Message from CTFA President, Roger Bedard
Why Has That Not Changed in the Last 50 years?
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
In December I will complete my five-year term as President of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. Working with the Foundation has been one of the most satisfying activities of my professional career. As I have said often, the Children’s Theatre Foundation is small of size but is guided by a huge heart and driven by the dedication of an outstanding professional (volunteer) Board of Directors.
When I started working professionally in the field of theatre for young audiences almost fifty years ago, a few valiant pioneers were beginning to bring attention to the profound need to diversify this profession. Over the last decades our audiences of children have begun to joyously reflect the wonderful mosaic of racial and ethnic diversity in this country. Yet the field of theatre and young people has been slow to reflect this same diversity.
Young people in this country deserve to see characters and stories on stage that reflect them and their worlds. Certainly, the last decades have brought to prominence a number of talented playwrights of color; and, sometimes, their plays even get produced. And, increasingly actors of color are featured in prominent roles on stage. But that is too often only window dressing covering the systemic, institutional racism in our field. In terms of diversity, the field has actually changed very little over the last fifty years. One has only to attend the conferences of the national service organizations, and check out who is attending and who is in charge to see graphically the lack of diversity in this field.
In terms of diversity we need to ask: Who is in charge? Who is making the artistic decisions? Why? And why has that not changed in the last fifty years? If we are honest in the answers to these questions we can see that dismantling the systemic institutional racism is the most important issue confronting this field today.
The Board of the Children’s Theatre Foundation has determined that this must be our singular focus in advancing excellence in service to young people. We have started this quest “at home,” so to speak. First, we are actively recruiting and welcoming new Board members of different backgrounds, races and ethnicities. We feel it critical that our Board must itself reflect the diversity of this country, before the Foundation can become an effective voice in diversifying the field. Second, the Board has determined that all our funding initiatives must actively interrogate and promote the issue of dismantling racism in our field.
Yes, we are small in size, but we have placed the heart of our work on the singular proposition that excellence in theatre for young people can only come from a field which reflects and respects the diversity of the young people in this country:
… A field where the Board rooms and the leadership of our theatres are truly diverse
…A field where the art grows from a glorious cacophony of racial and ethnic voices
The Children’s Foundations strives to make a difference in that regard. And I am proud to end my tenure as president of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America as a part of a Board advancing this important agenda.
Roger L. Bedard, President
Board of Directors
Children’s Theatre Foundation of America