Unequal playing field

March 7, 2021

So being, you know, in the theater sphere on campus, a lot of my friends have been involved with Show Some Skin, which as background is basically kind of a theater performance. But it's a collection of monologues written by Notre Dame students submitted anonymously that kind of speak about the Notre Dame experience and kind of the dark side of it. Whether it's, you know, your racial identity or your sexuality or your financial situation or just your mental state and how you go through campus dealing with that. And then actors kind of take on those monologues and perform them. And it's a very, like, cathartic and very moving experience to watch these. And a lot of my theater friends, especially my  international theater friends or friends of color who are in theater, are involved with it. And so my friend right now, she's Black and she's having a lot of trouble with her production team not supporting her. So basically, like they won't show up on time or they're waiting for her to kind of give them their tasks and tell them what to do. So she's just been having a lot of trouble with them. And we had some of our friends kind of talk to her saying, like, you should talk to them, you should kind of sit them down, whatever.

And she said, I think you guys need to realize that I am a Black woman in a position of leadership. If I do not keep my composure, if I do not, you know, keep things under control, if I'm too emotional, if I'm too angry, then suddenly I'm the powerful, strong, angry Black woman in the room. And suddenly that changes everyone's perspective of me. So I simply have to tame myself and keep my composure and not be as strong as a White man would be in the role, because I will be looked at differently. And that just kind of blew my mind because it's true, and it happens. If you see a Black man freak out on someone, there's that stereotype of the angry Black man getting too angry, whereas the White man is being a leader or the White man is being harsh or getting what needs to happen.

And what often happens, and was a big conversation this year, is that people of color on this campus are not here to study theater because many of them are coming from places where they're marginalized or, you know, they might be dealing with lower financial situations. And whoever's paying for their education, whether it be themselves, whether it be loans they have to pay back, they are not spending that money to do theater. They're spending that money to receive an education that will get them a job in the future. And so they often are unable to take theater classes that people who, you know, have a little bit of a financial cushion can take for fun. So by nature, they are not receiving the same training for theater that a lot of their White counterparts are, which puts them at a disadvantage at auditions because they are just not able to - not that it is throwing away money but - throw away money on a theater class that's not going to do anything for them in the long run. So they come into auditions, undertrained and, you know, underexperienced from their White counterparts. And it's just a big issue of, already where we're going to get very few people of color auditioning, just by nature of our campus statistics. We're going to get even less because they don't feel like theater is a place where, you know, they can waste their time. And when they do, it's something they're a little underprepared for, not by nature of talent, just by nature of where they kind of dedicate their time.

Alexa DeVito

Alexa DeVito is a senior majoring in Psychology with minors in Sociology, Musical Theater and Italian