Monday, April 14, 2014

Gentrification, Segregation in art + life

I've recently had the pleasurable agony (?) of stage managing a play for a friend Tyrone Brown-his company Brownbox Productions (a Seattle-based theatre company dedicated to the creation, development, and production of re-imagined Black theatre). It's called The Negro Passion Play--asking the question, "What if Jesus had been born black and in the Jim Crow era Southern US?"

One notable thing about it is the literal suspension of disbelief when it comes to segregation.

We seat the white audience first in house right, and then the black audience separately, second, in house left. Then for the second act, there is an announcement that the audience is allowed to desegregate. The first two nights, nary one or two black souls drifted over from house left to house right. Yet, the white audience quickly moved over to the black side.

I am totally reading into it more than needs to be read into it--but that's what art historian-theorist-pretentious people like me do--it brought to mind this general idea of gentrification, segregation in our city and culture, and 'white' art spaces vs 'black' art spaces--the difference between going to a theatre event in North Seattle vs one in South Seattle--the fact that a friend of mine went to a 'controversial' theatre reading and not a single soul mentioned anything about race, in a primarily white audience in north Seattle (U-district, which really isn't that white, but North vs. South generally moves from mostly white to much nonwhite)--the dynamics are so obvious. When I attend an event at Langston Hughes Cultural Center, I know what or whom to expect; when I attend a non-black event, I know what or whom to expect (generally, white folks).

What happens when Drake crosses over into Lily White Turrell-territory?
What happens when country musicians incorporate rap into their songs?

How do we move beyond these entrenched spaces and places that are race-based, or can we? As a non-black, non-white person, where/do I belong in either of those spaces?

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