In in powerful speech entitled The Ground on Which I Stand, Mr. Wilson spoke this truth to an entire industry: “...often where there are aesthetic criteria of excellence, there are also sociological criteria that have traditionally excluded blacks.” The entire speech is powerful, but that sentence simply and eloquently states the problem: the artistic vacuum doesn’t exist. Where there is social inequality there is artistic inequality. How can anyone accept the art of someone whose humanity they don’t accept?
I’ve been asking myself this question for most of my life. I’ve been learning the art of theater since I was twelve years old and I’ve always wondered why being “ethnic” was either the only thing anyone talked about or the only thing characters didn’t talk about. Being Black seemed to be only acceptable if it was convenient to either highlight oppression or illustrate the benevolence of a White person. Black characters frequently had to relate solely on the subject of their Blackness or ignore that their experience was in any way different because of it.
So then I wrote this. Tilling The Ground on Which I Stand is my attempt to wrestle with this question. Where does racism affect theater? What happens when we stop pretending that the sociological biases don’t exist in our art? Where do we as Black arts makers own our part of constructing these silos? How do we call out inequity and then work to correct it?
This is the discussion at the center of Colloquy Collective. I want to create work that struggles with these questions. I want to disrupt popular narratives and rewrite the American canon to be more inclusive, more informative, and more flexible.