The Wall of Silence, Racism and Sexual Harassment

Years ago, I used to write about theater for a publication. In 2012, I wrote about sexual assaults that took place backstage – one that I experienced and another I witnessed. These were not small matters. After it got published, there was a wall of silence. No one said anything to me. It was as if I spoke into the wind. The lack of support was jarring, and I even tried to contact another journalist who wrote about sexual assault just so I could have someone to speak with. Anyone. Because I was desperate and raw from both writing about it and the total silence around me about what I wrote.

I never want anyone to feel that kind of loneliness again. Which is why I am linking to this story about PlayPenn. It’s a well-respected theater organization, and it has significant problems. There are allegations of racism and sexual harassment. The only reason I found out about it is because I know someone who resigned from the staff in solidarity with those who have come forward. It’s amazing to me how theater folks can lip sync all the right words on social media, but still want other people to do the work. American mainstream nonprofit theater has long been a bastion of white supremacy and patriarchy. And you – who are better connected than I – could make a big difference by speaking out. Beyond the black square. Beyond the lip syncing. 

People in theater love the abstract because the personal is dangerous and messy. But this is where art and change reside. And you will continue to work in a cesspool unless you get off your asses and speak out. Break the wall of silence. For real. No lip syncing.