‘Dialogues’ is starting conversations

Star Diavolikis, Staff Reporter

“Dialogues: Voices From Performance” is an ongoing series addressing racism within the performing arts.

According to Natashia Lindsey, an assistant professor of theatre arts, there is an ongoing nationwide callout against theatre for being racist. 

A large misconception of theatre is that it revolves around dead white men such as Shakespeare. Theatre extends beyond Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.

“The theatre is not just for white, able-bodied, cisgendered men,” Lindsey said. “The theatre’s to be for everyone, but [the stereotype] is a consistent narrative that we really have to combat. … Not everything is Shakespeare.”

Lindsey said Shakespeare and Greek theatre are the common defaults people think of on the topic of theatre. 

She wants people to rethink what theatre is and what the field can be, and ensure they are acknowledging the histories that have existed for millenia.

Lindsey said the inspiration for this series is based on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the protests against police violence occuring around the nation.

“There was a call by [Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)] artists for theatre to really look at itself and question the racism that it continues to perpetuate as a field,” Lindsey said. “One of the things I wanted to do was create a series where we could bring in artists, scholars, activists, whatever, in the field of theatre, dance and performance studies to really talk with us and engage with us. Not only the department, but across the university. Everybody is welcome to the events.”

The series is continuing throughout the year and is focused on BIPOC creators speaking about racism within the arts.

“I didn’t ask these folks to come here to just talk about race. I want them to share how they enter into the field of theatre and dance performance studies. And that in it of itself, is what we’d kinda call in critical race theory, ‘counter storytelling,’” Lindsey said. “So just listening to the work and hearing the work and interacting with the work of these Black scholars and artists, we’re already challenging that ‘dead white man’ narrative.”

So far, two speakers have presented for the series already: Dotun Ayobade, PhD and Charles Anderson, artistic director of Charles O. Anderson/dance theatre X.

Ayobade’s presentation titled “Facing the Music: AIDS, Social Death and Gendered Survival after Fela Kuti” was held on Sept. 25 and discussed matters from a Nigerian perspective.

Anderson’s presentation titled “(Re)current Unrest and the Fire This Time: Choreographic Strategies in response to BLM” discussed the conflict of the American dream and treatment of BIPOC.

“This year, we are really focusing on Black artists and scholars because of everything happening in this moment,” Lindsey said. “So I started reaching out to Black artists and scholars whose work I am familiar with and just asking them if they’d like to participate in this. … Everyone has been really excited about it.”

The next event is on Nov. 13 with Lisa Thompson, PhD. Thompson’s presentation will include discussing her work and process of being a playwright and writing about Black women and Black feminism.

Thompson will also read from one of her plays, “The Mamalogues,” before ending the session with a Q&A.