ON DIVERSITY/INCLUSION...

"I think diversity and inclusion are so intrinsically connected to the performing arts that it’s literally impossible to create our art form without them. As a teacher of music and theatre, I celebrate diversity with my college and private students and teach them how race, sexual preference, gender, etc can even work to their advantage. Also, with a fair number of LGBTQ people in musical theatre, it’s important that we create an environment in the classroom that is safe, secure and will allow them to use any gender (whether it be “he” “she” “they” etc.) when speaking of an “other” in a solo number with an assumed love interest. In my job as a professor at various colleges I also encourage students from different ethnic backgrounds to not only perform songs that are performed by their ethnic group but also songs originally written for Caucasian actors; Broadway and opera is diversifying and changing so that we are able to cast more actors from various ethnic groups than we have been in previous generations. It is also important to me that if I have a question about how something is perceived by a specific ethnic group, I will ask the students themselves for an opinion claiming that I’m in no place to think I know the answer.

I wrote a musical called "But I’m a Cheerleader, the Musical" based on the film of the same name.  The entire crux of the show is that a high school cheerleader, who thinks she lives a “normal” life is sent to “straight camp” when her friends and family perform an intervention after they start to suspect that she’s a lesbian.  The whole process of writing this show has helped me raise my own awareness of this “straight camp” phenomenon and maybe even helped someone who is struggling with this issue to realize that they are “ok” as they are.

 

When founding my theatre company in Madison, WI, Capital City Theatre, I made it clear in our mission statement and to my colleagues that diversity would be one of the most important aspects of our programming and education.  The first show we chose was Violet which featured three African American actors in the cast.  We had so many audience members who were thrilled to see this diversity in our first production and perhaps we even brought awareness to the lack of diversity in our local arts scene.  In the spring of 2017, we did Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill which has Billie Holiday at its center.  Of the four people on stage (two of whom were local musicians), we had three African Americans in the cast.  It thrilled me to share this incredible piece which showcased these fantastic ethnic performers with our community. 

 

In our educational programming, we always make an effort to include diversity amongst our students and offer scholarships to many students from underserved communities.  With the important recent events of 2020, America has been forced (and I mean that positively) into realizing that the ethnic equality problem is prevalent in the arts just as much as anywhere else.  Times are changing, and we as directors are being held accountable, as are theatre companies and colleges/universities. Anywhere I teach will be an inclusive environment to everyone but especially to those minorities who have felt disenfranchised by others.  That’s why Capital City Theatre, since its inception has made a commitment to include diversity in literally EVERY SINGLE show."

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