Colleen Jennings-Roggensack is the ASU Vice President for Cultural Affairs & Executive Director of ASU Gammage.
She said that as a society we are fighting two pandemics, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the pandemic of systemic racism.
With all of the pauses on Broadway caused by COVID-19, people had more time to think, Jennings-Roggensack said.
“We all had time to say, ‘What are we doing about that second pandemic?'” Jennings-Roggensack said. “We took a mirror and looked at ourselves, Broadway, as an industry, and we discovered there was a number of things that we really hadn’t thought through.”
With the extra time, they were able to examine issues and come up with solutions. The Black Theatre United created the New Deal for Broadway, Jennings-Roggensack said.
One of the things they talked about with the New Deal was not committing to a show unless the creative team was diverse, she said. They also discovered that there were not a lot of people of color whose work was being done, and not a lot of people of color running theaters, Jennings-Roggensack said.
“We weren’t just looking behind the curtain, we were looking in front of the curtain as well,” she said.
She said they believe everyone is committed, but simply being committed isn’t enough.
“We have to say ‘how are you committed,’ understand the why, how, and then ‘What will you do to make a difference?'” Jennings-Roggensack said.
She said the unions were at the table for the discussions and were on board.
They examined their fellowship opportunities and looked at what kind of assistants were being brought on board, she said. The Black Theatre Coalition was built to provide opportunities for assistant jobs, which then opens the door for many other jobs, Jennings-Roggensack said.
As for Gammage, they looked inward, making sure were diverse in the back and front of house, Jennings-Roggensack said.