360XQ Days 6 + 7
One of the great benefits of my month here in Chapala is the time and space I have to reflect. Don't get me wrong—I'll certainly miss my loved ones through the holidays. This year I won't get to gorge on my mother's cookies or my sister's french toast casserole (that's another post entirely), but hundreds of miles from my usual Christmas shopping and festivities, the pace of life is pretty slow.
Here's one of many lovely sunsets on Lake Chapala.
And no, this is not just an excuse to count this single entry as two. But...
I've been listening to this show since the start, and it's sparked some great conversations with my fellow members of Living Room Playmakers. We're a scrappy independent theatre collective, founded and managed by playwrights, with a mission to create accessible theatre in unusual spaces—and to help foster new friendships across various communities. Theatre can get...insular. It's often theatre people going to see their theatre friends performing at, well, a theatre. We try to shake that up a little. We perform in various locations, charge low ticket prices, and always include drinks and music afterwards. No stuffy talkbacks. Just mingling.
The Not-Quite-Full Spectrum
Despite all that, here's the thing. Although we strive to foster diversity we can in our audiences and casts, our artistic team's diversity is not quite where we'd ultimately like it to be.
Alex Blumberg, the host of StartUp and founder of Gimlet, said something similar. He explained that while their team has an equitable balance in terms of gender, it's lacking in ethnic diversity, and perhaps in terms of LGBTQ representation.
For us? It's kind of the same thing. With our core members, it's a 50/50 split on gender, and if you look at all the artists we've collaborated with over the past seven shows, female participants are the majority. However, while it's not a completely homogenous roster, it does lean towards white, middle-class, cisgendered, heterosexual people. We want to work on that.
Who's In the Room?
On the podcast, Brittany Luse, currently the only African American employee at Gimlet, brought up an important point. There's this concept of who is "in the room," meaning those who are making the decisions for the company. Like a board of directors, or in our case, a small clump of playwrights. Even if you diversify your team as a whole, if those few people "in the room" are still of a very similar background, you haven't fully tackled the problem.
As the episode wraps up, Alex talks about their process of acquiring new talent like Brittany. In a very small team, this often doesn't happen by sending out some open call and waiting to see who shows up. Meeting new collaborators at this stage may largely happen through your existing professional network, where you meet new people, get to know them and their work, and then discuss the idea of collaborating. That's how LRP has largely functioned. We see shows, we go to parties, we meet friends of friends and colleagues of colleagues, and we form new connections that lead to new teammates.
I'll be thinking on this as I continue to wander through the town here.
Maybe expanding our team begins with expanding our networks. Meeting artists in new neighborhoods. Connecting with companies and festivals established by people with backgrounds different than our own. I'm not totally sure, but it's important to us to build new relationships in an authentic manner. It will take some time, but I'm hopeful we'll find our way there. Eventually.
For the next few weeks, though? I'm just a visitor here. Writing my plays and my blog posts, listening to the same shows I tune in to back in the states. This is a retreat. It's temporary. It's not complicated.
If you haven't listened to the podcast, you can check out the episode here. I think it's an important conversation for anyone running a business, and anyone participating in the arts. After all, art is about telling stories. Everyone's stories need to be told. And heard.
I happened across some performances down on the malecón here in Chapala the other night. There were people dancing in ancient-looking costumes, playing music, and performing comedic scenes for a large crowd.
I only understood bits and pieces. I watched for a while, and then I walked home—well, not home. But I'm happy to be here for a little while.