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the prayer of the unintentional racist

Cariboo Magi publicity2

Parnelli Parnes in Cariboo Magi at Pacific Theatre

Lord, help me remember that just because I turned down the wrong street in LA once, does not mean I know what it’s like to be a visible minority. And though I have been racially profiled as an Italian Canadian, the worse assumption about me is that I like to make a scene and apologize for it afterwards.

I have lost one high profile job once because, “you’re a woman and need a man to oversee you” and women make “emotional decisions” and I “distract men in the office, wearing provocative dresses” and I’m a “bitch who whines about equality” and “women shouldn’t be managers, the Bible says”. I do know what it is like to be in a male dominated field. I know what it’s like for male playwrights to joke inappropriately with me that I only got the commission because of affirmative action and I only got a great review because I must have given Colin Thomas a blow job. I do not know what it is like to face blatant sexism like this on top of people disdaining me for the very colour of my skin.

As for my beliefs, I do know what it’s like to have an artistic director ask me to explain my faith to him before I’m allowed to audition. That said, it was easy to get the audition. I do know what it’s like for a director (who was well aware I was a Christian) to give me four books on atheism as “research” for a part that did not require me to research atheism. But I got the part.

I have never had one of my relatives show my photo in their photo album and nervously assure the onlooker than I’m much lighter than I look. That I am only that brown because I had been tanning that summer. When I walk down the street, people meet my gaze. When the guy I date introduces me to his parents, he is always proud.

When I was a child, the first play I saw was the Mikado. It changed the course of my life. I dreamt of one day playing Nanki Poo without a second thought that I may never be able to. In my professional career I have played all sorts of North Americans and Europeans, Brits, several Jews, a Turk, an Egyptian, a Mexican, and a Northern Coastal First Nations Chief, complete with button blanket. Because I am a white woman with dark hair I get film auditions for the normal Mom and the Hispanic/Black/Asian Mom. I have no idea what it is like to see show after show after show and never see a person on stage who looks like me. Only when I toured the Arctic did I perform for an audience that was not at least 80% white. And that was 25 years ago.

Help me, Lord, to remember I cannot relate. Nothing I have experienced is on par with being a visible minority. But help me also remember, I can start to understand. I can listen very closely. I can watch. I can ask questions. I can look at my own body of work and see if I have, in any way, created an opportunity for the rest of the world to speak. When I am on a jury or making casting choices or choosing what to go see as a patron, help me question my choice to defer to what feels “like it speaks to me”, “it’s familiar”, “That could have been my life”.

Help me create with integrity and not offer opportunities to visible minorities just to be cool, just to avoid criticism, just because I am scared of my own ability to defend my choices, just so I can feel like a pious benefactress for the disenfranchised. Help all my efforts be honest. Help all my engagements to be inclusive because it’s the right thing to do, damn it. Because it is what is best for society. Because it is best for the story.

And finally, help me to remember, end of the day, we are all human beings. Part of the magic of theatre is that we can, indeed, write, embody, share, digest, absorb, learn from, be challenged by, be delighted by, have our worlds turned upside down by each other’s stories. Amen.2

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6 comments

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  1. Jenn MacLean Angus

    I love you Lucia.

  2. Jenn MacLean Angus

    Lucia, I love you. So perfectly said.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      I love you too, Jenn! I so look forward to your show. xo

  3. Sandra Vander Schaaf

    Amen and amen.

  4. Lynda Hamer

    Lucia- I so enjoy the complexity of your thoughts. I will be in your workshop next week and very much looking forward to it!

    1. Lucia Frangione

      how wonderful, Lynda! I’m excited about teaching it! see you soon.

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