The JUBILEE

“[W]hat we really want is people from all backgrounds telling the story of the world,” – Lisa Kron, speaking at the 2015 TCG annual conference

In 2015, a group of people from across the country started getting on the phone once a month to brainstorm ways to address parity in the U.S. theatre. They had a vision: creating a pledge for companies nationwide, that commits them to produce a season (2020/2021) of traditional marginalized artists The vision was shared via a post on HowlRound.

I signed up immediately.

There were semi-regular planning meetings of “The Committee of the JUBILEE,” which were open to anyone who wanted to get involved. Meetings were often chaotic and usually fun; not everyone was in agreement. But we unified around the that theatre in the United States can do better.

Fast-forward to late 2016, when HowlRound put out a challenge: Propose a convening that would “make a better theatre and a better world.” Along with Kirk Lynn and Aditi Brennan Kapil, I applied, proposing the first ever live and in-person meeting of the JUBILEE. We were one of four applications to be accepted. And the rest… is JUBILEE history.

Since our HowlRound-sponsored gathering in December 2017, the JUBILEE vision evolved and strengthened, allowing for more theatres to participate and everyone to examine how they marginalize someone else’s voice, perspective, or story.

I’m proud to be an executive producer of the JUBILEE.

For more about our history, participants, and to find out how you can get involved: Visit JoinTheJubilee.org.

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What if we did something different?

What if we made a big, sweeping gesture? A spectacle?

What if we had a 50-year-forward conversation about the next generation of theatre making?

What if we took purposeful control, for one year?

What if we agreed that each of our theatres has guiding principles that lead us to feature certain styles and genres of theatre, generated by artists of certain identities?

What if we agreed that these guiding principles were both conscious and unconscious? Determined by us and our institutions–mission driven–and the artistic preferences and values of the colonists of this land?

What if we, for the sake of this moment, agreed this were true?

What if we, without judgement, each examined our theatre’s dominant framework?

What if we, still without judgement, noticed whose voices, perspectives, and stories are typically centered are our own theatre, and whose are on the margin or absent?

Here’s examples of identities that might present in intersecting ways on your theatre’s stages: artists of color, Native American and Indigenous and First Nations artists, women, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists, LGBTQIA2+ artists, Deaf artists, and artists with disabilities.

What if we, the theatre community of the United States of America, did this all together?

What if, nationwide, we the theatre community identified our individual growing edges–the place of unknown and discomfort, where our desires for change engages the full range of our current capacity?

What if we sought to change our own lives by engaging with a broader spectrum of people and narratives?

What if the varied, complex narratives of all people in the U.S. filled the stages of our theatres?

What if we embraced this as joyful responsibility?

What if we positioned this as an opportunity and celebration?

What if this festival was a celebration, a birth year, the first year, year one of fifty?

What if we called it the JUBILEE?

What if we just did it?

What if we just did it, and everyone was invited to participate?

What if we just did it, and everyone was invited to participate, and theatres would simply determine how they were going to express the vision of the JUBILEE for the 2020/2021 on their own terms?

What if we just did it, invited all theatres–professional, community, university, high school–to participate? What if we were unified as a nationwide community? What if each of us examined whose voices, perspectives, and stories we have marginalized within our current dominant framework

What if we just did it, all of us together?

What if our country as it exists now was represented on the stages of U.S. theatres for one year?

What if it made a difference?

What if after 2020/2021 we discovered that giving voices to marginalized communities rejuvenated theatre in the U.S.?

What if after 2020/2021 our growing edges expanded, the current edge became attainable and a new edge emerged?

What if after 2020/2021 our tolerance for status quo decreased and for change increased?

What if after 2020/2021 the stories we stories on our stages reflect the world in which we live and the country in which we inhabit a little bit more every year following?

What if the JUBILEE was an explosive catalyst?

What if the JUBILEE was only a moment?

What if?

We’ll never know if we don’t try. But we do know that what we’re doing right now isn’t working. We all have a current dominant framework. We all have voices, perspectives, and stories are traditionally marginal within that current dominant framework. We all have a growing edge. Now is the time for unity. Now is the time for action. For one year–the 2020/2021 season–we invite everyone to join us.

What if there was a yearlong, nationwide theatre festival featuring work generated by those who have traditionally been excluded–including but not limited to artists of color, Native American and Indigenous and First Nations artists, women, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists, LGBTQIA2+ artists, Deaf artists, and artists with disabilities?  In 2020/2021 there will be.

The JUBILEE invites all theatres to examine whose voices, perspectives, and stories you have marginalized within your current dominant framework. Then for one year–the 2020/2021 season–the JUBILEE invites your theatre to place as many of these stories as possible at the center of your programming–one, some, or even all! Join the JUBILEE.