Letter To A Colleague: Response to the Impact Diversity Initiatives Have Had on White Actors

Colleague: “It’s kind of hard for my type right now (Broadway has finally opened up the diversity, which I think is about time) but that has made things a little slower for me…”

This has been ruminating in my mind since I read it early this morning. I know you don't mean any harm by it so I think it's just something you should consider/think about if you please and if we can honestly continue to be friends. Plus I'm trying to practice being transparent as much as possible, especially with folks that I care about such as my A.R.T. family.

I think it's really problematic when people who are not of color keep bringing up the new diversity that is taking place on Broadway or anywhere else, praising it, while simultaneously implying that in some ways it's holding them back. It may not be what you intended, in fact, I trust that it isn't but in a way it makes it seem as if although progress is good it also comes with a price for you, sacrificing the (no offense) white privilege that you may be used to.  It’s as if to say that if Broadway was not making an effort to be diverse right now, you would be a shoe in for a plethora of roles. It also implies that somehow the acknowledgment of the voices of people of color puts you at a disadvantage. Now you must actually really challenge yourself and give your all to it because people of color are now being looked at to shine and show their gifts and faces too. The world is no longer your oyster.

This business is hard, hands down, so many people want to do it and so many people are gifted, very few get the "big" opportunities that they deserve. I do believe that nothing is coincidental. I hope that in this down time or slow time, even within grad school, you've been able to and are continuing to learn a lot more about yourself, honing in on who you are and what sets you apart from the rest, what is uniquely you from a soul perspective, coupled with your background and experiences. What can you and only you contribute to this industry? I feel like that will be what your calling card is. That will allow your light to shine in any room. I hope that this time has even expanded the possibilities that you see for yourself.

As a black person from the time you’re a kid you’re being told you have to work twice as hard as anybody else to even have a chance at your dreams coming true. As a black gay man, I hardly see my stories being told anywhere on or off Broadway to this day. I don’t say any of this to be like “oh, woe is me”. It’s all made me a lot of a bit stronger and a lot of a bit clearer about what my dreams are and why I want to fulfill them. I have to see the possibility way before anyone else is likely to. I wish the same for you. And I hope that you understand my concerns a little deeper now. I am not the reason why you are not being called in. The limitations in your own mind are.

Best,
Shawn Nabors