Indie theatres seek diversity

by | Mar 20, 2015 | A&E

Samantha Juric

Mirvish, Stratford, Shaw and CanStage are some of the heavyweights in the ring that make up the southern Ontario theatre scene.

On the other side of the ring are smaller, indie theatre companies such as Aluna, Buddies in Bad Times and Obsidian, fighting to keep their chin up.

And some of those from the smaller troupes believe race, privilege and power give the bigger companies the advantage.

Former actor and founder of Alameda Theatre Company, Marilo Nunez is an advocate for cultural diversity in the performing arts. Nunez wanted to create a haven of diversity for actors in order to combat the cultural uniformity of mainstream theatre.

After recently having to shut down Alameda Theatre Company, Nunez doesn’t hold back on her thoughts on the representation of culture and race in theatre, or what she says is the lack of it.

“It’s not an equal playing field. There are too many white art directors and there is still a lot of inequality on the stage,” said Nunez.

Alameda Theatre Company was born as a reaction to an all-white cast of the production Refugee, which centered on the experiences of Chilean refugees.

Along with Nunez in the big fight against the bigger companies is Humber alumnus Joseph Recinos, 27, who graduated from the Theatre program in 2011.

In a recent opinion piece in Now magazine, Recinos voiced his outrage at the current affairs of the theatre scene in Toronto.

After touring the U.S and being involved in local projects in Toronto, Recinos said that audience turnouts are declining and the theatre community attributes it to a lack of diversity.

Recinos said changes need to be made but it can only happen with the strength of community.

Another supporter for cultural diversity in theatre is Humber alumnus Sebastian Marziali, 25.

Marziali said being a Latin-Canadian is what drives much of his art.

“Most of my work stems from what coming from two places means for identity, which is a very Torontonian experience,” he said.

Marziali emphasizes dealing with two different cultures is important and that theatre productions that are culturally diverse show what people have in common like shared histories and stories.

Nunez said funding is a major issue for smaller companies that do try to diversify the theatre landscape of Toronto. As a result they are run by one or two people and tend to burn out quickly.

Nunez said the situation is not hopeless and agrees with Recinos that it does take a community effort of artists committed to creating work to win the fight.

When asked about her push for culturally specific theatre companies (seemingly in conflict with her issue of lack of diversity in theatre) Nunez stands her ground.

She said culturally specific companies help fight for community.

“Race shouldn’t be a concern but we haven’t reached a place where race doesn’t matter.”