Judy Juanita 
Member since Jul 16, 2015


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Re: “Oakland Playwright Says Berkeley Rep Theatre Discriminated Against Black Audience Members

A friend who is a playwright/director/theater producer wrote in reply to all of this:
"It’s a trip, isn’t it, Judy? We actually were able to diversify our audiences but it took constant work over many years. I think we were one of the few theaters that actually had success, because we believed there were solid markets in the black and Latin communities....Of course, it starts with a diverse staff, advisory councils, openness to feedback. We found, from our visiting actors, that our city was the most racist town they had experienced anywhere in the country, including the deep South. We got great feedback from a black woman on our staff who also handled a local jazz program. She told us she could actually see our white ushers flinch when black people came to the door. In our pre-show speeches, we had to clarify the diversity of our audiences and tell ushers and ticket takers, not to “flinch”. Can you believe it? She also told us that we should put a greeter out in front of theater, as in a black church, to welcome people. That became part of her job. We also found group sales were essential to bringing in people who were uncomfortable trying out theater on their one… it didn’t matter if they were black, white working class or Latino. Another black woman handled group sales and she was terrific, very quiet in her own way, but fearless about approaching any ethnic group to make a sale. Good group sales people also tend to show up to take care of groups. When people come in a group, they might come later on their own.

"And then, racism is so pervasive, you have to retrain your staff every few years because of turn over. It’s really wild, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think this would be a problem in Berkeley, would you? But I grew up in Berkeley during the 50s, and there were vicious wars about real estate restrictions… the original Prop 13 was about that, as I recall. It’s good to hear from you now and then, and I’m glad you’re so active, and vocal, when necessary.

"BTW… my dad grew up in Oakland, and we learned a lot from him about how to break down the walls. We were raised as Berkeley Mormons, but my dad taught us to argue Sunday School teachers that withholding the priesthood from blacks was a false doctrine. That became interesting once we moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and were surrounded by John Birchers."
Judy Juanita

7 likes, 26 dislikes
Posted by Judy Juanita on 07/16/2015 at 12:43 AM

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