As we continue into the holiday season, and auditions are slowing down a bit - recognizing the "isms" and making a decision to rise above them and challenge them is as important now, as it always is!
Yes, Virginia - the theatre in all its manifestations has MANY "isms" - look-ism, size-ism, age-ism, and racism...yes I said it! Anybody who says it doesn't exist is terribly naive, in denial or has his/her head firmly stuck up his/her ass, or is part of the "ism" problem, in which case, denial is KEY to this problem!
We as artists have certain control and responsibility, and then none at all. We are still seen as product and as part of the equipment and are viewed as "they" want to view us, not always as we ARE.
We spend a lifetime trying to be SEEN as the artist first - not the white girl, the black man, the fat girl, the skinny girl, the plain jane, the blonde - and yet, the business often can't see past the OBVIOUS and see the TRUTH.
It's not everybody! I know many CDs, directors, producers etc who DO see us, but often have their hands tied. And I change my thought - often it's not that the business can't see, it's that they CHOOSE NOT TO SEE. They don't WANT to see.
Racism, sexism, lookism, sizeism, - all of these "isms" are so deeply woven into the fabric of our society - and these "isms" cause many artists to be dismissed, overlooked and disregarded by those who are in the majority or in the power position - in society or in the society of theatre, be it music theatre, opera, or any genre.
Why must we audition in wigs to be seen as another hair colour?
Why must a show be cast by "look" and not talent?
Why must there be such pressure for skinnier is better, to the point of death - instead of encouragement to be HEALTHY and claim one's body? We often see this with women, but make no mistake, it happens with men as well.
Why are we so afraid of casting past skin colour? Why are so afraid of casting so-called "inter-racially"?
This tells us more about life than anything. And if theatre reflects life, then it's doing precisely that - reflecting a society that is insulated and isolated, fearful of change and inviting everybody to the table! But if theatre could CREATE life and society and possibility - we could move past look, race, size - and see the artist for what he/she can offer the role and cast it purely on POSSIBILITY and talent and execution! What brilliance this would be!
"Isms" are not our responsibility as artists, but they become an issue if we want to work and they get in the way! We often have to make a decision to either make the business comfortable or take the long way around!! Only you can make that decision.
We need to recognize what we are dealing with, who we are dealing with, and why we are dealing with it! We need to know how far we go to become a part of the business if we stand against an "ism", or what we do if we need to stand for something larger than it.
Knowing WHO you are is crucial! The truth of you AS AN ARTIST needs to be seen by YOU each and every day. Who you are seen as in the business needs to be acknowledged - and you work with it, work against it, or work to change it. Or all three!
As an artist, it is your responsibility to seek truth; create truth; acknowledge truth. It is also your responsibility to shine a light on that which is not true. You do that through BEING first - DOING second. Sometimes just the power of your presence in the business is enough to cause a change - in your corner! Sometimes we have to DO something. The doing depends on the "ism"! Sometimes the doing starts with us - getting healthy, showing different looks, and sometimes it means challenging attitudes and making people uncomfortable with our artistry to see past what they see and assume.
So during this holiday time - I challenge you who are artists to SEE YOURSELF TRUTHFULLY. Know what you HAVE. Know what you are building. Acknowledge it and claim it fully. Step out in that truth and don't apologize for it.
Get healthy, get real. Laugh a little or a lot! Don't stick your head in the sand - but see the truth as it is. Acknowledge what you can do about it and what you are not responsible for. Decide how you will create and develop in spite of the "isms" and despite the "isms".
We all have a journey - and the business is only a small portion of that. Do not relinquish your power of truth and creative force for the negativity and narrow-mindedness of the "ism". You are much much bigger than that. Recognize WHO you are and who are BECOMING and make the best of that in EVERY way.
"Isms" aren't going anywhere - as the fabric is old and tightly woven. But we can recognize and expose the snags and worn patches and not pretend!!! Theatre isn't about pretend - is it? Theatre is about CREATION. Creation is REAL. Pretend is...pretend.
Know the difference - and know who falls into the categories of creative vs pretend. The "isms" will become clear to you FOR you - positive and negative.
Take this season to claim the positive and the truth - and to shine a light on the negative and bring it out of the shadow so it is exposed.
Claim YOU - it is ENOUGH!
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
If you liked this post, please share it or comment with your thoughts below!