Welcome to the Jubilee

1.

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 LGBTQIA 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 works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQIA artists.

We plan to celebrate this vision with a Jubilee year in 2020, in which every theatre in the United States of America produces 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.
 

The jubliee logo
The Jubliee logo. Photo courtesy of 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.

Thank you.        

 

 

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

2.

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

3.

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.

In too many ways nature has been holding its mirror up to the arts and reflecting the smallness of our thinking… 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

4.

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 work by women, people of color, Native American artists, LGBTQIA 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.

5.

In support of the Jubilee we’ve begun inviting all producers and practitioners to join us in signing the following pledge as an organization and/or an individual:

What if there was a nation-wide, year-long theatre festival in the United States of America featuring only superlative work by women, people of color, Native American artists, LGBTQIA artists, Deaf artists, and artists with disabilities?

In order to address equity in the American Theatre and in my community, I pledge to support a manifestation of this diverse, inclusive, and intersectional vision in the 2020-2021 season to the fullest degree.

This will be a season of Jubilee! I look forward to celebrating the work of traditionally marginalized voices throughout all of 2020-2021 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 September 29, 2017. The previous pledge language read: "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, LGBTQIA artists, deaf artists, and artists with disabilities." Previously 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 LGBTQA artists in the 2020–2021 season."

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HEY JUBILEE......YOU FORGOT 1 BIG THING......Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Non-Discrimination in Federally-Assisted Program. 601. No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Is it your goal to inspire conservatives to hate liberals and progressives? I followed this story from a conservative rant about it on another site hoping to debunk it as fake news and post on that site that they were being deceived. Even if this were just a publicity stunt it's a terrible idea.

Explain like I'm 5 years old: Shouldn't the laws of supply-and-demand automatically take care of this issue? If people want to see less "white man" plays, they should stop going to see "white man" plays, and let dwindling ticket sales do the work instead of trying to force something with a big unnatural campaign which may also develop new problems.

Oh, but what if I like new problems? The old problems have had their day. Let's wrassle 'em to the mat so we can find out what other kinds of trouble we could be dealing with. I like tweaking things and trying out ideas. And I am a part of the marketplace. The Jubilee is a part of the marketplace... so if a group of people wanna get together and throw a year-long national festival with a current tally of more than sixty theaters, that is a way of, as you say, letting the laws of supply-and-demand take care of it. We are the demanders... And we are the suppliers. We have the right to take care of ourselves. You don't like it? Don't participate. Or you only go see the kind of theatre you want. I mean, if you're imagining actually rounding up people and forcing them to see plays and art they SHOULD see, now THAT seems radical. Tell me more. But I do think there is a overlap between our points. I think the statistics show that white men take up an abnormally large part of the marketplace. I think given the opportunity for others to participate the market will be healthier. I say this as a white man who has been denied as an audience member the full range of voices I need to be fed to have a vibrant mind. Maybe if the market was robust we wouldn't be having this dumb argument but could be engaging in a much more sophisticated debate!? We'll find out. I love you.

Why stop there? I think it should be all-inclusive in the sense of what a theatre production really encompasses. For one whole year, have your parameters apply not to just the playwrights, but to every possible group involved. So, essentially, no straight white male actors, musicians, directors, producers, stage hands, sound techs, costume designers, ushers, security, concessions, valet, <enter missing="" role="" here="">, everyone involved. Hell, why let them in the theatre at all. No straight white male audience members either!! This will be great! Maybe they'll all just go on a year long hunting trip or tour with NASCAR or something....

At our core, most of us are probably a "Rainbow Coalition" of races, lifestyles and abilities. By bringing our less visible selves to stage, we are being offered the opportunity to celebrate every aspect of who we are.

Look, nobody needs to be excluded. That's a fact. I'm very glad this idea has been floated as it has instantly raised debate. But no one needs to be excluded. Why not allow theatres to guarantee slots for women, men, gay-straight philapino-hell-if-I-know? How about slots for unproduced writers? This could easily be done and address all of our concerns as a community.

In the history of affirmative action, students given chances through this policy have excelled. Which meant it did open doors for a lot of qualified people. But we didn't slam the door on everyone else.

And it would be a hell of a lot easier to apply this approach then to ban white dudes.

Nobody needs to be excluded. Nobody should be. Think about that: Nobody should be excluded. That's the idea, right?

As a straight white male who reads most of the comments in this thread with his jaw dropped and brow crinkled, I want to stop for a moment and re-frame this whole idea.

The Jubilee is an opportunity, not an exclusionary measure. I'm signing up as an individual, a primarily solo performer who writes all his own material. What will it look for me to be a part of the Jubilee? I can produce other colleagues work, I can co-create shows with other writers and directors and STILL perform in those shows, even if they are solo performances. I'm approaching this whole concept with enthusiasm because it is a challenge and a risk, and that is what the live arts is supposed to be about.

I'll have to deal with every aspect of my privilege, with any underlying racism, phobia and unspoken sociological, psychological and emotional hurdle that I have within me. The reactions below - and some are very well spoken - are full of bigotry and vile contempt. Folks, this is a sickness that needs healing. The band Fugazi came out with a song in 1990 called 'Styrofoam' and I was really upset initially by the chorus:

We are all bigots so full of hatred We release our poisons like styrofoam

My fifteen year old self was completely offended. "I'm not a bigot. I listen to bands that sing against racism. What is this shit?" I had no idea they were actually owning up to what we now call white privilege. Who went to hardcore shows in Providence? A bunch of white kids watching white punks sing about the injustices of the world. Yes, it's a subculture but in and of itself, it has plenty of bro elements, something Jessica Hooper, a well known music critic constantly talks about. While at a concert, she was quickly writing down notes and had a guy ask her "You drawing a sketch?" Without looking up she said, "I'm covering this for Rolling Stone."

SWMs are not being left out of this process in any way, shape or form. We're being asked to make room. Kathleen Hanna of the band Bikini Kill would start shows by saying "Girls up front, Boys in back." It was in an effort to drive more women to learn how to play instruments and be part of a music scene overly dominated by males.

My background is punk, hardcore and metal but I ended up in the theater, but those principles and problems of that culture completely transfer over to this one. We need to own up to our biases and xenophobia by getting out of the way of ourselves and recognizing the sad state of affairs.

Every straight white male who has commented with their concerns have to first take a giant step back and realize they have had a leg up in this field, even if that is not entirely visible and coherent.

I hope you will fully embrace the Apartheid goals of the Jubilee by having "Whites Only" drinking fountains, restrooms, seating areas, etc. Will Caucasian cishets have to sit at the back of the theater as well?

The problem with the proposal is not that it's exclusionary: there's nothing wrong with saying "we're setting aside this time for unheard voices." The problem is the method for deciding who counts as "unheard," which is built on the deeply evil idea that humans are a collection of discrete and easily identified attributes, such as "bisexual" or "autistic." It also leads to absurdities such as grouping many of the most successful writers of our time into the "unheard" camp.

Agreed. What constitutes underrepresented? If you're going to parse a fine line between being considered for production and not considered for production, then it's forced upon us to interrogate this idea.

1. There are any number of qualities which might cause a white straight male's voice to be underrepresented - religion, (not a lot of White muslim playwrights, or white buddhist playwrights, yet I'm sure they exist) socio-economic status, locale, age, nationality...

2. As it's been said before, some of the qualities that have been chosen are invisible. We know 67% of productions last year were written by white men. How many of those were GBTQA white men? How many of them were disabled? How many of them were cognitively different? We have no idea, because those questions weren't asked, because, frankly, it's nobody's damn business if that playwright doesn't want to disclose that information.

--As we've seen beautifully articulated in this month's American Theatre, artists with disabilities face many, many obstacles. But disabled playwrights, who need not be present at all, and can be halfway around the world, seem likely to face far less difficulty than, say, disabled actors, designers, or directors (none of whom are included in the mandate here). If I don't wish to disclose my particular disability as a playwright, you might never know.

3. I have a hard time understanding why some qualities lead one to be underrepresented. Can anyone explain why an asexual white male playwright would face extra difficulty getting produced? Certainly there are far fewer asexual playwrights, because asexuality is quite rare, but I think an asexual white male faces far fewer obstacles than a woman or POC. (Again, unless I disclose my sexuality, you would never know)

4. And I have to admit, I have a problem with GWM being considered underrepresented in the theatre. Undoubtedly, gay men have faced and continue to face extreme prejudice and discrimination, but it seems like GWM playwrights, in particular, have written many of the most-produced plays in history. Leaving aside Shakespeare, you could do a season of Our Town/A Streetcar named Desire/Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?/The Importance of Being Earnest - and many of the most produced plays today. Those aren't underrepresented works, that's the canon.

5. As one playwright mentioned earlier, if this is about facing traditional discrimination and not underrepresentation, then Jewish writers would certainly qualify. (And if we're going to throw in Neil Simon, Arthur Miller, and David Mamet into the Jubilee...)

6. Lastly, consider devised works created by a company of actors. Must there be no SWMs in the company for it to "qualify?" How do we know who qualifies and who doesn't in the company? Is there some kind of questionnaire? If you're only going to hire Jubilee-compliant artists for a year, you might be running afoul of employment law.

I know it's been said that the jubilee is adaptable, but I don't think the questions I've raised have satisfactory answers. I don't think these problems will be going away, and that's why this proposal seems inherently flawed.

Yes, there's a problem, yes, many voices are being squeezed out, yes we need to expand the tent and invite more people to the party, but the idea of determining whether a playwright is eligible to be produced in a given year based on an arbitrary, invisible, and possibly fluid set of criteria is unworkable.

I would add that the Jubilee is adaptable. We're looking for input and improvement. If you think there is a problem when you look at the plays that get produced, join. Dissent and disagreement about methods of addressing the problem truly help. I think we can do better and have fun doing better. I don't think of it as exclusionary because of the time limit. One year. It is an encouragement to reach out and make new connections. For one year some companies will focus their resources in a new direction.

Did anyone see this article about how statistically unlikely an all male mathematics panel should be? And yet it happens all the time. (dohttp://qz.com/524694/5246... The results show that it "doesn't just happen." The same is true of our seasons. This is a limited attempt to correct for bias for a limited time. In a lot of ways it might be too modest. We'll see in 2021-2022.

Good grief, the same white guys who stole America from its Native people then enslaved them along with others they kidnapped from their homes to build an empire and have seen their work onstage for centuries now complain about the dedication of ONE YEAR by ONE organization to giving the rest of us a chance to speak our piece. PLEASE! GO JUBILEE!

Would Jewish people be included in this "Jubilee?" It doesn't appear that they are among the favored categories. Seems odd, since Jewish people have been historically discriminated against.

This is a lovely thought experiment, but seriously? I'm going to have to disclose my nonconforming sexuality (which I neither conceal nor advertise) to get my work considered? Or that I'm ASD? And what about my musical collaborators--do they get in the door because of me, or do I get disqualified because of them? I think I'll sit this one out, thanks.

I assume we get to keep Shakespeare and Wilde, but can we get Shaw in there as an asexual?

Perhaps one of the Jubilee's "Season of Exclusion" produced scripts could be an OSF's rewritten Shakespeare offerings. But, only of course if the "translator" was female, gay (and out), of color or differently abled. Shakespeare himself falls outside the parameters.

"There is a snowball rolling toward the American theatre scene that’s been gaining mass and momentum for some time now and, unless your house is made of the mettle (or metal) required to survive the growing issue’s propulsion, you are at risk of losing your home, your voice, your perspective and your livelihood to an avalanche of much needed change." - Ezra Buzzington http://socal.bitter-lemons....

I'm uncomfortable with this idea. It seems like hanging a sign up stating "no straight white males" does not address the issue of parity or inclusiveness in the theatre. (Think about it: this means doing a play by Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee or the 300th production of "The Santaland Diaries" counts, but doing a play by say, me, doesn't. )

Obviously, not every theatre will sign on and there will no doubt continue to be a majority of productions in 2020 by white men. But - what if the Drama Book Shop declared that during the Jubilee year they would not be selling plays by straight white men, or if Samuel French decided not to publish any plays by them in 2020? What if a theatre decided not to employ any straight white male actors during its season? Are these decisions defensible simply because not all publishers, not all bookstores, and not all theatres would sign on?

This seems more about exclusion than inclusion.

As a straight, white cis-gendered doodahday of a playwright, I adore this idea. One response to naysayers here. How about we tally up all the available data on all the available seasons from all the available theaters, LORT, storefront, fringe, etc, and see what the percentage is, in aggregate of women, people of color and LGBTQ people whose plays have been produced. And then we could measure that against the number of people and productions that would happen during the 20/21 jubilee year. I bet we'd find it only goes some of the way, probably a short bit of the way, toward repairing what's been wrong for so long.

I think what this proposal does is address not explicit bias, but internalized bias. No one can hang a sign out their door that says a certain demographic is not allowed (or is favored). But given the actual power structures actually in play, no one needs to for racist programming to take place.

If theaters are predominantly run by white guys, and they program what they like, or what they see as "excellent," or they they are the ones that make the mission statements through which the selection and programming process is governed, then there is implicit race bias in the field, even if no individual white guy feels like he is programming in a racist way. There is no neutral when it comes to taste.

If theaters are predominantly run by white/black guys/women, and they program what they like, or what they see as "excellent," or they they are the ones that make the mission statements through which the selection and programming process is governed, then there is implicit race bias in the field, even if no individual white/black guy/woman feels like he is programming in a racist way."

I did look up your articles. I call it trolling even though you don't. You may believe what you say and so you don't feel you are trolling, but you're working within a very similar framework. I am sure you believe what you say, but the facts don't back you up. I am guessing you feel that theater is or should be beyond racial discrimination, maybe. But we are not, and the stats on who gets produced and funded back up my point of view thoroughly (See The Kilroys for starters).

You create a very typical false equivalency, when you say that marginalized people can make the same "mistakes" as white people. But because of structural racism, gender bias and other forms of discrimination, even in theater, those "mistakes" simply don't carry as much weight. For the field of theater to "fully communicate and include" would mean we'd have to redress so many years of inequitable production and funding, that it would look, well, like what the Jubilee is proposing.

Racism and sexism are enshrined in this country's actual structural documents - from the constitution on down through economic policy and law, not to mention the way the ongoing structural violence of policing affects people of color, LGBTQ people, and women.

It is impossible for white men, especially straight ones, to suffer the same discriminations as the above. Even if you feel slighted or discriminated against, it's not backed up by the same structures, history, and laws as the discrimination others endure. My life as a white guy is safer, more prosperous, easier than that of an African-American man, empirically. This is not an opinion. It's a fact, measurable in many ways, from average sentencing for similar crimes, driving violations that lead to murder, statistics on police brutality, and in economic opportunity across the board.

Ta-Nehisi Coates does a great job of breaking down this inequity in his Atlantic Monthly article on reparations. You could google that, as well as his reading list.

The Jubilee is making a provocation to address those inequities as they manifest in the theater. They're talking about a single season, not a permanent change. It would be a small step.

I would argue they have not "created structures." They have created a proposal and a provocation, a manifesto. Art history is filled with provocations like these and they often change the conversation in valuable ways.

The US has created discriminatory structures for 400 years. This is a provocation to those structures. If they were proposing something ongoing, or a change to structural racism/gender bias, which simply did the same thing that we have now, but in reverse, in perpetuity, then maybe you'd have a case for being offended. But that's not what they are proposing. They're proposing (not creating a structure) a year in which we pay attention actively to the way systemic bias could be changed, and its decline could be celebrated.

I'd ask that you take a moment, think about how flustered and mad the idea of what you call "being discriminated against" for one year makes you, and then multiply it by 400, and you have a slight sense of how marginalized people feel every day, all the time.

Okay, so. I fully support the concept here, but I think the execution will need examining.(I do NOT agree with David_Marcus' complaint, fyi.)

Race and gender are visible. (Mostly - more on that in a second.) LGBTQA and physical/cognitive ability variance are much less visible and often completely invisible.

If a person who is white and male, but is LGBTQA and is invisibly neurodiverse, wants to get produced during Jubilee year, what do they do if they are not out or not comfortable being public with their differing cognitive experience? It seems like their options are 1) just skip the year to avoid the problem, which may be fine for some writers, but may be difficult for early-career writers or anyone writing something extremely topical at the time, or 2) reveal what they don't want to reveal to the theatres, loudly and clearly when they submit, as a way of saying "I know I don't LOOK like you can be produce me in Jubilee year, but really you can!"

Now, a theater accepting submissions can go on the trust system, and say "Anyone who submits, check this box if you promise you qualify for Jubilee year production." And then if the theater accepts someone who appears white and male, they announce that yes, indeed, everyone produced this season fits Jubilee qualifications, you'll have to trust us, even if that particular playwright does not announce how they qualify, and even if we don't know ourselves.

I suppose such an approach is possible if everyone acts in good faith.

We could run into trouble if people start judging without looking for a statement by the theater. (Maybe an official seal, "Jubilee-qualified," can be designed to be stuck on any playwright's bio page.) Someone may look white and male, and be asexual. Someone may look white and male, and have OCD. Someone may look white and male, and have cystic fibrosis. Someone may look and white male, but may actually be mixed-race. Someone may look white and male, but may identify as female.

Someone may look white and male, and they are - yet they're a transman, and so would qualify under LGBTQA, but only if they potentially out themselves/think of themselves as "different" than a cisman - because even if their bio just has a generic "Jubilee-qualified!" sticker, they may worry people will start to wonder just how they qualify if they are not out about being trans, and they don't want to pretend like they have some other qualification that they don't. (Some transmen do identify as straight, if you weren't aware.)

So even if we have a good-faith system for theaters participating, there are potential barriers for some qualified playwrights.

I don't what to do about this. Maybe the only solution is to recognize that some people will be shut out, blame that on society for making people feel like they can't be open about their histories or conditions, and celebrate the large numbers who will get included. Maybe the solution is to say that, if someone appears white and male but has invisible Jubilee qualifications, then they probably don't have trouble getting produced by white-male favoring institutions during non-Jubilee years, so it's okay that they are excluded.

Final note: this is potentially - though this is a much less likely scenario - an issue even for playwrights who are not white and male. For instance: if a theater is particularly interested in "filling in", say, a different-cognitive-ability slot into their season, and they already have multiple black women playwrights, then a black women playwright who invisibly has different cognitive abilities might feel she's either pressured to be open about that or possibly get passed over/have a lesser chance at getting in. More far-fetched a possibility, but still one to be aware of.

Again, I support this initiative, I just think there are potential issues that need to be considered and not swept under the carpet.

I really appreciate your concerns, though I think the benefit outweighs the potential issues.

"Maybe the only solution is to recognize that some people will be shut out, blame that on society for making people feel like they can't be open about their histories or conditions, and celebrate the large numbers who will get included."

I think this most closely resembles the extent of my concern. Most of your concerns are based on the idea that the seasons of these companies will be chosen from work submitted by writers with the specific intent of being included in this Jubilee season. That may well be the case for many theaters, every theater goes about season selection differently.

However, I assume for many (if not most) theaters, the season selection process will be similar to that of my theater company. The artistic director, having spent several months to a year reading plays - most of which he/she/they obtained through agents, either as submissions or requests - puts together a season that feels "exciting" (or whatever choice adjective they like) and fits the company's artistic mission. At my theater company, this results in seasons that are, by and large, filled with straight, white, cisgendered men. And, obviously, that's due to a lot of complicated factors and we're not alone in that.

That said, without thinking too hard, I could probably name you about 100 contemporary playwrights who identify as "women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQA artists". What if we, as one company in Chicago, said "okay, as we set out to read plays for this season, we will only read plays by writers we know identify as at least one of those things." We would still have an enormous pile of plays to choose from. And yes: there might very well be some folks excluded from that pile, folks who very much deserve a place in it. But there are also people excluded from our pile every year anyway: writers who don't have an agent, or an agent who sends us things; writers who don't know about us and thus don't submit to us; writers who we haven't heard about. Writers who, frankly, we just never bothered to read because the descriptions we heard of their work didn't seem interesting to us.

This Jubilee initiative is not going to single-handedly fix the problems with our current system. But there is something revolutionary about companies like mine intentionally exposing ourselves to writers we might have overlooked. Who knows what we'll find? Who knows what new voices we'll introduce to our audience? Who knows what new relationships and collaborations we might foster? We only produce four plays each season, so the individual impact of our theater might be small. But maybe we'll discover for ourselves enough new, great work that it will start popping up regularly in our seasons and the balance - perhaps subtly - might start leaning toward greater inclusion.

So yes, for those companies that will be selecting their Jubilee season from a specific call for submissions, I can see your point that it's potentially problematic. However, for the many, many companies like mine, the Jubilee holds a revolutionary potential that - in my mind - far outweighs the potential exclusions.

It makes sense to me, what you're saying. I agree the potential (probably) outweights the exclusions, but that doesn't mean the exclusions shouldn't be reduced as much as is viable.

In other words, I'm not suggesting the Jubilee not happen, only that the general approach needs to be considered, and each individual theatre needs to be conscious about their individual approach.

What I would not want to see is a theater like yours putting on the work of, say, a white male playwright who you happen to know is qualified, and someone calling you on the carpet because those qualifications are invisible. Or for a playwright submitting to a theater calling for Jubilee-qualified submissions - or talking to a theatre company who they know is trying to be Jubilee-compliant - to feel like they will be berated for not visibly fitting the guidelines.

The creators of this initiative were very thoughtful in including LGBTQA people and people of diverse cognitive and physical abitilies, and I don't think it's too early to address some of the bumps in the road to their inclusion.

i like this a lot but have a lot of questions. will this Committee for the Jubilee (or someone/thing else) fill some sort of service org. or festival committee role in 2020? making sure the job gets done, as it were? documenting the year from every angle; developing scholarly material (that tracks the "how" and "why"); producing tons more manifestos like this to prod and poke at the field; facilitating "elder" (ancestor) artists/orgs to build capacity within LOTS of institutions earnest in intent though inexperienced in methodology.

i know it's in our bones to gather and learn communally and collaboratively, and also know that there a lot of big systems in place that deny our participation. i love that The Jubilee is, to me, declaring that we ALL share the ability and the accountability to dismantle these systems by force. it's thrilling and scary and conceptually MASSIVE. though i'm normally quite happy living up there in risky-concept-land— not asking all these questions (well, not this early anyway), not worrying myself to distraction— the Jubilee had demanded some tectonic-plate-shifting from the field. that kind of work requires all the details to be planned out, planned for, and planned on.

so what's going to happen if an institution reneges on their pledge? public humiliation? is there a $$$ incentive that won't get paid out? where's the convo about class/economic diversity? what's going on?

Any theater company that openly refuses to hire or produce the work of any person based on the fact that they are a straight, white man would be breaking the law. Even asking their race is illegal. Come on, people. Hanging up "straight, white men need not apply" signs is not the answer.

I agree with David Marcus. For me to qualify, I have to tell you my sexual orientation. What the hell is that? You cannot meet MLK's dream of not looking at the color of a person's skin as a point of reference for their character by opposing artists based on the color of their skin! It's absolutely hypocritcal. Please reconsider your vision of inclusivity, this often repeated set of beliefs excluding so-called "white" males is creating a new generation of racists--against people of European American. While we're at it, stop calling people "white" and "black," it is one thing that absolutely causes us to look more at skin color.

Instead of focusing on who might not get produced in that one year, let's consider who doesn't get produced every other year. If there's no problem, if it doesn't foster any new relationships with artists, audiences, companies who do this work already and companies who have not found there way, then we will have lost nothing. But if it does, everyone is richer!

Openly, is the key phrase here. I think we can all agree that if Licoln Center had an official policy banning playwrights of color that would be illegal. Lincoln Center's all white season was not the result of an official policy. It was the result of a very complex set of circumstances, not the least of which is the perverse not for profit system dominated by rich, white people. To officially refuse to consider works based on a writer's race or gender is illegal. And it damned well should be.

Hi, David!

I understand the concern you're raising, but I think you're misunderstanding the limited (though revolutionary) scope of what this seems to be.

This is not talking about theaters changing their official, permanent policies. The idea is to curate a single season within particular parameters. Parameters are not new to the season selection process. Here in Chicago, most companies choose their season based on parameters related to their artistic mission, excluding whole swaths of wonderful plays because they don't fit their mission - this is a good thing. Sometimes those missions and parameters are concerned with subject matter (TimeLine only does plays that illuminate a historical moment, American Theatre Company does plays about what it means to be American); sometimes it's about the structure (LifeLine does literary adaptations). Sometimes it's about a particular writer: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre does, surprise, surprise, a LOT of Shakespeare. If you're not William Shakespeare and want your play produced there, or you are not August Wilson and want your play produced at an August Wilson festival, well... good luck. Eclipse Theatre Company dedicates each season to one playwright and one playwright only. This season it's Terrence McNally. From one perspective, I would say they're the most discriminatory theater company I can think of. And, yes, sometimes it's about things like race and gender. The 20% Theater Project was created to do only works by women, directed by women. Victory Gardens here runs a number of events and festivals that focus entirely on often marginalized artists, whether due to race, ethnicity, or disability.

With that in mind, it seems like a theater wishing to participate in this initiative during the 2020/2021 season would not necessarily any more 'discriminatory' than many - if not most - companies are every other season. A theater company deciding that - for one season - they will actively seek out plays "by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQA artists" seems just as (if not more) inclusive than, say, The Kennedy Center's "Ireland 100" Festival, which will only feature Irish artists.

When a company decides to dedicate a festival or season to a certain playwright or group of playwrights they are doing so in order to present work that will be popular with their audience. The intent is not to exclude artists based on their race or gender. The intent here is. This statement is explicit in calling for the voices at the party that have been too loud to be silenced for a year. That's wrong and it's illegal.

Again, I would remind you of several festivals and entire companies (like 20% Theatre Company, Rivendell Theatre, Rasaka Theatre, Congo Square Theatre in Chicago) that do exclude artists based on their race or gender as part of their artistic mission. Their goal in doing so, like the Jubilee initiative, is to redress a very obvious imbalance. In doing so, their scope is limited: Rasaka Theatre does not necessarily believe that all theater companies should be exclusively producing work by South Asian writers. However, they recognized that South Asian stories were rarely being produced and thus created a company to provide a platform from which those writers could speak. I leave it to the lawyers to determine if that is legal, but I think it's a great addition to the American theatre landscape and has helped to introduce some of those playwrights to a broader audience. This is precisely analogous to the Jubilee initiative: by asking companies to dedicate ONE season to historically marginalized voices, it hopes to add new voices to the conversation and to begin to redress that imbalance.

I don't think this analogy holds because you are comparing a situation where companies are highlighting a very specific type of playwright, to a situation where a call is being made for an entire industry, in concert to specifically exclude a very specific type of playwright. The only people who do not fit into the accepted parameters of the Jubilee are straight, white men. I applaud any effort to bring diverse voices to the fore. My own company, Blue Box has had 50/50 gender parity since we began in 2000. But I cannot support any effort to ban art. If a company's mission is to produce only works by blacks or Asians or the disabled they are engaged in something very different from a company with no such mission that bans works by persons based on their race and gender. And when an entire industry does so, as Major League Baseball did for many years, it's collusion and it is wrong.

I think it's wonderful that you guys have practiced gender parity, that's something my company is still working on.

It sounds like, perhaps, your problem is with what might be considered hyperbolic language on the part of the writers. I do not, for example, believe that all straight, white men will be excluded from American theatre in 2020. Even if every theatre in America were to take up this cause, I do know a few playwrights who are disabled AND straight, white men. According to the project's mission, those voices (which are also marginalized) would be supported. I believe (and hope) that this voluntary call will inspire many theater companies to look outside their usual sources for plays and voices they might have overlooked otherwise. Artistic Directors use a lot of subjective, personal criteria in choosing a season. Asking theater companies to add these criteria for ONE season doesn't seem very unreasonable, nor does it feel exclusive in any real, damaging way. And, again, it's voluntary. To compare a call for voluntary action during one season to the MLB's 70+ year exclusion of African Americans seems a bit overblown.

MLB's segregation was also voluntary, but sure, this is clearly different. I drew the analogy because what's being called for here, and I agree it's hyperbolic, is an industry wide ban. Perhaps anti communist Hollywood blacklisting is a better analogy. I'm dealing with what Howlround is literally calling for here, the fact that it's unlikely to occur notwithstanding. A big reason why this isn't going to happen is that the big theaters, with the big money are pretty white operations. Let's not kid ourselves, they also have outsized influence from gay men. What troubles me most here, and why our company will not be participating, is the focus on exclusion. In a piece I recently wrote I said that the Bill of Rights is not HL Mencken, it does not exist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I believe the same is true of art. Social Justice is not the only, or even the primary role of theater. Banning the work of artists based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc, is, in my opinion always wrong. Even in support of a noble cause. I respect that you disagree, I just can't and won't ban art.

Discrimination in those decisions might be illegal, but it is impossible to prove the motivation of those making the decisions. The quality of art is impossible to quantify so decisions on its quality will always be based on personal preference which evolves from life experience. When those in almost every decision making position evolves from similar if not the same life experience, the same discrimination will continue because the consequence of ostracism out-weighs the rewards and the punishment goes to the victim.

In most cases, discriminatory intent it is very difficult to prove. But not here, because the intent was announced in public.

I'd be really nervous about the legalities of this.

I entirely support the end. It is both unjust and wasteful that voices and points of view are under-represented. We get the same point of view too often and it becomes tedious. But this is not a right means to that end. And one clue to that is that it looks very much like it blatantly violates laws that were set up to serve those same ends and, in fact, do serve those ends.

The class of playwrights who are not Shakespeare is not a protected class. Mostly, when there is a theme to a festival or season, the class of "everybody not in that theme" is not a protected class. But when that theme is "people who are not {insert protected class here}" then the people who are not in that theme are, by strict mathematical logic, a protected class. And each race is a protected class, as is gender, as is physical ability, as should be the rest.

It would be illegal to have a festival of "no blacks". As it should be. It should be (but in too many places, isn't) illegal to have a festival of "no gays".

--------------Some have said the idea is a hyperbole. Maybe it is. Hyperbole is sometimes a good thing, especially on a stage. But clarity is better, especially when discussing things, and WAY better when discussing things in writing that could be presented in court.

----------------What I could entirely get behind is a jubilee in which the pledge is to celebrate under-represented voices and to include under-represented voices in every work.

But there better be more to the works than tokenism and themes of oppression, because that gets boring fast, and boring kills theater.

(I Am Not A Lawyer)(I am also not a member of the excluded class. On at least two counts.)