‘Sweat’ auditions bring push for diversity
Desteny Maragh – Reporter
The Theatre Department conveyed their commitment to racial equality in a recent public statement. They are now putting their words in motion with the production of Sweat by Lynn Nottage, a Black playwright.
The statement read: “As our pedagogies, policies, and production practices shift in the coming months, we look forward to collaborating closely with our students and other performing arts entities in the New Haven area to promote positive change in our industry locally and beyond.”
The department has brought in a Black guest director, Dexter J. Singleton from the Collective Consciousness Theatre; a multicultural theatre for social change in New Haven, Conn.
In-person auditions for Sweat were held in the Kendall Drama Lab in the Lyman Center on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.. The production’s performance will be virtual and is scheduled to stream Nov. 19 through Nov. 22, via Zoom.
Students attending the audition said they were happy that the department is staying true to their commitment to racial equality and allowing people of color the opportunity to star in a production.
One student who was grateful to be auditioning for the role of Cynthia, a Black woman, is nursing major Majesty Moore, a freshman.
Moore draws from her previous experiences while acting in high school, “normally only white kids got casted for lead roles.” “I’m happy there’s a push for diversity,” said Moore.
The statement put out by the theater department reads: “as a department we are dedicating ourselves to strengthening our efforts to fight racism and anti-Blackness while engaging in open, honest, and equitable conversations with our community.”
While speaking on those previous experiences and how the theater world operates, Moore said “if you look back, normally lead roles don’t go to people who look like me.”
Overall, Moore said she sees a positive change accruing in the theater world. “Over time people are becoming more progressive,” said Moore.
Moore said she decided to audition last minute and was happy that her director persuaded her to do so. He told her it would be a good opportunity.
She said because the production was specifically casting for a Black woman, she knew she had to take the chance and audition.
“We commit to fostering a creative and inclusive environment wherein members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities have equitable representation and a platform to express their own unique stories,” according to the Theatre Department’s statement.
Another student who said she was excited to audition was biology major Leah Herde, a senior.
Herde said she was in a similar piece last year called “Red Velvet” and was happy about the production and guest director.
During the last play, Herde said the whole cast “connected well,” so she wanted a chance to experience that again.
Herde is not auditioning for any specific role but said she’ll be happy with anything she gets.
Herde said, “acting is a really cool experience” and she loves.
She said acting helps “broadens her horizons.”
The statement from the department reads: “We renounce past industry practices of whitewashed casting and season selection as well as the lack of properly diverse representation in our curricula.”
Another student auditioning was theatre major Matt Lopes, a senior.
Lopes said he “loves theater and wishes to act for as long as possible.”
He enjoys the entertainment aspect of theater. “It acts as an escape and I love to put on a show for those who are watching to escape,” said Lopes.
Lopes was also not auditioning for any specific role, but there are two characters that fit his identity.
He said that he is “here to learn and takes every production as a learning experience.”
Lopes said he has been in nine different productions so far and he is happy to keep that number growing before he graduates.
Photo credit: Desteny Maragh