August 28, 2011

Proposed DFT Policy Statement
Re: Multi-Racial Casting

This afternoon I joined the DFT Advisory Counsel for the first of their quarterly meetings in our 2011-2012 year. It is a great group of people with three teen representatives, a commissioner, a school board member, dancers with the Collage Dance Company, actors, attorneys & business people – many wise and generous people giving their time and talents to helping grow DFT. I LOVE having an advisory counsel! And today I really needed their advice.

This past Saturday we held the first of two scheduled auditions for our fall production of “As You Like It.” Now, it’s true, the auditions were held in the middle of Hurricane Irene’s progress up the Carolina coast and there is good reason to hope that many more people will turn out for our second auditions on Monday, August 29th. However, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the talented actors who braved high winds, floods and falling tree branches to try out for a role in Shakespeare’s brazenly bold & funny romantic comedy were white people like me.

It worried me that my outreach in our town needed to be stronger and more prolonged in order to attract talented actors of all races & ethnicities to this play from Elizabethan England; and that, in consequence of this, I may be unable to fulfill the promise of our mission “to create a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, inter-generational community-based theatre …” with my casting of this show.

So the question I’d been pondering was, “Would this be acceptable?” I sounded out my thinking about this with the Advisory Counsel this afternoon and have decided to propose the following DFT policy on Multi-Racial Casting to our board of directors for approval:

Our core mission commits DFT to presenting “multi-racial, multi-ethnic” theatre for the Durham community. In direct response to this commitment, it shall be the policy of DFT that, unless a production specifically requires a single race cast, casting of all DFT plays must be significantly representative of Durham’s diverse community. A play will not be produced without this significant diversity.

Our board won’t get to consider and act on this proposed policy until our next meeting on September 20th, but as director of this production I’ve decided to follow it for now. I think, if we don’t walk the talk, we can’t hope to get where we want to be.

So everybody please throw caution to the winds & show up at auditions for William Shakespeare’s fabulous, funny, witty, fast-paced, bawdy, romantic comedy on Monday night – 8/29, 6:30 – 9:30 pm. Trinity Ave. Presbyterian Church, corner of Gregson Street & Trinity Ave. near BrightLeaf Square. Park in the Gregson Street lot & enter at the door beside the playground.

DFT auditions are VERY relaxed and community oriented – we gather in the audition hall together – no waiting in the lobby for your turn – actors perform scenes with other actors who are auditioning – you are invited to identify characters you’d like to read for & you will be supported to be at your very best- everyone applauds when you finish your audition. The response I’ve heard most often from actors who auditioned for one of our shows has been: “That was fun!” So please come & have fun acting your heart out.

We actually can’t do it without you.

Warmly, Jenny

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