What Color Is Your Theater?

May 3, 2011

Recently I've been pursuing a story about the many changes in Chicago's African-American theater community. I'll be asking artistic and managing directors from as many companies as I can find what role remains for African-American theaters now that a black man is leading a "white" theater (Remy Bumppo) and a black woman seems to be the heir presumptive at the city's most established "white" theater (Regina Taylor at the Goodman). 

And then two announcements appear, one right after the other, in my e-mail inbox. First is the announcement that Victory Gardens has chosen Chay Yew, a leader in the national Asian-American theater community, to be its new artistic director. Next is a press release from Silk Road Theatre Project, Chicago's premier Asian-American theater company, announcing its production of David Henry Hwang's Tony-award-winning play Yellow Face

And suddenly it all became clear to me: of course the need to do plays by David Henry Hwang and other Asian playwrights--and nothing but--does not disappear because an Asian man will be running a "white" company. I'll still ask the question about the role of black theaters because I'm incapable of embarrassment and want to hear what each of the veteran theater-makers has to say on the perennial subject of race in Chicago theater. But the answer is almost literally staring us all in the face.