Black girl magic was in full effect on Monday night at the Actors Equity building as an impressive panel gathered to discuss the position of black women in the production and performance of popular theater.
“At The Table: A Panel of Black Women Creating Change in Theatre” was hosted by Actors Equity Association in collaboration with BOLD, a thriving interest group committed “to building up black women in the performing arts for the restoration of culture.”
The panel included famed producer Alia Jones-Harvey (Eclipsed, Trip to Bountiful), playwright Katori Hall (Mountaintop, Hurt Village), actor Jocelyn Bioh (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, playwright: Nollywood Dreams), Hi-Arts artistic director Kamilah A. Forbes and choreographer Camille A. Brown. (A Streetcar Named Desire, Fortress of Solitude).
Among the issues discussed was the opportunity for presence in an industry where African-Americans are severely underrepresented in both the audience and the art. While Jones-Harvey has mastered innovative consumer outreach with partner Stephen Byrd, Hall, who now demands producer privileges in her contract, noted that she is often the only person of color in the creative room.
“Establish your rules and your voice from the start! We have to write ourselves into existence. We are becoming the norm.”
According to choreographer Brown, she is working for the dances/dancers that were appropriated.
“Katherine Dunham received no credit for her choreography in Cabin in the Sky. I’m speaking for myself but also those voices that have been silenced.”
When asked when she feels most brilliant, Brown responded, “for me, brilliance is in our resistance, power, and perseverance. I hear the stories of black folk- so rich and full. In spite of it all, we still rise and walk our paths. That’s brilliant!”