We can envision a near future in which all American Theatre seasons are overflowing with works written and directed by women.
We can conceive of the myriad outstanding plays by people of color and Native artists being produced nationwide.
We can foresee LBGTQIA creators hired to write, direct, and choreograph in every theatre in the United States of America.
We can anticipate artists with disabilities in every role the theatre has to offer, onstage and off.
We plan to celebrate this vision with a Jubilee year in 2020, in which every theatre in the United States of America produces only works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQA artists.
If you think it would be beautiful to see,
If you welcome a wild year of transformation,
If you relish the idea of a national festival of impossible proportions,
If you’re interested in igniting your doubts to create a refining fire that can add heat to this vision,
We invite you to join the Committee for the Jubilee.
In fact, you’re a member already. The ceremony is complete. We need your passion to shape and carry our mission forward. This document is a record of what we’ve done so far, while we were waiting for your help.
It’s like we’ve all been hanging out at this party and one guy keeps talking and talking, and now it’s 2020 (8:20 p.m. in this metaphor) and we decide that, just for a minute, everyone else is going to say stuff, respond, talk to each other, change the subject, whatever. And that goes on for a minute. And then it’s 2021. How might the conversation have shifted or evolved? And what happens now that we’re all talking? Because that’s generally when the party gets good, right? That’s what I wonder about. A lot.
—Aditi Brennan Kapil, Actress/Writer/Director and Playwright-in-Residence, Mixed Blood Theatre
There are as many individual reasons to make live performance as there are people who make it.
A large area of common intellectual ground on which we frequently meet is “to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”
That’s Shakespeare, of course. He wrote at a time when it was almost unheard of to see the work of women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and out and open LBGTQIA artists perform on stage.
Before Shakespeare’s Sister was a pop band, it was shorthand for the idea that a female Shakespeare, just as intelligent and passionate as her brother, would not have been welcomed in the world. It may not have even occurred to her that she could or should create plays.
Almost all of the ideas and insights from that era that did not pass through the lens of a white man of some means have been denied a place in the canon.
I don’t wanna live in Shakespeare’s time, but I don’t want to live in my own either.
Who gets to tell the story matters. Profoundly. Everyone in the American Theatre needs to start dedicating themselves—profoundly—to radically changing up who gets to tell the stories. The Jubilee is a fabulous kick in the pants to wake everyone up and get focused in.
—Michelle Hensley, Founding Artistic Director, Ten Thousand Things Theater
A recent issue of American Theatre magazine notes that 67 percent of all plays produced in the US are by men.
And in 2014 the same publication noted:
In American Theatre’s Top 10 Most-Produced Playwrights List, only four playwrights of color were represented over a six-year period. They were Tarell Alvin McCraney, Katori Hall, Lynn Nottage, and August Wilson (who is a recurring presence on the list).
In too many ways nature has been holding its mirror up to the arts and reflecting the smallness of our thinking.
Theatrical seasons look nothing like the human race. At best they look like a Victorian-era propaganda version of the human race.
The performing arts should be leading the nation into an ever more expansive understanding of what it means to be human.
We shouldn’t be modeling for corporations and governments how to exclude in practice while promoting an image of inclusiveness.
Too many seasons look too little different from what might have been on offer a decade ago, or a century ago, or several centuries back in the past.
Many companies and people and foundations have dedicated decades of labor to renew and expand the American Theatre.
We have been led by them and want to join and continue their good work.
We look to their continued guidance.
To me, this isn’t about “inclusivity” or “diversity,” both bankrupt words that look good on grant applications but have accomplished no lasting change.. This is about the survival of an art form. This is about whether or not I get to live the life I need to live and, so far, not being able to because of how I look. This is about the brilliant artists I know who—also because of how they look—are watching the years tick by, which turns into their whole lives ticking by, because arts institutions are too afraid to account for the basic fact that there’s no correlation between how a person looks and the brilliance of their work. They literally can’t envision an equilibrated future, just a regurgitated one that they believe will ensure their own continued existence. But what art form has ever survived on cowardice? I don’t want institutions whose first concern is preserving the status quo. I want an arts community whose first concern is telling the truth—all our truths—and tearing down the golden calves of money, agreeability, and pedigree to do so.
—Monica Byrne, Playwright-in-Residence and Associate Artistic Director, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern/Novelist, Penguin Random House
In order to shift the balance the Committee for the Jubilee is proclaiming a radical vision and including every corner of the American Theatre in its hopefulness.
We declare the year 2020 the year of Jubilee.
For the 2020–2021 season, every theatre in the United States of America will produce only work by women, people of color, Native American artists, LBGTQIA artists, deaf artists, and artists with disabilities. Every theatre large and small is included in the vision.
We want everyone in the fold. And we want to hold up the elders in this movement. The companies who have been doing this work, already, unheralded, for a long time.
This is also a time for straight, white men to rejoice, to witness, to listen, and to be fed for one year by the stories they’ve also been denied.
Imagine how much richer and deeper all of our lives would be if we knew just a little more about the world.
In order to address equity in the American Theatre and in my community, I pledge to support a diverse, inclusive, and intersectional vision in the 2020-2021 season:
Every theatre in the United States of America will produce only work by women, people of color, Native American artists, LBGTQIA artists, deaf artists, and artists with disabilities.
This will be the season of Jubilee! I look forward to celebrating the work of these traditionally marginalized voices and making permanent progress toward inclusion even after 2021. I ask you to join me. Together, we can change the face of the American Theatre.
Currently there is a monthly phone call of the Committee for the Jubilee. Everyone is invited to join. Find out more here.
And this week the Weekly Howl twitter chat on #howlround will be dedicated to the Jubilee so join us for a spirited conversation on Thursday, October 22, 2-3 p.m. EST.
What I love is the immediacy of this declaration: Jubilee is like "this isn't a problem we're gonna leave to the next generation; let's invite people to jump on the bandwagon in five." As an emerging artist—and undoubtedly one of the youngest members on these calls—that's been just exhilarating for me because it sets the bar high and leaves the next generation of theatremakers to grapple with "OK what's next? What can be done now to sustain equity within the field of American Theatre?"
—Addie Gorlin, Director & NNPN Producer-in-Residence, Mixed Blood Theatre
Welcome to the Jubilee. Learn more. Join us. We’re just getting started.
Editor's note: the pledge language in this article was updated on October, 24, 2015. The original pledge language read: "In order to address parity in the American Theatre and in my community I promise to support a vision of every theatre in the United States of America producing only work by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive abilities, and LBGTQA artists in the 2020–2021 season."