Monday, March 30, 2009

Black actors white stages

"We are still a white audience. If you're watching a cast of negroes, you are still looking at something which in a certain way is strange. We look with white eyes at a negro," said a white actor in a dicussion on TV about black actors in theatre plays.

The scene was a Dutch discussion between a black actor and two white directors. The background was the fact that the only black actor in the cast found some of the elements of his dialog in the play racist. He had to say: “She has the colour of shining hors manure”, which revert to the colour of a black woman. The line was eventually altered.

In the discussion a tape was shown about what a colleague actor had to say about the whole matter, he said: “We look with white eyes at a negro."

The moderator looked at the black actor and repeated what the white actor had said. The black actor answered: “I don’t see it as racist comment, this comment should be seen as part of the internal discussion.“

But it went on. There where more reasons why black actors have difficulties getting on the stages. “Plays aren’t written for black actors,” one director said. “It’s the same as with older woman, roles in plays are usually written for young woman.”

But in the discussion all parties agreed that nothing had changed over the years, black people are still barely seen in the theatres. But, as one of the directors noted, things where changing.

In the UK black playwriter Bonnie Greer is also waiting for change. In a column in the Guardian entitled ‘The white stages’ she wrote: “But subsidised theatre does have shareholders. Black people pay taxes, too. Yet we are consistently underemployed, underused. Invisible. I can hear the arguments out there about "emerging playwrights", and so on. We've been emerging for so long we should be in the stratosphere by now. But we aren't.”

I think that Bonnie Greer finally got her answer. The reason why black actors are underemployed, underused and invisible is that some people look with white eyes at a negro. That plays aren’t made for black people, and that black actors are the same as older woman.

By the way, the Dutch play was entitled ‘Black Face’. The story is not about the racist Black face theatrical makeup, but about a not accepted romance between a black man and a white woman.

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