Cody Renard Richard, a production stage manager whose credits include Hamilton, Freestyle Love Supreme, and Kinky Boots took to social June 1 to share some of the various ways he has experienced racism while working on Broadway.
“I was standing backstage at Motown the Musical on Broadway wearing my hoodie and a stagehand came up to me and said, ‘Hey Trayvon.’ I started a new gig on Broadway, and one actress decided not to learn my name at first. Instead, she decided it was OK to call me ‘Brown *insert name of the employee I replaced’ for a month, because she thought it was a funny joke. I’ve had my supervisor tell me to deal with a certain situation because I could relate to the issue. ‘You’re Black.’ I’ve constantly heard the never funny joke of ‘Smile, so I can see you’ when standing backstage in the dark doing my job. I’ve listened to countless white peers say, ‘They won’t hire me, Black is in right now—you’re lucky.’ Sadly, I could go on and on with these examples, but I’ll stop there.”
Richard spoke out as Black Lives Matter protests continue to fight for an end to police brutality in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more. His words serve as a calling of their own to the Broadway community, to question the very nature of the word “that suggests inclusion…that suggests we all share common attitudes, interests and goals.”
“It’s time to step up,” he continues. “It’s time to get and BE uncomfortable. Protesting comes in many different forms—you don’t have to be on the streets to do it. But you do have to be honest with yourself and your core values. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family members. Talk to your coworkers. Don’t tell me you don’t know ‘those types of people.’ YOU DO. You absolutely do, you may very well be one of them. Use your voice. Now. Don’t be silent. Speak up. Be anti-racist. Be human. Love us.
“We have to do better. Let’s actually create a ‘community.’ Black lives, voices, talent, hopes, dreams, ideas, and people have always mattered. Stand with us now and forever.”
A few days later, Richard appeared on CNN to further discuss his experiences and his hopes for the industry moving forward. "In my industry, there's a lot of producers and institutions putting out statements to do better...We need to see plans," he said in the June 5 interview (below). We need to see people step up and actually put these plans into place. Our union has to support that. There has to be no tolerance for racism in the workplace, especially in the arts."
In addition to Hamilton, Freestyle Love Supreme, and Kinky Boots, Richard’s stage management credits include Dear Evan Hansen, Paramour, and After Midnight on Broadway, Evita at New York City Center, and NBC’s The Wiz, Hairspray, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Read his full post below. Further down, Richard follows up with a call for accountability to allies.
View this post on Instagram
Community is a word to suggest unity. A word that suggests inclusion. A word that suggests we all share common attitudes, interests and goals. So many things have been said the last couple of days, but I want to speak directly to the Broadway and Theatre “community.” I’ve been very fortunate to live in this NYC bubble for the last 10 years and to be a part of this “community,” but racism is everywhere. If you still don’t see it, let me paint a better picture for you. My entire career I’ve had to prove that I was exceptional just to thrive and get the same job as some of my less than exceptional peers. I’ve had to tone myself and sometimes my blackness down for you to accept me. I’ve had to remove myself from situations, because it made you feel uncomfortable, when in fact I was the one feeling the most out of place. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of walking out of the room when I feel uncomfortable because of you. I’m tired of laughing awkwardly when your racist jokes aren’t funny. I’m tired of having to defend MY skin color, just to make YOU feel better. I’m so tired and I simply won’t stand for it anymore. Here are a just a FEW small examples that have happened to me: *I was standing backstage at Motown the Musical on Broadway wearing my hoodie and a stagehand came up to me and said “Hey Trayvon.” *I started a new gig on Broadway and one actress decided to not learn my name at first. Instead, she decided it was ok to call me “Brown *insert name of the employee I replaced*” for a month, because she thought it was a funny joke. *I’ve had my supervisor tell me to deal with a certain situation because I could relate to the issue. “You’re Black." *I’ve constantly heard the never funny joke of “smile, so I can see you” when standing backstage in the dark doing my job. *I’ve listened to countless white peers say “They won’t hire me, Black is in right now - you’re lucky.” Sadly, I could go on and on with these examples, but I’ll stop there. To my non-black colleagues and friends, please take a strong look at how you move through the world. If you’re not actively anti-racism, then what do you stand for? **CONTINUED IN COMMENTS**