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To suggest that funding agencies are rewarding inferior work by pursuing sociological criteria only serve to call into question the tremendous outpouring of plays by white playwrights who benefit from funding given to the 66 LORT theatres. Are those theatres funded on sociological or aesthetic criteria?
Do we have 66 excellent theatres? Or do those theatres benefit from the sociological advantage that they are run by whites and cater to largely white audiences? The truth is that often where there are aesthetic criteria of excellence, there are also sociological criteria that have traditionally excluded blacks. I say raise the standards and remove the sociological consideration of race as privilege and we will meet you at the crossroads, in equal numbers, prepared to do the work of extending and developing the common ground of the American theatre.
We are capable of work of the highest order; we can answer to the high standards of world-class art. Anyone who doubts our capabilities at this late stage is being intellectually dishonest. We can meet on the common ground of theatre as a field of work and endeavor. But we cannot meet on the common ground of experience. Where is the common ground n the horrifics of lynching? Where is the common ground in the hull or the deck of a slave ship with its refreshments of air and expanse?
We will not be denied our history. We have voice and we have temper. We are too far along this road from the loss of our political will, we are too far along the road of reassembling ourselves, too far along the road to regaining spiritual health to allow such transgression of our history to go unchallenged.
The commonalties we share are the commonalities of culture. We decorate our houses. That is something we do in common.
We do it differently because we value different things. We have different manners and different values of social intercourse. We have different ideas of what a party is. There are some commonalities to our different ideas. We both offer food and drink to our guests, but because we have different culinary values, different culinary histories, we offer different food and drink.
In our culinary history, we have learned to make do with the feet and ears and tails and intestines of the pig rather than the loin and the ham and the bacon. Because of our different histories with the same animal, we have different culinary ideas. But we share a common experience with the pig as opposed to say Muslims and Jews, who do not share that experience. We can meet on the common ground of the American theatre. We cannot share a single value system if that value system consists of the values of white Americans based on their European ancestors.
We reject that as Cultural Imperialism. We need a value system that includes our contributions as Africans in America. Our agendas are a valid as yours. We may disagree, we may forever be on opposite sides of aesthetics, but we can only share a value system that is inclusive of all Americans and recognizes their unique and valuable contributions.
We must develop the ground together. We reject the idea of equality among equals, but we say rather the equality of all men. The common values of the American theatre that we can share are plot … dialogue … characterization … design. How we both make use of them will be determined by who we are—what ground we are standing on and what our cultural values are. Theatre is part of art history in terms of its craft and dramaturgy, but it is part of social history in terms of how it is financed and governed.
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By making money available to theatres willing to support colorblind casting, the financiers and governors have signaled not only their unwillingness to support black theatre but their willingness to fund dangerous and divisive assaults against it. Colorblind casting is an aberrant idea that has never had any validity other than as a tool of the Cultural Imperialists who view American culture, rooted in the icons of European culture, as beyond reproach in its perfection.
It is inconceivable to them that life could be lived and enriched without knowing Shakespeare or Mozart. Their gods, their manners, their being, are the only true and correct representations of humankind. They refuse to recognize black conduct and manners as part of a system that is fueled by its own philosophy, mythology, history, creative motif, social organization and ethos. The ideas that blacks have their own way of responding to the world, their own values, style, linguistics, religion and aesthetics, is unacceptable to them.
For a black actor to stand on the stage as part of a social milieu that has denied him his gods, his culture, his humanity, his mores, his ideas of himself and the world he lives in, is to be in league with a thousand nay-sayers who wish to corrupt the vigor and spirit of his heart.
To cast us in the role of mimics is to deny us our own competence. Our manners, our style, our approach to language, our gestures, and our bodies are not for rent. The history of our bodies—the maimings … the lashings … the lynchings …the body that is capable of inspiring profound rage and pungent cruelty—is not for rent. To mount an all-black production of a Death of a Salesman or any other play conceived for white actors as an investigation of the human condition through the specifics of white culture is to deny us our humanity our own history, and the need to make our own investigations from the culture ground on which we stand as black Americans.
It is an assault on our presence, our difficult but honorable history in America; it is an insult to our intelligence, our playwrights, and our many and varied contributions to the society and the world at large. The idea of colorblind casting is the same idea of assimilation that black Americans have been rejecting for the past years. For the record, we reject it again.
We reject any attempt to blot us out, to reinvent history and ignore our presence or to maim our spiritual product. We must not continue to meet on t his path. We will not deny our history, and we will not allow it to be made to be of little consequence, to be ignored or misinterpreted.
We are black and beautiful. We are not ashamed. We have an honorable history in the world of men. We come from a long line of honorable people with complex codes of ethnics and social discourse, people who devised myths and systems of cosmology and systems of economics. We are not ashamed, and do not need you to be ashamed for us.
Meet Joe Black Movie Quotes
That whites carry that much spiritual weight? We are unique, and we are specific. We do not need colorblind casting; we need some theatres to develop our playwrights. We need those misguided financial resources to be put to better use. We cannot develop our playwrights with the meager resources at our disposal. Why is it difficult to imagine 9 black theatres but not 66 white ones? Without theatres we cannot develop our talents. If we cannot develop our talents, then everyone suffers: Actors are deprived of the jobs in support of the art—the company manager, the press concessionaires, the people that work in wardrobe, the box-office staff, the ushers and the janitors.
We need some theatres. We cannot continue like this. We have only one life to develop our talent, to fulfill our potential as artists. One life, and it is short, and the lack of the means to develop our talent is an encumbrance on that life. We did not sit on the sidelines while the immigrants of Europe, through hard work, skill, cunning, guile and opportunity, built America into an industrial giant of the 20th century.
It was our labor that provided the capital. It was our labor in the shipyards and the stockyards and the coal mines and the steel mills. Our labor built the roads and the railroads. And when America was challenged, we strode on the battlefield, our boots strapped on and our blood left to soak into the soil of places whose names we could not pronounce, against an enemy whose only crime was ideology.
We left our blood in France and Korea and the Philippines and Vietnam, and our only reward has been the deprivation of possibility and the denial of our moral personality. The American ground on which I stand and which my ancestors purchased with their perseverance, with their survival, with their manners and with their faith.
It cannot continue, as other assaults upon our presence and our history cannot continue: We cannot accept these assaults. We must defend and protect our spiritual fruits. To ignore these assaults would be to be derelict our duties. We cannot accept them.
Our political capital will not permit them. So much of what makes this country rich in art and all manners of spiritual life is the contributions that we as African Americans have made. We cannot allow others to have authority over our cultural and spiritual products. We reject, without reservation, any attempts by anyone to rewrite our history so to deny us the rewards of our spiritual labors, and to become the culture custodians of our art, our literature and our lives.
To give expression to the spirit that has been shaped and fashioned by our history is of necessity to give voice and vent to the history itself. It must remain for us a history of triumph.
The time has come for black playwrights to confer with one another, to come together to meet each other face to face, to address question of aesthetics and ways to defend ourselves from the nay-sayers who would trumpet our talents as insufficient to warrant the same manner of investigation and exploration as the majority. We need to develop guidelines for the protection of our cultural property, our contributions and the influence they accrue. It is time we took responsibility for our talents in our own hands.
We cannot depend on others. We cannot depend on the directors, the managers or the actors to do the work we should be doing for ourselves. It is our lives and the pursuit of our fulfillment that are being encumbered by false ideas and perceptions.
It is time to embrace the political dictates of our history and answer the challenge to our duties. I further think we should confer in a city in our ancestral homeland in the southern part of the United States inso that we may enter the millennium united and prepared for a long future of prosperity. From the hull of a ship to self-determining, self-respecting people. That is the journey we are making.
We are robust in spirit, we are bright with laughter, and we are bold in imagination. We are no longer in the House of Bondage, and soon we will no longer be victims of the counting houses who hold from us ways to develop and support our talents and our expressions of life and its varied meanings.
The Ground on Which I Stand, a Speech on Black Theatre and Performance
Multiply it by infinity, and take it to the depth of forever, and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I'm talking about.
I thought I was going to sneak away tonight. What a glorious night. Every face I see is a memory. It may not be a perfectly perfect memory. Sometimes we had our ups and downs. But we're all together, and you're mine for a night. And I'm going to break precedent and tell you my one candle wish: Don't they go by in a blink?
It's not what you say about Drew, it's what you don't say. Maybe you're not listening. Oh yes, I am. There's not an ounce of excitement. Not a whisper of a thrill. This relationship has all the passion of a pair of tit mice. I want you to get swept away out there. I want you to levitate.
I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a Dervish. Be deliriously happy or at least leave yourself open to be. I shall do my utmost. I know it's a cornball thing, but love is passion.
Someone you can't live without. I say fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy, and who'll love you the same way back. How do you you find 'em? Well, you forget your head and you listen to your heart. I'm not hearing any heart. Because the truth is, honey, there's no sense living your life without this.
But you have to try, because if you haven't tried, you haven't lived. It's hard to let go, isn't it? Yes it is, Bill. Should I be afraid? Not a man like you. How's your working going?
While you were shaving this morning, you weren't just shaving, you weren't just shaving.