The Road Company Diagonal Team is a company research team designed to be a liaison to all facets of the community by listening, learning and understanding how we can better help to meet its needs and make the theater arts more accessible to all members of our diverse culture. Through roundtable and focus group discussions, we hope to grow as a company by building and strengthening a healthy relationship with our community by making the theater more approachable and attainable for our patrons, artists, directors, technicians, administrators, and educators. In doing so, the Road Company will be able to provide more relevant programming, develop stronger educational programs, provide sensitivity training to its staff, and open countless equal opportunities for all people of color, race, age, disability, gender identity and belief.
Director of Diversity and Inclusion,
Diagonal Team Leader
DIAGONAL TEAM MISSION
Directors (left to right) Ed "Rico" Santiago, Chantel Washington, Ashley Macri-Whelan, John Blackwood, Liz Rodriquez, Lauri Hudson, Benita Simpson, Marie Panvini, Danielle Harley-Scott, Kyrus Keenan Westcott
Actors (top row) Darryl Thomspon, Siiyara Nelson, Craig Bazan; (bottom row) April Johnson, Danielle Harley-Scott, Salimah Davis
Diversity Onstage - Casting Concerns for BIPOC “Black, Indigenous and People of Color” and the Directors
In light of this year’s upset, protests and marches against systemic racism, the Diagonal Team begins to aim its first focus on this delicate subject. Although the Road Company has always maintained as part of our mission a stance on inclusivity, there is always room for improvement. The topic of discussion chosen by the team is “Diversity Onstage - Casting Concerns for BIPOC “Black, Indigenous and People of Color” and the Directors”.
In November, two focus groups were invited in to discuss this issue and feelings faced regarding auditioning and casting shows and musicals. The first focus group included black actors who were asked to discuss in an open forum their thoughts, feelings and hopes about reading audition notices, coming out for auditions, body shaming and more. The group meeting was incredibly insightful and the participants were extremely honest and open and willing to offer suggestions that would make the audition process and the theater more inviting and approachable.
The second focus group consisted of directors from the Road Company and area theaters. They were asked to discuss their own perspectives and concerns regarding the audition processes when a show or musical calls - or doesn’t call – for traditional ethnic, gender, body image roles. This group, also, consisted of a diversity in the participants from ethnicity, gender, age, etc. As was the first group, the directors’ group was extremely open and willing to discuss methods of reaching and recognizing a more diverse and equitable cast.
We know that this subject will be an ongoing exploration. It is in no way a one-and-done topic. The hope of the Road Company Diagonal Team is that we can open the doors wider and start the conversations so intensely needed in order to bridge the gap of understanding what our community needs. There are plans for more focus group meetings in the near future with both actors (including BIPOC) and other directors. There will, also, be a meeting of all of the participants in 2021, when actors and directors will meet together for a panel talk back.
Let’s keep the communication going!
“There are two types of people in the world right now, those who talk and those who do! While talking is great, there’s not enough doers, I’m really excited to be a part of The Road Company who has decided to DO! Together we will not only inspire change, we will BE the change! I can’t wait to look at our stage full of performers, our seats full of audience members and our staff full of workers who represent the world. Yes, I can see it now… a building full of people representing every person in the world no matter their race, sexual orientation, religion, body type, disability or age! It’s not far fetched. It’s right within reach and, when it happens, we truly will be GRAND!!!”