembly, we aspire to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community in which people with different identities - whether based on race, color, class, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic or national origin, political viewpoint, disability, physical appearance, or additional identities - are valued and respected, and where differences in intellectual interest and personal perspective are explored and embraced.
I recognize the regrettable role that higher education has played in reinforcing inequality in our society, and I believe that every place of learning has a special responsibility to prevent those same inequalities from being perpetuated in our campuses and world wide community. I am dedicated to creating a learning environment free from bias and harassment, one that maximizes each person’s capacity to learn, work, and make meaningful contributions both here and beyond.
To my students ( as first modeled, by my colleague, Bryan Jennings) who are rightly asking, "What will you DO?" I offer the following. I offer them as an individual educator - not as an institutional voice. They are small things. They are not enough. But these are things that are completely within my control - and things that I can commit to:
I will consciously build syllabi which amplify the voices of BIPOC playwrights and artists.
I will use my classroom as a forum where students and teachers can confront the issues of racism, patriarchy, sexism, oppression, and homophobia that permeate our industry and our society.
I will teach music, voice, acting, business, and art in a trauma-informed manner – which particularly accounts for the generational and societal traumas which impact our students of color.
I will interrogate the inherent notions of patriarchy and hierarchy implicit in traditional actor training, and create space where students and teachers can explore theatrical forms as equals.
I will challenge models of actor training which prepare students to be pawns in an inherently biased industry.
I will empower my students students to use the theater as their own voice, and to develop the works which will challenge and disrupt oppressive power structures.
I will prepare my students for the Theater we want to see in the future – not for the Theater as it has been in the past.
I will educate myself to be a better ally and mentor.
I will listen more than I talk.
I will learn at least as much as I teach.
I will confront and endeavor to change the centuries old systems of racism, sexism, patriarchy, gender phobia, homophobia, ageism, classism, and all modes of oppression.
Diversity is akin to an internal organ that the body cannot function without, it is not accessory - it is completely vital to the integral function of life. Diversity is present and must be in all things, it is already the norm but cultures have put up fences around it disallowing all to inhabit together, and that simply must stop.