Theatre & Dance Action Plan
A letter from the current Theatre & Dance Department Chair (as of June 22, 2020):
The faculty and staff of the Department of Theatre & Dance realize that the items listed in this Action Plan are only first steps in a process of recognizing, working through, and discarding racist practices and patterns, hegemonies, and power relations in our department. We are well aware that true change will only come through long, hard, and committed work on all of our parts. We also recognize the importance of ongoing and inclusive dialogue, however difficult, in this process going forward. With this in mind, we have identified the following as initial points of development, change, and further discussion.
CENTERING ON HAWAIIAN CULTURE
- We acknowledge the history of settler colonialism in Hawaiʻi which for far too long has replaced the indigenous Hawaiian culture with the respective cultures of the settler colonialists (of European, North American, Chinese, Japanese, etc. descent). Our department was founded in the 1960s by white scholars and professionals with expertise in areas they identified as Western and Asian theatre, completely ignoring the theatre of Hawaiʻi and Oceania. Those divisions and omissions have been perpetuated in our current structures and ways of thinking, necessitating rethinking and restructuring.
- In addition to the discussion on settler colonialism and the illegal occupation of Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina by the United States, we must acknowledge all of the Native Hawaiian families that were evicted and displaced from the land we now know of as the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, which sits on stolen lands. Starting this fall, we will begin the practice of Hawaiian land/culture acknowledgements for all of our productions and public events.
- We will develop and propose a new PhD track in Hawaiian and Indigenous Performance.
- We will endeavor to serve our community better by staging more hana keaka productions as well as plays by Hawaiʻi dramatists.
DIVERSIFYING OUR DEPARTMENT BEYOND A WESTERN FOCUS
- Our full-time faculty was almost exclusively white until quite recently. However, many welcome changes have come with the hire of Hailiʻōpua Baker and the creation of a Hawaiian-medium theatre program in fall 2012. Since then we have also hired Peiling Kao in the Dance Program and Peng Xu in the Chinese theatre area. Our most recent hire, Lorenzo Perillo, an expert on Filipino Hip Hop, Asian American Studies, and Critical Race Theory, will start on August 1 in the Dance Program.
- We will implement changes at various levels of our department, starting with a re-examination of our terminology. As a first step, we are discontinuing our use of the term “Western Theatre program,” and Dr. O’Malley has already resigned her position as Director of Western Theatre.
- We are reevaluating the requirements for our undergrad and graduate curricula in all areas of study. This includes but is not limited to acting, directing, dance, TYA, playwriting, and design, as well as theatre history, theatre theory, and performance studies. We will restructure so as to be more accepting of a wider range of coursework to fulfill current core requirements, and will work to offer a range of styles and traditions beyond what is currently required.
- We will work to collect, disseminate, and assign more materials by and for people of color for use in all of our classes. We will also work to diversify other existing courses with regard to reading assignments, assigned roles, discussion topics, and methodologies/techniques, etc. Adjustments are already being made for the upcoming fall semester.
- Since the term “Asia” is as problematic as “the West,” we will more specifically acknowledge and include various regional, linguistic, and artistic traditions of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.
- Dance faculty will work on curricular changes to address the disparity in crediting between Asian dance forms, Pacific dance forms, Ballet, and Contemporary Dance. The Dance Program also plans to develop undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on race, ethnicity, and culture as expressed in dance.
INVITING ARTISTS, SCHOLARS AND STUDENTS OF COLOR INTO OUR DEPARTMENT
- We will use our guest artist/scholar funds to invite more diverse T&D artists and scholars for future classes, workshops, productions, and public lectures. We will also use those funds to invite T&D alumnx of color living in Hawaiʻi as guest artists and lecturers. We would like to invite students to participate in the committees that identify and invite potential guest artists and scholars.
- We will seek faculty of color to serve as T&D Cooperative Graduate Faculty or Affiliate Graduate Faculty. The department has approved and is currently processing the nomination of Sai Bhatawadekar as a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member in Theatre.
- We will intensify our efforts to attract a more diverse student body by exploring the use of scholarships to recruit Native Hawaiian students on neighbor islands and from the Hawaiian diaspora. We will also recruit more students of color both here in Hawaiʻi and at conferences and festivals on the continent.
WORKING FOR INCLUSIVENESS
- We will work to become a more unified department and to better integrate T&D by expanding the courses we offer as well as their content, and by making courses available to both T&D students.
- We will also revise our season selection process so that in future seasons it (1) takes into account student voices, (2) promotes diversity and relevance, (3) serves the needs of all of our undergrad and grad students, and (4) contributes to and reflects our community.
- As the faculty and staff of the Department of Theatre & Dance, we will work to become better listeners as well as speakers to make sure that all voices are heard among and within our various communities and the agency of individuals and groups is recognized.
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