How to Apologize: An Example From Life

A friend of mine on LJ went to a play recently, in the Boston area, and mentioned afterwards that she'd been kind of surprised by the casting. The show was Never After, a re-take on the Sleeping Beauty story in which the curse is lesbianism.

The character of Hexasper, a naughty fairy who is responsible for the curse, was played by one of only two POC in the cast (a Hispanic man was in the chorus; Hexasper was played by a newcomer to musical theatre, Sonya Joyner, a Black woman - I use her own identifier there)*.

Now this caught a number of people by surprise, and several of them wrote to director Elizabeth Hunter to express their concern.

Ms. Hunter made a post on Livejournal, explaining how the decisions had been made, and discussing her own thought process as she went from auditions to performance - and calling herself out for not thinking more about how it would look to an audience (Ms. Joyner had specifically auditioned for the particular role, and had solidly rocked her audition). (NB: Ordinarily, I strongly recommend staying out of non-Shakesville comment threads. On this occasion, I recommend the opposite. While there are a few "oh you're just being sensitive"-type remarks, they are quickly challenged, and Ms. Hunter has done very well in responding to them too.)

The part I want to draw your attention to is what a good job of it Ms. Hunter did. Being called out for apparent privilege is no fun for anyone. But it happens to all of us, one time or another, and it's a good idea, if you move through the world with much privilege, to learn how to graciously hear concerns raised by that privilege, and how to recognize when you're acting from it.

Do note that the actor herself, Ms. Joyner, comments (anonymously, but she identifies herself at the bottom of her comment) on the post and the production.

I want to also point out that this has got me thinking about how my own local community theatre could do more about encouraging POC to audition for our shows (I'm tangentially involved with the Board of Directors), and to thank Ms. Hunter for sparking that internal dialogue.

Brava Ms. Joyner, for doing so well with the role you wanted, and to Ms. Hunter, for giving us such a fine example of How To Get It Right When Someone Says You Got It Wrong. Break a leg, folks.

* A correction: there were more POC in the cast than I had come to understand. My apologies for the error; a correction is published here.

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