Actors propose an action plan against racism in drama schools


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Media captionShaniqua Okwok: “I really felt this weight on my shoulders”

A group of young BAME actors who spoke out against racial discrimination they endured in a large theater school came up with their own course of action.

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London has admitted to being an accomplice of systemic racism.

Today, 240 former students have signed a master plan that they believe could serve as a model for other drama schools.

They say “racism is real in Central and it affects the lives of its students [and] staff “as well as many alumni.

The group was formed after being appalled when the institution released a message in support of the Black Lives Matter last week.

“Constant and regular” racism

Their letter says: “The words and acts of open and overt racism – mainly by staff towards students – took place in a consistent and regular manner without respite or consequence. ”

Big names in theater and television, including Young Vic Kwame Kwei-Armah’s artistic director and writer Russell T Davies, have added their names.

Alumni from other drama schools, including Rada, the Oxford School of Drama, Alra and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, also spoke in recent days after similar messages.

Central’s acting directors said they “are personally committed to making far-reaching, lasting change.”

Slave comments

A former student explained how she was told to agree to play a slave in her career because she “inherited this trauma” and was silenced when she complained.

Others said the school had not taken action against racism on the part of principals and other students; that teachers regularly called black students by wrong names; that they were stereotypical in the roles and comments given to them; and that there was a lack of diversity among the staff and in the rooms they studied.

Anna Crichlow, a 2016 graduate, said she only worked on a play by a black playwright in her second year, and not at all by a three-year-old black British playwright.

“A teacher told me that I would never work the classic way,” she told BBC News. “When I graduated, my first job was in a Pride & Prejudice production. So it’s just not true. ”

She added, “People don’t get the breadth of training that prepares them for this truly diverse industry. They do not receive training that is inclusive for them and their experiences.

“Everyone wants to help the school move forward because there is excellent teaching, but this is hampered because of this systemic problem and the racism rife in the center of the school. “

‘Very stupid’

Another former black student said that Central was not racist, “just very stupid.”

The action plan includes: A system for reporting racism and prejudice and investigating all complaints; more staff training; restructure the curriculum; a more diverse workforce; and more people of color on the board.

“We hope it will be taken in the intent in which it is given,” said Chi-San Howard, who studied leadership and teaching the movement until 2016.

“We are never going to not read Shakespeare. We’re never going to appreciate Pinter’s work. They are brilliant. It’s just that there are also other bright people who deserve to be heard and deserve to be seen. “

“Positive step”

Crichlow added that last week revealed that people from other drama schools had similar experiences.

“These places are historic and we are very fortunate to have them here, but that means they have worked the same way for a very long time,” she said.

“I certainly think that the standard letter we are working on could be applied to many different schools and institutions. All of our hopes are that this is a truly positive step for everyone. ”

The school principal, Professor Gavin Henderson, who was due to retire at the end of his term, advanced his retirement by three weeks to deal with “personal and family matters”.

His acting replacements, Debbie Scully and Professor Ross Brown, said, “We have no way of fully understanding the pain that many people will have endured over the past week and in the past.

“We are committed to forging a transparent course of action, and we will be contacting many who have posted online, as well as meetings with current staff and students.

“We will learn from shared experiences and act accordingly to effect transformational change.”

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