Representation vs Diversity: My thoughts.

I was teaching a class today about Women in Musical Theatre.
Today's class focused firstly on the lyricist Lynn Ahrens moving into the work of Jeanine Tesori.
Each week I like to show examples of their artistry and celebrate the wonderful actresses who bring the work to life.

We watched a performance from Ragtime featuring Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell singing "Wheels Of A Dream." I found myself getting quite emotional.
(click the link to watch)

I have watched these videos countless times (musical theatre on youtube is my pass time) and I found something different watching today.
The scene shows a Black couple talking to their baby son. You see their hopes and dreams for the future and the life that they wish for their son. It's a subject matter that is still very much alive for an audience today.

It made me think about representation in the arts amidst this very interesting year.
I want to talk about the differences between Diversity and Representation.
For me, they are 2 different things but they both fight to achieve the same goal.
(All in my very humble opinion)

What is Diversity?
Diversity for me is, WHAT we SEE.
Diversity is seeing a diverse range of people that look different.
Does diversity necessarily make for accurate representation?
The answer isn't necessarily yes.

What is Representation?
Representation for me is, HOW we SEE.
I will explain the difference.
For example, people ask me all the time, what does a Jewish person look like?
Whilst I understand Jews are part of a religion not a race, it is an ethnoreligion. 
An ethnoreligion meaning, our ethnicity and culture impacts our way of life. We may not have a distinct "look" because Jewish people are placed all over the world, but we do have characteristics that help us identify. 
This can also be the case for any minority community.

Representation is watching a piece of art and being able to see yourself represented authentically and accurately. WHAT you see is only half the battle.
It can be down to a correct accent, inflections when speaking, movement and interactions with others. To show an incorrect representation damages societies idea of any minority group creating fuel for stereotypes. This can happen no matter what the people on stage or screen look like.

A student asked me about white writers writing about minority stories. 
My answer was, firstly we have to know how important it is that those stories have been written. 
These pieces still provide a chance for people to tell their stories.
 But, MORE importantly, we need to make sure the pool of directors, casting directors, musical directors, choreographers, producers and all other aspects of the creative industry represents the industry it wants to put forward to the public. 
(My Mums Side - My Story)

To have an authentic voice in the room ensures authentic performances.
I don't believe you HAVE to be exactly what the character is. If that was the case, only Jewish actors could be in Fiddler on the Roof, only Caribbean actors could be in Once On This Island and only Vietnamese and Thai actors could be in Miss Saigon.
What about those who are made up of more than 1 ethnicity? Does this mean they cannot provide an accurate representation? Of course not!

(My Dads Side - My Story)

There needs to be more voices in the room that encourage more 3D performances based around research and truth. It is mainly why I believe creating acronyms in which to label people isn't the way forward. It puts everyone who isn't "white" in the same category. 
There are probably about 100 sub categories for every category.

I have a favourite quote from the film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
For me it sums this all up perfectly.

"You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word "milo," which is mean "apple," so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek word "portokali," which mean "orange." 
So, okay? Here tonight, we have an apple and orange. 
We all different, but in the end, we all fruit."

Let's celebrate what makes us different! Be proud of your colour, ethnicity, heritage. It all forms YOUR story!


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