(Photo: Fer Gregory / Shutterstock)
Tension escalated in cities across the country over the weekend, fueled by the latest act of racial violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the death of George Floyd under police custody. Theater companies, Broadway actors and commercial productions have released statements and taken to social media to stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The Broadway League, which includes more than 700 theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters and general managers across North America, released the following statement:
“The current division in our nation over George Floyd’s killing continues to bring heartbreak, outrage and calls to action by members of the Broadway community to combat injustice towards people of color, and we are reminded that theatre plays a critical role in actively bringing people together. Through the experience of live theater we come to better understand each other’s journeys by listening to and learning from each other’s stories. Black lives matter, and the members of The Broadway League are committed to providing a safe space where these stories can be shared. We strive to open doors, hearts and minds that will lead to understanding, action and change.”
Actors Equity, the performing arts labor union, which represents professional actors and stage managers, tweeted:
The murder of George Floyd was unconscionable and indefensible. We stand in the community that seeks justice for George Floyd and the families of all Black Americans who have had their lives taken by racism and white supremacy.
— Actors’ Equity (@ActorsEquity) May 30, 2020
Lin-Manuel Miranda took to Twitter to release an apology for not addressing the country’s systemic racism sooner, saying, “I’m sorry for not pushing harder and faster, for us to speak the self-evident truths under the Hamilton banner, which has come to mean so much to so many of you… While we live in a country where black people are under attack from emboldened white supremacy, police brutality and centuries of systemic anti-black racism, it’s up to us in words and deeds to stand up for our fellow citizens.”
— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) May 31, 2020
Off-Broadway theater company Playwrights Horizons released the following statement*:
“With outrage and great sorrow, Playwrights Horizons mourns the Black lives unjustly lost to state-sanctioned violence. The killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police department is yet another glaring example of the systemic racism at work in our country, and of the traumas inflicted against Black Americans throughout our history. So, too, are the murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Tony McDade in Florida, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, among countless others.
As the nation rises up in defiance of these crimes — and the vast structures of oppression which enable them — Playwrights Horizons stands with our Black colleagues, artists, and audiences, in the fight against racial injustice in all its forms. Our theater is not just a building, not just an institution, but a collective of humans, and until every member of our community is able to live safely and equitably valued in the eyes of our country and society, we are deficient. Committed to the American playwright’s voice, and to ensuring that this voice reaches audiences, Playwrights Horizons can fulfill our mission only when all voices are protected equally. Black lives matter.”
We will continue to evolve. And as we do, we will engage in an ongoing re-examination of our practices, and our impact, in this urgent and necessary work toward equity.
We offer this growing compilation of resources to support the fight against racial injustice in the United States. Many of these have already been shared by our peer theaters, colleagues, and artists. We’re grateful for the chance to amplify and add to their work.”
The Public Theater has postponed its virtual event, in light of recent developments, releasing the following statement:
“We have made the decision today to postpone our virtual event: WE ARE ONE PUBLIC which was scheduled for today, June 1. In this time of national trauma, when the COVID crisis has so disproportionately impacted the Black community, when the injustices of our way of life have been made so clear, it just feels wrong for us to sail ahead with our event. We deeply believe in our theater, and in the importance of the work we do, but this is not the moment to focus on the Public. This is a time for mourning and reflection. Kenny Leon, our board member and the director of this event, and Oskar will release a brief video message on our website at 8 p.m. on Monday.
The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor have demonstrated in horrific fashion the racism upon which our country was built. We mourn the loss of these Black men and women and are grieved and outraged by their deaths. The Public was founded as a theater by, for and of the people, yet it has taken us far too long to proclaim the simple truth: Black Lives Matter.
We must stand in solidarity with Black artists, Black staff members, and the Black community. We must do more, much more, to fight the racism that infects every institution in the country, the Public included. We must recognize that the Public itself must change if we wish to live up to our own ideals. If “We Are One Public,” then the pain and oppression being visited on the Black community must also be our pain. Out of this crucible, we will all either become better or become worse. The Public is determined to be on the side that fights racism and inequality manifested inside and outside of our walls. We will release a fuller statement of accountabilities and actions in the coming days. Words matter, but not as much as actions. We will hold ourselves accountable, and if you feel we are falling short, we will listen.
New streaming service Broadway on Demand had intended to produce a Tony Awards special on June 7 but has postponed the event. CEO/President Sean Cercone released the following statement:
“We are collectively saddened and angered by the senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and disheartened by the ongoing racism and injustices that continue to permeate our society. We at Broadway On Demand do not tolerate hate, racism, injustice or bigotry of any kind. The continued violence against Black Americans is inexcusable. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and our priorities at this time are to listen, to engage in meaningful dialogue and to do our best to enact real change in our industry and in our nation. We truly believe theater has the power to educate, inspire, develop empathy, bridge cultural divides and ultimately unite under the banner of humanity. Broadway On Demand recognizes that we have the power to influence and change the world through art. Our goal as an organization is to create a platform where underrepresented voices can be amplified and uplifted. That is why it is of the utmost importance that the programs we deliver adhere to these beliefs and reflect the world in which we live.”
*Playwrights Horizons’ statement has been edited.