Open Letter to Wales Theatre Awards

We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the nominations for Wales Theatre Awards this year.

The 2018 Awards include multiple nominations for shows which include white actors playing non-white roles.

We understand that productions may require actors to play diverse roles but we expect the challenges of representation to be dealt with intelligently, and artists and organisations to fully understand and take on the responsibilities of our time.

It is our firm belief that in 2018, a convenient or ignorant casting practice is no longer acceptable and it should certainly not be rewarded with accolades.

We urge Wales Theatre Awards to reconsider their nominations. Globally in our industry, there is finally a significant appetite for change on this and other structural inequalities. We in Wales do not want to be left behind.

Llythyr agored i Wobrau Theatr Cymru.

Bwrdwn y llythyr agored hwn yw i gyflwyno pryderon ynglŷn â’r enwebiadau ar gyfer Gwobrau Theatr Cymru eleni.
Mae nifer o enwebiadau 2018 yn cynnwys cynyrchiadau lle gwelwyd actorion gwyn yn cynrychioli cymeriadau o dras wahanol.
Mae’n amlwg bod angen i actorion cymryd her wrth gynrychioli amryw o gymeriadau, ond mae angen i artistiaid a sefydliadau ymdrin â’r broses yn synhwyrol, ac mewn modd sy’n adlewyrchi gofynion ein hoes.
Credwn yn gryf nad yw castio diog neu anwybodus yn haeddu derbyn gwobr neu ganmoliaeth yn 2018,
Gofynnwn i Wobrau Theatr Cymru ail ystyried yr enwebiadau.
Mae ‘na drawsnewid yn digwydd ar draws y byd i sicrhau cyfartaledd a thegwch o fewn ein diwydiant. Nid ydym am weld Cymru yn arunig neu’n eilradd.

Sign Here

Signatures 

Shane Nickels
Abdul Shayek
Mathilde Lopez
John Norton
Rabab Ghazoul
Jafar Iqbal
Gareth Chambers
Glesni Price-Jones
Danny Muir
Laura Jeffs
Jesse Schwenk
Jennifer Lunn
Rhiannon White
Evie manning
Tom Wentworth
Sam Woodward
Jeremy Linnell
Chelsey Gillard
Caitlin Mckee
jonny cotsen
Emily Garside
Branwen Munn
Deborah Newton-Williams
Stella Patrick
Rhys Denton
Joshua Neal
Marek Liska
Selena Jerome
Siobhan Lynn Brennan
Catriona James
Yasmin Williams
Jain Boon
Jonathan Dunn
Tobias Weatherburn
Alan Humphreys
Gareth Ford-Elliott
Darius Nash
Rebecca Jade Hammond
Gavin Porter
George Soave
Mari Izzard
Lowri Izzard
Rachel Hopkins
Jo Fong
Alison John
Yvonne Murphy
Jason Camilleri
Alexandria Riley
Tanya Dower
Dafydd Llion Griffiths
Radha Patel
isabel adonis
Gary Raymond
Fern Thomas
Richard Mylan
bridget keehan
Alice Shing
Miranda Ballin
Madhu Khanna-Davies
Alun Saunders
Rowan Alexandria
Rhian Hutchings
Kiera Sikora
Sharon morgan
Frank Thomas
Rebecca Lee
Paul McCabe
Mary Chan
Connie Tu
Roiyah Saltus
LL
Wingshan Smith
P S K Lau
Jennifer Chan
Liz Hyder
Rose
Abyd Quinn Aziz
Bethan Dawson
Durre Shahwar
Holly Fry
Jorge Lizalde
Sheila Hendrickson-Brown
Sarah Jones
Chris Lewis
Louise Osborn

Ellen Groves

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5 thoughts on “Open Letter to Wales Theatre Awards”

  1. Reply from Wales Theatre Awards
    Inbox

    Wales Awards
    7:37 PM (1 hour ago)

    Many thanks for your communication. We fully support the widening of participation in all forms of the arts. The Wales Theatre Awards 2018 will be a celebration of live performance with winners chosen by a wide and diverse group of nominators and judges from throughout Wales.

    Regards,

    Wales Theatre Awards 2018

    This message is being translated.

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  2. Response to the open letter to the Wales Theatre Awards

    We at Welsh National Opera whole-heartedly support your attempt to highlight injustice and unfair discrimination in all of our theatre practices. However, we believe that this formulation:
    “The 2018 Awards include multiple nominations for shows which include white actors playing non-white roles.” is unhelpful to that noble aim and may even perpetuate rather than alleviate discrimination.
    At WNO we believe in and attempt to practice “colour-blind casting” which acknowledges that it is not the race, nature, gender, colour or outward appearance of the actor that primarily determines their suitability for a role, but their talent. This is a far more open, constructive and reasonable standard than the “only non-white actors for “non-white roles” rule implied by your formulation. “Colour-blind casting” opens up all roles potentially to non-white performers, whereas the racially accurate casting that you seem to imply actually diminishes the number of roles available to them.
    For example, in the current WNO production of La Forza del Destino there is a character, Don Alvaro, who is described as “An Inca Prince”. He is portrayed by a very distinguished Welsh tenor. There is also a character, Leonora, who is the daughter of a Spanish aristocrat, who is performed by a “non-white” American singer. As an instance of even more clearly colour-blind casting, we would highlight the fact that the role of Natasha in our new War & Peace for next season is cast with a “non-white” singer. This is the strongest possible signal we can give, although we are by no means perfect in this regard, that at WNO roles of all kinds are open to all kinds of people provided the rigorous standards of talent and ability are applied.
    This also remains true to the fundamental nature of theatre, which is that the performers on the stage are being precisely what they are not in real life. It is an arena of pretence, not of nature, so in any theatre a black actor should be as free to perform a white character as the reverse.
    May we make a plea for the effort to open our theatres to the widest group of performers as possible continues, but under the true banner of “colour blind casting” rather than the limiting and deceptive formulation that has been presented in this evidently well-intentioned open letter?

    David Pountney
    Artistic Director, Welsh National Opera.
    —-
    Ymateb i’r llythyr agored i Wobrau Theatr Cymru:

    Yn WNO rydym yn cefnogi’n llwyr eich ymgais i amlygu annhegwch a gwahaniaethu annheg ym mhob maes ym myd y theatr. Fodd bynnag, credwn nad yw’r datganiad:
    “Mae nifer o enwebiadau 2018 yn cynnwys cynyrchiadau lle gwelwyd actorion gwyn yn cynrychioli cymeriadau sydd ddim yn wyn” o fudd i’r nod aruchel hwnnw, ac y gallai fod yn fodd i barhau yn hytrach na lleihau gwahaniaethu.

    Yn WNO rydym yn credu mewn, ac yn ceisio ymarfer “castio lliwddall” sy’n cydnabod mai talent yw’r prif linyn mesur wrth benderfynu a yw actor yn addas ar gyfer rhan yn hytrach na’i hil, natur, rhyw, lliw neu ymddangosiad. Mae hwn yn safon llawer mwy agored, adeiladol a rhesymol na’r rheol “dim ond actorion sydd ddim yn wyn” ar gyfer rhannau “sydd ddim yn wyn” y mae eich datganiad yn ei awgrymu. Mae “castio lliwddall” yn agor pob rhan i berfformwyr o bob tras, ond mewn gwirionedd mae castio sy’n adlewyrchu hil, sef yr hyn yr ymddengys eich bod yn awgrymu, yn lleihau nifer y rhannau sydd ar gael iddyn nhw.

    Er enghraifft, yng nghynhyrchiad presennol WNO o La Forza del Destino ceir cymeriad, Don Alvaro, a ddisgrifir fel “Tywysog Inca”. Mae o’n cael ei bortreadu gan denor Cymraeg adnabyddus iawn. Yn ogystal mae cymeriad arall, Leonora, sy’n ferch i fonheddwr Sbaenaidd, yn cael ei pherfformio gan gantores Americanaidd “sydd ddim yn wyn”. Fel enghraifft amlwg arall o gastio lliwddall, tynnwn sylw at y ffaith fod cantores “sydd ddim yn wyn” wedi ei chastio yn rôl Natasha yn ein cynhyrchiad newydd o War & Peace y tymor nesaf. Dyma’r arwydd cryfaf posib y gallwn ei roi, er nad ydym yn berffaith yn hynny o beth, fod pob math o rannau yn WNO yn agored i bob math o bobl cyhyd â’u bod yn bodloni’r safonau cadarn a osodir o ran talent a gallu.

    Mae hyn yn gyson â natur sylfaenol y theatr, sef fod perfformwyr ar y llwyfan yn portreadu cymeriadau sy’n hollol wahanol i’r hyn ydynt mewn bywyd go iawn. Mae’n fyd sy’n seiliedig ar ddynwared yn hytrach na natur, felly mewn unrhyw theatr dylai actor du fod â’r un hawl i berfformio cymeriad gwyn ag sydd gan actor gwyn i berfformio cymeriad sydd ddim yn wyn.

    A gawn ni erfyn fod yr ymdrech i agor ein theatrau i’r grŵp ehangaf posib o berfformwyr yn parhau, ond o dan wir faner “castio lliwddall” yn hytrach na’r datganiad a gyflwynwyd yn y llythyr agored hwn sydd, er ei fod yn amlwg yn dda ei fwriad, yn gamarweiniol ac yn cyfyngu ar gyfleoedd?

    David Pountney
    Cyfarwyddwr Artistig, Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru.

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    1. Response to the WNO’s letter:

      What a shame WNO, and David Pountney, that instead of getting behind the spirit of this letter, you have decided to point score shamelessly and try and use this incident as a way of positioning your institution and leveraging superiority. The problematics of how you frame ‘colour blind’ casting aside, do you think diversity is in how you cast your performers alone?

      So first of all, you cannot make the comparison between Black and White actors and both needing to be treated equally when it comes to them playing against their ethnicity/race. We live in a White dominant culture, with roles, stories, narratives overwhelmingly offered to and told from a White dominant cultural perspective. In this sense, there is no ‘equal’ level playing field yet upon which you can assert these issues can be dealt with in the same way. Because the instances of Black actors having so woefully few opportunities within the cultural systems we perpetuate, mean the chances of a Black actor playing white are so relatively small by comparison, it fails to stand as an argument. We have to address the monumental imbalance in the presence of minority ethnic representation within our cultural institutions, across every single art form. That is not happening.

      Trying to isolate WNO’s colour blind casting as an example of the institution’s progressive stance not only reveals your lack of understanding of the issue, but I would venture a lack of understanding of how diversity operates.

      Diversity exists in the fullest manifestation of your entire organisational, operational and strategic practice. It’s about how people of colour are employed across the entire spectrum of your organisation – the positions they hold, the influence they are given, the visibility they command, the salaries they earn etc. If you choose to position yourself as a leader in this area, please ensure that you are leading within every single aspect of how you function in your overall practice. I suspect WNO may still have some work to do in this area. What is a shame, and a lost opportunity, is your decision in this instance to point score, instead of getting behind what is patently a clearcut issue, around institutional discrimination, which this letter unambiguously seeks to address.

      Sincerely, Rabab Ghazoul
      Gentle/Radical

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    2. How the myth of ‘colour blindness ‘ still persists, let alone passes for anti-racist practise, baffles me. Evidently, we white people need reminding once again that white people attempting to behave as though ‘racism is over’ IS racism. Surely the antidote Is fully embracing, exploring and cherishing our differences of ethnicity, race, culture, faith etc, rather than reducing them to ‘colour’ and then pretending we can’t even see them??!

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  3. It certainly is interesting seeing the insincere accusations of whining, talentless hacks having to cry racism to get their foot in the door, rather than compete equally with their contemporaries on a level playing field.

    A pathetic open letter, if ever there was one.

    Liked by 1 person

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