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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 6:41 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1876
Location: New England
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Would it be correct for me to say that the issue with racism varies quite considerably across the US?
I would definitely agree. Yes, there is racism everywhere. But it comes out in different ways in different places, and is better or worse in various areas.

If you're an interracial couple, then there are certain places you do NOT want to live. Consider:

* In many areas, it is standard practice to stop cars with a white man and a black woman (under presumption of prostitution). Getting stopped for "Driving While Black" was put under pressure recently in New Jersey, but it's still going strong in many other states.

* In the 21st Century, 40% of Alabama voted AGAINST removing a clause in the constitution banning interracial marriage. This is at the same time that a sizeable majority of Massachusetts voters are FOR gay civil union or marriage. Massachusetts is a viable state for an interracial couple to live; Alabama is not.


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 7:26 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 3663
Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
...And yet, historically, Boston has been one of the two* most segregated (in fact, if not by law) cities in the United States, whereas for the last 25 years, race relations in Alabama have been quite calm.

When I was half of an interracial couple, we spent time in Houston, DC, and Boston; the only place we were subject to hostile** glares (except from our families -- sigh) was Boston.

* The other one's Chicago.

** And they were very hostile, to the point of being scary.

<small>[ 06 March 2004, 08:57 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 8:58 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 23, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 1057
Location: SF CA
As one of those melanin deficient bodies ( full contract) at the Met I can tell you that the dancers of color got paid the same to apply the texas dirt as we did. They had the opption to apply or not.

Can you imagine how well it went over when Mr. Zefferelli wanted all Asian dancers and singers for Turandot?


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2004 12:36 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 223
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
In a sense, though, a singer cannot help being a tenor, bass or soprano any more than they can help being black, white, asian, male, female, tall, short or medium.

In a perfect world, should we cast a man as Sugar-Plum if he dances the part better?


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 7:24 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 9
Location: New York, NY
Wow, this is certainly a hot topic. Who knew it would go on.

To Re-tired and Lucy...
we've been at The Met and done that version of Aida. Lucy and I did the whole body paint thing. If I had done one tanning session I would have not needed the Texas Dirt applied to my skin. When I heard they paid extra for it I was in! I never thought about that as a race issue at all. It never came across to me that it was possibly taking a job away from someone.
We did what the role required. I don't think Re-tired was being "other" with that comment. I think he meant it in another way. Maybe he can clarify it. I'll ask him.

I had many a friend audition for the Met one year and remember them saying to me "At least if you get the gig there will be someone of color in there". That was a long time ago and I was surprised that they felt that way. It only goes to show that sometimes when you are latin you pass for "white" and other times you don't.

Then there is another example of opposite.
In Michael Smuin's "Song for a Dead Warrior" there are 3 roles calling for "white" sheriffs. DTH first did this ballet sometime in 1993 or 94.
I remember the dancers who were cast in this role were not ALL happy about having to paint their faces and hands white. It became a race issue which I never thought would happen. They felt that there should be black sheriffs. They were feeling bad about having to do the roles. What I thought about as this was unfolding was how silly to feel that way. It was a ballet based on a true story. They were supposed to be playing the bad guys. They were insulted instead of realizing that they were a vital part of the production. Their own personal issues about race came to the studio, when instead they could have just either done the role or refused to do it for personal reasons. Mr. M even told them they could not do it. It would have saved some crucial rehearsal time. In the end they ALL painted their faces white and the ballet was also a success everywhere we went with it. What amazed me the most was that they never spoke of it again.
Why did I go there?
My point is this...

sometimes roles require certain changes to ones body/hair/skin color and the person who is doing that role may not have the "look" requirements for it. Should this become an issue when applying the basic facts of art? Art is art and weather making it, taking part in it or just a spectator it should be met with an open mind and an open heart.

Another great talent...Laurence Olivier once held an audition. He met a young woman who was suitable for a part in a play he was producing. He asked her if she would change her hair color for the role. She said no to him. He apparently then told her that if he had said no to certain changes he had to make to himself for a role he would not be where he was and if the queen herself were to ask him to shave his head for a performance he would never say no. His love of his art was enough to get past his own personal feelings. He died "Sir" Olivier having been knighted for his service as one of the greatest actors of our time. (I never knew if she got the role or not). Instead of his focus being on what people saw or didn't see he was instead focused on creating magic on stage.
Isn't art also about....
Illusions, Smoke and mirrors?


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 1:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1876
Location: New England
That's interesting, Salzberg. We've encountered much more hostility in New York. On the other hand, we don't go to the parts of Boston that are infamous for their racist past (and even very recent past). Maybe what you see has a lot to do with which sub-part of a city you hang around in.


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 1:21 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1876
Location: New England
Leslie, you're looking at this very much from the "on-stage" point of view, as opposed to what is communicated to the audience.

The DTH example is a little bit ironic. Whiteface has a very bad history to it; if you go to 100 African American performers and ask them if they'd like to paint their face white for the next show, about 100 of them will say "no". It takes a well-developed sense of irony --- and some maturity --- to realize that in the case of DTH, one mocks the system that created the "whiteface" to begin with.

As artists, we need to not just blindly find a role and do whatever we have to do for that role. We also need to understand what the production communicates, and whether we wish to be a part of it. Many, many elements in dance can have messages that may or may not jibe with our sense of what's right. An African-American dancer being asked to use whiteface to impersonate an evil white cop is different from an African-American dancer being asked to use whiteface to "not stick out" in the Swan Lake corps.

We each have to decide these issues on our own, independent of how much body paint we use for a given part.

-- Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 2:50 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 3663
Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Quote:
We've encountered much more hostility in New York.
Well, I'm certainly not defending New York as a haven of racial tolerance -- the city of Howard Beach, Crown Heights, Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo. My point, though, is that many people in the north felt/feel a need to condemn the south as a hotbed of racism...because that way they could ignore the logs in their own eyes.

<small>[ 10 March 2004, 03:53 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

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http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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 Post subject: Re: Race in the Arts
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 7:51 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 9
Location: New York, NY
Back again,
Citibob, I agree that I am looking at this from the stage side, however, as I'm thinking about it I would really have to say that my feelings do remain the same from the audience view point.

When I watch any form of art/entertainment, I know that its a ballet, dance piece, show or movie. Some may be based on true fact other may be fiction, what remains constant is that it is either being "performed" or re-inacted" and the people up there are doing "their thing" or doing their "job". Making something real to the audience especially when you don't feel it is a tough call, but don't you think that that is also proof of how dedicated and professional the performer/artist is to their art? To make something totally believeable, even when you disagree with it? To make people believe you are something you really aren't? To rise to the occasion and make it real?

I'm seeing that I was lucky to have parents that taught me that there is no color, only humans and in the end if you are true to life & art, being human first, the rest of the ca-ca just doesn't matter. I didn't care that people said "you aren't black why go to DTH?" if I had listened I would not have danced some of the most wonderful roles of a lifetime, I wouldn't have made many close friends I now have and my life and perspective on it would not be so rich now.

If many of us had our way, this would just not be an issue. WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO EDUCATE THE AUDIENCE & THE PEOPLE.


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