Lisa Kron’s acceptance speech for winning Best Book (Fun Home), which was frustratingly not aired on the live telecast, spoke to the variety in this year’s Broadway season. Her fantastic speech is below and well worth watching:
Campaigns by civil rights groups like the NAACP to integrate public pools often turned very, very ugly. “Groups for and against segregation threw rocks and tomatoes at one another, swung bats and fists, and even stabbed and shot at each other,” Wiltse wrote. Even after Brown v. Board of Education ostensibly desegregated America’s schools in 1955, a federal judge sided with Baltimore’s pro-segregation argument that pools “were more sensitive than schools.” (That decision was later overturned.)
When the group of white and black integrationists refused to leave the motel’s pool, this man dived in and cleared them out. All were arrested. Horace Cort/AP
If we’re going to have productive discussions about diversity, even coded as “audience engagement,” we first need to stop pretending that there’s one discrete “theatre community” that’s all failing in the same way. We need to stop pretending that a lack of diversity in big budget theatre is a lack of diversity in “theatre,” as if people of color cannot create theatre unless a big, white theatre bends down to help them. We need to stop pretending that a lack of diversity in big budget theatre audiences is a lack of diversity in “theatre audiences,” as if young people of color have no theatre unless a big, white theatre creates a space for them. You can’t stop young people of color from making art. It’s happening everywhere, all the time. You can’t stop young people of color from consuming art. It’s happening everywhere, all the time.
It begins in high school. If you are fortunate enough to grow up in a wealthy suburb, you are likely to have the benefit of a drama teacher (or two) at your school and a well-financed and active drama program where you can begin to develop your talents and gain experience in front of an audience. If your parents are wealthy enough, they will notice your theatrical interests and send you off to drama summer camps for further arts training, and perhaps they will pull whatever strings are necessary to get you enrolled in a high school of performing arts, where you will receive more attention, more training and more experience.
The four-part series delves into the personal and political goals and motivations of artists of color who use humor to directly and acutely address issues of race in the United States. It is enthralling to hear these provocative artists overtly explain the social injustices that inspire them to be not just artists who can make people laugh, but activists who can make people think.