Campus Reform | Theater productions at UA now come with 'diversity statements' on race, gender

Theater productions at UA now come with 'diversity statements' on race, gender

The University of Alabama has attached diversity statements to musicals 'Legally Blonde' and 'Pippin' on the school website.

'The casting will move to reserve space for BIPOC performers,' one diversity statement partially reads.

The University of Alabama theater department is adding "diversity statements" to each of the upcoming shows in its 2021-22 lineup.

The Crimson White reported last week that these statements intend to "address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion found in each play," adding that Dominic Yeagerassociate chair of the theater department,  said the goal of the initiative was to create a "transparent casting environment that focuses on diversity."

Pippin, the first musical in this year's season, has a statement regarding a character's race featured on the university website. 

"Pippin’s story is narrated by the Leading Player – a character that is traditionally played by an artist of color," the statement reads. "This is important; through The Leading Player’s narration we see them and their inclusive troupe of players shedding light on the privileges that bring Pippin to a state of constant conflict."

Pippin runs October 13-15, 21, 22, 24, 2021.

Another musical, Alabama's production of Legally Blonde: The Musical runs April 22, 2022.

 Its diversity statement reads, "Tackling issues and scandals predating yet reminiscent of the #MeToo Movement, this seemingly fluffy story is so much more than it seems. Legally Blonde has a pressing relevance in today’s society as women increasingly step into the spotlight and speak up for their equal rights and power." 

“The casting will move to reserve space for BIPOC performers while evaluating the cultural connotations of requesting an actor to insert themselves into a narrative that might not be their own and, if necessary, adapt the production to better suit their needs and perspectives," the statement continues. 

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Some diversity statements focus on race more explicitly than others. 

Pipeline, a play that opened Monday at Alabama, has an accompanying statement that in-part reads, "Because of the foundation of the play being about the school-to-prison pipeline, there are specific diverse race/ethnicity and gender characteristics central to the significance of the story."

G. Christine Taylor, a vice president and associate provost at Alabama, told the student newspaper that the statements serve to help people think about the productions in a "deeper way with diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“Diversity, or in this case difference, is always around each of us; however, we may not always be attuned to it,” Taylor said.

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The university's production of the comedic play Bakersville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, however, does not note any significant matters of diversity.

"There are no specific race/ethnicity or other characteristics central to this story," the statement reads. "This production is delighted to adapt the original character breakdown that is provided in the script," the statement read.

Bakersville runs between March and April 2022. 

Professor Yeager and the University of Alabama did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform at the time of publication.