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Controversial Decision: White Attendees Banned From Play Inspired by Black Lives Matter

This slideshow examines the controversy surrounding a theatre’s decision to host a performance exclusively for black audience members, excluding white attendees. It explores the arguments for and against the “Black Out” event.

White Theatregoers Urged to Stay Away

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White theatregoers were encouraged not to attend a play about African American history in order to provide a performance “free from the white gaze” for black audience members.

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Theatre Royal Stratford East’s Controversial Announcement

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Theatre Royal Stratford East caused uproar by stating that white people should stay away from a “Black Out” performance of the play Tambo & Bones, highlighting the journey of two African Americans through history.

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“No one is excluded”

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The theatre claimed that no one is excluded from attending the performance, despite the explicit message that white people would not be welcome during the “Black Out” evening.

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Purpose of a “Black Out” Night

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The theatre explained that a “Black Out” night aims to create an environment where all-black-identifying audience members can experience and discuss an event without the influence of the white gaze.

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Criticism from Britain’s First Black Police and Crime Commissioner

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Festus Akinbusoye, Britain’s first black Police and Crime Commissioner, strongly urged the theatre to cancel the “Black Out” event, stating that excluding people based on race sets a poor and dangerous precedent.

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Enrichment Through Shared Cultures and Stories

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Akinbusoye emphasized the importance of sharing and hearing each other’s cultures and stories, believing that the “Black Out” concept contradicts the goal of education and enrichment.

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A Personal Perspective

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Akinbusoye shared his experience of attending diverse theatre performances and expressed that he wouldn’t have attended a “Black Out” performance, even if it featured a majority black cast.

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The Director’s Perspective

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The director of the play, Matthew Xia, defended the need for a white-free evening, stating that it was crucial to create a space that explores the complexity of black performance in relation to the white gaze.

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Embracing the “Black Out” Initiative

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The theatre defended its decision to host a white-free performance, stating that the “Black Out” night aligns with the spirit of congregation, celebration, and healing, and that Tambo & Bones actively explores race.

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Satire and Exploration of Black Identity

Tambo & Bones, the play being performed at Stratford East, is described as a bold satire that delves into race and what it means to be black. The “Black Out” event aims to create a community space for black audiences.

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Broadway Inspiration

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The initiative of “Black Out” nights started on Broadway and has been adopted by several London theatres. The intention is to provide a private and safe space for black theatregoers to engage with productions on race-related issues.

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Support for the Initiative

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The theatre’s decision to hold a white-free performance received support from those who believe in the importance of creating exclusive spaces for black audiences to experience and discuss complex race-related themes.

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The Debate Continues

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The controversy surrounding the “Black Out” performance highlights the ongoing debate about the boundaries and effects of exclusivity in the context of race, art, and storytelling.

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The “Black Out” performance at Theatre Royal Stratford East sparks a heated debate about the exclusion of white audience members from a play about African American history. The controversy raises questions about the intersection of race, representation, and inclusivity in the theatre world.

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