“It’s Time To Step Up”: Black Members of Broadway Community Call Out Racism Behind the Curtain

Broadway Stage Manager Cody Renard Richard

Many posts expressed outrage, sympathy and offers of solidarity, but a troubling pattern also emerged — members of the black community calling out instances of racism in the theater world.

In one of the most widely shared postings, stage manager Cody Renard Richard took to Twitter to send what he called a “love letter to the Broadway and theater community.”

“Racism is everywhere,” he wrote. “As much as we don’t like to talk about it, it’s everywhere, even in our little community of open-minded individuals.”

He went on to outline multiple incidents he has endured, and shared the stories of others.

The incidents include “jokes” made repeatedly, being called “Trayvon” when he wore a hoodie, being asked to handle a situation because “you’re black” and being repeatedly confused with other black actors.

“It’s time to step up,” he wrote.

“It’s time to get and BE uncomfortable. Protesting comes in many different forms — you don’t have to be on the streets to do it. But you do have to be honest with yourself and your core values. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family members. Talk to your co-workers. Don’t tell me you don’t know ‘those types of people.’ YOU DO. You absolutely do, you may very well be one of them. Use your voice. Now. Don’t be silent. Speak up. Be anti-racist. Be human. Love us.”

He implores the theater community to do better.

“Let’s actually create a ‘community.’ Black lives, voices, talent, hopes, dreams, ideas and people have always mattered. Stand with us now and forever.”

The post has been retweeted more than 2,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon, with 5,500 likes.

Richard’s post led to others sharing their experiences.

Actor Mathenee Treco wrote, “hope you don’t think us stage actors don’t go through racism, even in shows like HAMILTON. This is what it’s like.”

Actor Gregory Treco simply added, “All. Of. This.”

Responses to Richard’s tweet also have included “thank you”s and props from some of the Great White Way’s biggest names, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Caissie Levy, Jeremy Jordan, Judy Kuhn, Keala Settle and Kara Lindsey, who wrote “Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry. You have my promise. #blacklivesmatter.” Actor Joshua Henry pointed to the post as “an important read.”

Playwright and lyricist Marc Shaiman wrote, “Devastating. Thank you for this.” When pressed about a previous decision from “Hairspray” creatives to allow all-white productions of the musical, he responded, “It has been corrected. More later (for it’s a long story that doesn’t fit on a tweet!), but I just wanted you to know it has been corrected.”

Actor Aaron J. Albano took industry leaders to task in response to Richard’s tweet.

“This is the most accurate assessment of the ‘progressive’ Bway community I have ever seen. And it has been a VERY disillusioning wknd for all POC who call this community home. Industry leaders, you messed up this wknd. HARD. Ur work to fix this begins now. DO NOT mess up again.”

Playwright and actor Griffin Matthews posted a video on his Facebook page, detailing his experiences in the development of his musical “Witness Uganda,” renamed “Invisible Thread” for its run at Second Stage Theatre. He calls out many “Amy Coopers” in the theater world, calling his video “Dear Amy Cooper: Broadway is Racist.” (Cooper is the white woman who called 911 on Christian Cooper, a black man who asked that she leash her dog in Central Park.)

Watch his viral seven-minute video below:

Others took umbrage at those looking to the black community for answers.

“Please stop asking us what u can do right now. Ur not helpless, ur not dumb, in fact ur very educated & creative folks. Get creative, get passionate about my life. About black lives. It’s that simple. I don’t have the answer for u. But YOU can absolutely find it,” Richard later said.

Adrienne Warren, star of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” points out that a lack of support has been experienced by some for a long time, and previous efforts have been made to try to make headway.

“In 2016, 6 of us got together and founded @BwayAdvocacyCo in response to the Broadway “community’s” lack of presence and support for black LIVES. Since then, this non for profit has grown and continues to do incredible work. Follow for updates and .. Stay Tuned…,” she wrote on Twitter. 

A Monday social media post from “Tina” was signed by producer Tali Perlman and read: “Today we had a truth meeting with the TINA company. Black members of our company who wanted to speak expressed their truth. This was a raw experience for everyone but in this time I believe it is essential to affirm we are a community and that as one community we need to listen, act and create systemic change. I encourage every Broadway company who is able to, to do the same, because it’s an essential start.”

Warren retweeted the message, adding simply “Dear Broadway, After you post, Take the time to listen.”

Many other actors and creatives pointed out the “deafening” silence of others in the Broadway community, and others state that a promise of action isn’t enough.

In an Instagram video with over 100,000 views, actor Christian Dante White says, “Silence is not an option.It’s great that we’re posting, it’s great that we’re sharing things on social media, but it’s time to go beyond that……It’s time for you to have some hard conversations. Being uncomfortable is not an option anymore and it’s not an excuse.”

Some productions and other theater mainstays have pledged a commitment to change.

Nearly every Broadway show has now issued some form of public statement in support of #BlackLivesMatter, most pledging to take additional steps to combat racism and create an inclusive atmosphere.

The Broadway League, Actors’ Equity, the League of Professional Theatre Women and more all have issued statements committing to support and change.

As for Richard, he adds a ray of hope, along with a reminder that words aren’t enough, action and commitment are needed.

“Accountability • Let’s be accountable for what we say. Let our actions match our words. Thank you for the love today, but we need to keep this energy tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Let’s go – we can do this,” he tweeted.

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