Pittsburgh Theatre Community Tackles Issue Of 'Whitewashing'

Dec 13, 2016

For Pittsburgh’s theater community, national headlines like “Oscars So White” feel just as relevant to local stage productions. 

City Theatre Company artistic producer Reginald L. Douglas said playwrights often write with certain types of actors in mind to speak about themes of race, class or gender. A play about the immigrant experience could be cast with white actors, he said, but that might not tell the same story.

“The writer’s purpose is diluted when the casting shifts races," he said. "Often writers are writing in response to a world that denies many people representation and are writing to present stories that are often not told.”

He spoke as part of a larger discussion among local actors, directors and playwrights who gathered Monday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Theatre Arts for a town hall looking for solutions to inequitable casting.

Pittsburgh’s acting pool is small but mighty, Douglas said, and a concerted effort to be more inclusive and respect authors’ intent could result in more diverse casting.

He said it’s also about more than the fact that roles written for people of color are sometimes played by white actors.

“It’s not just who’s on the stage,” he said. “It’s who’s deciding what plays are being produced, who’s directing those plays and the issues of diversity and need for greater perspective in those decision making rooms as well.”

Bricolage Productions and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council also contributed.