UA Department of Theatre and Dance adds diversity statements to plays

Corrie Wilson, Contributing Writer

The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance is adding diversity statements to its 2021-22 season lineup to increase inclusivity, engage the community and promote important discussions in an entertaining way.  

The diversity statements address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion found in each play and encourage patrons to contemplate these issues before setting foot in the theater. 

For some plays, these issues are central to the plot. Others are subtle. 

The musical “Legally Blonde” is more than entertainment, and the diversity statement found on the department’s website reflects these issues.

“‘Legally Blonde’ has a pressing relevance in today’s society as women increasingly step into the spotlight and speak up for their equal rights and power,” the statement said. “The musical creates a message that goes beyond promoting mere tolerance of different ideas and perspectives. It seeks out the merit in diversity so that the entire community can benefit from it.”

The play “Pippin” addresses the ways in which a broken education system disproportionately affects students of color. Pippin’s story is narrated by the Leading Player, a character that is traditionally played by an artist of color. 

“This is important; through The Leading Player’s narration we see them and their inclusive troupe of players shedding light on the privileges that bring Pippin to a state of constant conflict,” the statement said. “Given that his privileges and carte blanche status in the world could be likened to that celebrity or politician, Pippin has the power to experience all the temporary ‘highs’ that life offers: triumph in battle and politics; beautiful human beings that shower Pippin with attention, and the like.”

Both “Pippin” and “Legally Blonde” serve to educate the community through theater, and their diversity statements provide context on the theater department’s goals.

Dominic Yeager, the associate chair of the theater department and head of arts management, said the key goals of the diversity statement initiative are to serve the students and the community by creating a transparent casting environment that focuses on diversity.

G. Christine Taylor, vice president and associate provost for the UA Division of DEI, said the diversity statements this theater season provide great prompts for people to think, experience and reflect on the theatrical performance in a multidimensional way.

“Diversity, or in this case difference, is always around each of us; however, we may not always be attuned to it. This is the power of the arts,” Taylor said. “These performances with the diversity statements reflect the arts’ tremendous ability to engage us in a deeper way with diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

Whether in classrooms or student organizations, the UA Department of Theatre and Dance is advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The season kicks off with the play “Pipeline” on Monday, Sept. 20, so make sure to grab some friends and enjoy a fantastic night of entertainment and education.