Sunday, June 20, 2021

Washington Theater Group Asked Job Applicants About ‘Toxic Whiteness’

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A theater in Washington state has attracted attention after it asked job applicants to explain how they would “disrupt the toxic whiteness of the musical theater genre.”

The job application was for a Youth Education Teaching Artist role at the Village Theatres. The theaters are based in the cities of Everett and Issaquah, and the non-profit is a leading producer of musicals in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1979, it’s one of the region’s biggest theatres, attracting around 220,000 people each season.

After being asked by local broadcaster KTTH whether or not the question was appropriate, the theater removed it.

In the job application for a position with its KIDSTAGE program, one question read: “How do/would you disrupt the toxic whiteness of the musical theater genre?” Another asked potential employees: “What does anti-racism look like in your classroom?”

A prospective applicant told KTTH that they were “shocked to discover the radical aims of their hiring process.” The Village Theatre did not explain what this means when questioned by the broadcaster and brought up the prospective applicant’s concern that they would be discriminated against due to their race.

But in its racial equity plan posted on its website last June, the theater said that the “musical theater industry is predominately led by white men” and promised to “address oppressive white cultural norms in our programs.” In the plan, the group said it would be an “anti-racist organization—one that takes action against inequity and to dismantle structural and institutional racism.”

In a statement, The Village Theatre that the “unintentionally inflammatory language” was an oversight on its part.

“In pursuit of assessing prospective teaching artist’s cultural competencies, KIDSTAGE built an application with a prompt that used language that may have unintentionally deterred some candidates from applying,” the statement read.

“We regret that this particular question on the application wasn’t fully vetted with proper administrative oversight and the application has since been amended. Additionally, Village Theatre has updated its internal review processes as it pertains to the publishing of public-facing language to avoid a situation such as this in the future.”

Newsweek has contacted the theater for further comment.

In June last year, 300 Black, indigenous and people of color in the theater industry signed a letter—accompanied by a petition—demanding that white American theater recognizes its “legacy of white fragility and white supremacy.”

Among the signatories of “We See You, White American Theater,” were Cynthia Erivo, Viola Davis, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lauren Yee, Leslie Odom Jr., Lindsay Mendez, Leah C Gardiner, Katori Hall, Eden Espinosa, Ruthie Ann Miles, Issa Rae, Jacob Padrón, and Liesl Tommy.

Broadway St James Theatre
A stock photo of a theatre. A theatre in Washington state has attracted attention after it asked job applicants to explain how they would “disrupt the toxic whiteness of the musical theatre genre”.
Michael Loccisano/Getty

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