First published in Broadway Way World. April 13.
Art has a long history of advocacy. From the use of theater as protest and activism in Ancient Greece to the gurella street art of Banksy in the modern day, creatives have always been fighting for change. It should come as no surprise then that the recent political maneuverings by politicians in states like Georgia and North Carolina towards discrimination have been met with force and protest by the theatre, music, film, and even dance industries.
In what may be one of the most stirring showings of artistic solidarity of our time, all of the arts banded together to stand up to a political machine bent on keeping us segregated, fearful, and focused on how we differ. It evokes the imagery of Picasso’s brush strokes as he furiously laid out his work Guernica in protest of the war, or of Aristophanes taking on the Athenian government as he penned down what would become the opinion-shaping satire Lysistrata. It calls to mind the works of the Black List and The Hollywood Ten’s Dalton Trumbo as he wrote the screenplay for Spartacus in secret, standing up to the oppressive tactics of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the attempts during WWII by the US Government to say what we could and could not believe. This past month, the community of artists stood against discriminatory laws and prejudice-driven politics… and won.
As countless artists produced their works in protest, or threatened to take their work and revenues elsewhere, the backbone of House Bill 757 – the Religious Liberties Bill – was broken to the sound of countless cheers, and Governor Nathan Deal’s good conscience.
Matthew Terrell, Communications Director at Dad's Garage said, "HB 757 or other "Religious Freedom" bills will inadvertently harm many of our fellow theatre companies in town, as well as the performers who grace the Dad's Garage stage. This type of unnecessary and problematic legislation will stain Georgia's reputation and could hurt the chances of getting Broadway shows and other touring acts to come to our state. We are also concerned how this type of legislation could affect the careers of many of our performers at Dad's Garage. Several of the folks you see on our stage are also cast in movies and television shows that shoot in our state. If religious freedom legislation like HB 757 were to pass in Georgia, they would very likely lose a major source of income from productions that would move out of our state”
Former New York City Ballet dancer, Clinton Global Initiative Associate said,” As an artist it is very important to feel that you can be yourself, and as an American you take that freedom seriously. You should not have to fear that it would be legal to be discriminated against for any reason, in any part of the country. You should not feel that you can't be in a part of the country safely if invited to share your art. "
On April 4th, 2016 Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill that would let businesses fire, refuse to hire, and refuse to conduct business with people based on their sexual orientation or identity. Georgia politicians tried to make the modern equivalent of Jim Crow law against the LGBTQ community, and artists protested as Hollywood studios promised to remove all business and revenue from the sate if the bill was passed. Even major sports groups like the NFL and MLB voiced their protest.
To any and all who believe that your art is a waste of time – to those who are told you’re “just” dancing or “just” acting – remember today. Remember when the arts led a movement against prejudice and affected change in defense of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community. Remember that YOUR ART MATTERS! And remember that the fight is not through yet. Other states are still trying to enact unjust laws such as House Bill 757 and there will always be those who try to divide us due to their fears and hatreds… let us hope that there will also always be artists – musicians, dancers, painters, actors, film makers – who will remind us of how we come together, and that you can draw a line in the sand, stand up to injustice even injustice from the governmental halls that run our country, and refuse to yield. We are artists. We are the voice of our culture, and the voice for the voiceless. You can hear the echo of those who came before in the stands we take and the works we make. We are artists and we will not yield the stage!