Over this past semester, I have had the awesome honor of directing Bare through Second Stage. As predominantly underclassmen were working on this show we experienced many issues regarding diversity and the implications of a flawed script and were faced with a myriad of difficult decisions regarding its integrity and contents.
As we made progress with the show, we struggled with filling the cast and casting roles that we needed. One specific role we were trying to cast unfortunately, in many ways, is problematic and draws upon stereotypes to create a caricature. This was not apparent to us going into the process, and we take full ownership over that oversight. Roles that serve poor representation is not something our team stands for. It became clear that the show should not go up if the role exists in its original form. We were committed to having an open and honest conversation regarding the role, but we could not move forward if we could not cast someone. We were faced with a dilemma regarding how we wanted the show to progress, and we ultimately decided to step down from presenting the show in its full narrative and instead to present it as a staged concert. We also decided to cut the role from the show. This was not an easy decision because taking out a POC narrative from a show is inherently going to decrease diversity within the natural story. However, we believe with this decision, it is the best and most responsible way the show could be produced.
While we acknowledge this show has problematic roots, it still has an incredibly powerful message. The message behind this show is that those who are lost and cannot find their way – whether they be wrestling with inner demons, exploring their sexuality or being labelled as something that will instigate constant ridicule – need support, guidance and love. This is the message I align with, and I hope this is the message that people take away.
We have moved forward with careful thought as to how this show will be crafted and presented, keeping in mind everything we have learned so far. We decided that this will be the least problematic way to present the story; being able to divorce ourselves from the strict narrative of the show and thus, not present a piece that encourages stereotypes. There were many factors that went into our decision making, but we again hope that people can take away the message of love and support. Clearly, there was no perfect answer to the issues that we have dealt with. Proceeding forward, I am still engaged with the open conversation of sculpting diverse and effective storytelling. Being an artist means that we have to instill and create messages that have real humankind potency, and I have learned so much about that from this process in ways that I wish I could have known before. I am committed to apply this knowledge to any and all art that I make going forward, and carefully observing privilege and creating theatrical spaces where inclusion is the only option. Furthermore, we send our sincere apologies to the POC community on campus for any discomfort we may have created in this process. If anyone has any thoughts to share or questions to pose, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith Jones is a member of the class of 2022.