Letters to the Editor: I am a Black feminist playwright. White theater owners need to stop shutting us out

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A view of the Music Center plaza shows a fountain and tables in the foreground, with the Mark Taper Forum as backdrop
The Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles is operated by the Center Theatre Group. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As an older Black feminist playwright and director, I related to Sarah Schulman's incisive op-ed article on how racism, sexism and ageism inform the politics of contemporary theater production. I have also submitted work to "progressive" theater companies such as the Center Theatre Group and heard nothing but crickets.

In 2018, after receiving rejections from companies across the nation, I self-produced my play, "White Nights, Black Paradise," on Black women and the 1978 Jonestown, Guyana, massacre. The play features a large cast of multigenerational Black queer, trans, and 40-plus-year-old women protagonists in complex roles.

Despite packing in enthusiastic, culturally diverse audiences, it was ripped apart by a white male critic for not centering the white Rev. Jim Jones. After our short but successful run, the theater where I staged the play filed for bankruptcy, and I lost thousands of dollars in ticket sales.

As Schulman notes, "Nothing can give my generation back what was taken from us: opportunity, development, experience, influence, income and growth." This generational theft has stunted the careers of so many women of color artists who have been shut out of the white theater regime.

Sikivu Hutchinson, Los Angeles

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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