Quotas in theater schedules?

April 13, 2009
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The Denver Post offers a thought-provoking piece about "slot plays." That is, an annual "African-American play" or "Hispanic play" that fills a regular slot in a theater's schedule. Right now, to some eyes, the IRT is doing that with "Crowns" and the Phoenix with "References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot."

According to Post theater critic John Moore, "slot plays" are "a double-edged sword. They offer clear evidence of a company's ongoing commitment to underrepresented communities. They expose the mainstream audience to lesser-known writers and theatrical styles. But slot plays can be seen as condescending to the very people they aim to attract. It happens every February when companies slot annual Black History Month plays, then forget that African-Americans exist for the rest of the year."

"Of course," he adds, "the alternative to slot plays is no slot plays. And that has not worked out well in the past."

The question: Is slotting a quota system? And does that matter if the work is of quality, additional audiences are attracted, existing audiences are satisfied, and the work fits into the mission of the theater?

Your thoughts?
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  • And what do you call a play that has minority characters or issues AND non-minority characters or issues? Or where the characters represent more than one slot or niche viewpoint? For example, a play by a Puerto Rican playwright with Latino characters who also represent a solider and his wife? Or a play with a Deaf lesbian?
  • That Denver post article IS a thought-provoking piece. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Lou.

    I don't have a tidy little comment in response. In fact, I have spent WAY too much time in the past 24 hours writing possible responses instead of working on my own reviews! (laughing)

    So I'll just say that I agree with what Sharon implied in her comment, that the Phoenix goes far beyond filling slots. I love going to the Phoenix because every piece there is so layered, so NOT easy to fit into a slot. I love that the Phoenix usually provides me with both mirrors and windows, all in the same show.

    As for the IRT, well, I guess I hadn't thought much about Crowns being a slot-filler, so I can't really speak to that, either. I just know that I loved being in the Crowns audience last Friday night. It, too, offered me both windows and mirrors.

    As for slotting itself...well...slotting is like Black History Month: a necessary step along the path, but not the end of the journey.

    Okay, I'm still not saying everything that I want to say in the way I want to say it, but I have GOT to get back to work.

    Thanks again for the Denver article.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit

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