Black Broadway stars demand change in the Broadway community

'Diversity is not equality. And it starts there. I don't want to see any more diversity,' said one actor

The lights went out on Broadway last March when the pandemic forced theaters to close.

The darkened theaters have given Black actors and producers time to think about the change they’d like to see on the Broadway stage. And what they’d like to see is more diversity in the theater. They’d also like to see more Black people in the audience filling the seats, Spectrum News reported.

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Daniel J. Watts who made a name for himself when he played “Ike Turner” in the Broadway production of “Tina: the Musical,” echoed those sentiments.

We were on a nice run, and it came to a screeching halt,” Watts says. “Diversity is not equality. And it starts there. I don’t want to see any more diversity,” he says. “I think it’s a word that gets thrown around — you know, it’s like, diversity, and we have only one person of color in a space. If there are 10 positions, what does it look like when five of those look like me?”

During Broadway’s unprecedented lockdown, Tony Award-winning actress Lillias White, didn’t sit idle. She became one of the founding members of “Black Theater United,” which was established in June 2020. “Our goal is to make sure there are a number of Black shows with Black choreographers and Black stage managers who have not gotten their share of the work,” she says. 

Last year during Black History Month, the Broadway mega-hit “To Kill a Mockingbird” became a box office success by inviting nearly 20,000 public school students to an exclusive performance at Madison Square Garden. Many actors believe theaters can level the playing field by reestablishing its roots in the Black community. For example, young performers In Harlem are part of the Mama Foundation for the Arts run by legendary Broadway producer Vy Higginson

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“During this break time, we partnered with some of the producers from Broadway so that our young people will have access to positions on stage and off stage,” Higginson says.

Members of the Black Broadway community don’t plan on quitting. They say they will keep fighting for diversity until victory is won.

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