Joe Wilson, Jr.: 16 Who Made a Difference in 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

 

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In 2016, racial tensions heated up at Trinity Rep when members of the Brown University theater community criticized Trinity Rep for racial implications of casting decisions in its production of Oklahoma! as well as recent plays. 

In May, GoLocal reported of the silent protest that took place outside the theater:

Matriculating Brown/Trinity MFA student Adrian Blount was one of the students who spearheaded a silent protest outside the theater on Sunday before a performance of Oklahoma!.

“We want to use our bodies to show our lack of consent of this piece which is charged with racial stereotypes and caricatures and minstrelsy,” Brown told Golocal.  “Trinity Rep has made it I guess a tradition of reproducing these stereotypes in their productions or erasing our bodes -- POC bodies -- people of color. In their To Kill a Mockingbird, the whole concept of race is completely erased -- for black people. But white actors got to play white actors. Black people had to play white people, people they didn't identify with.”

Trinity responded with a statement, which can be found here — but it was resident artist Joe Wilson, Jr., who had been with company for 11 seasons, who stepped in to explain the theater’s choices, and create a greater dialogue surrounding the issues raised. 

Wilson, who has appeared both on-and-off Broadway, took to YouTube to urge theatergoers to take an active role in productions. 

"Having a black actor play that part is a not-so-subtle reminder if it does echo contemporary themes, [that] is the function of theater...to provide us ways for the audience not to sit back but be a participant," said Wilson in the video.

In a time in which conflicts are often played out in Twitter wars and sound bites, Wilson reminded us that civil discourse is not dead. 

 
 

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