In a meritocracy we’d still complain, but…

A friend of mine posted this recent New York Times article about Trevor Nunn’s production of Pericles for Brooklyn’s Theater For A New Audience.

There’s a lot to like here. I hope I’m still doing theatre in my 70s; I absolutely agree with his aesthetic of concentrating on “the minutiae of human behavior;” directing all of Shakespeare’s plays is a career/bucket list item I could get behind (might be a nice replacement for playing any of the first four reed books for West Side Story); and I was embarrassed-happy when I they mentioned his direction of a “roller skating fantasia” and I had to pause over ‘Xanadu  or Starlight Express?’ (the latter BTW).

Then there’s this bit about how he got started: Avid for theatre from a young age. Great! Cambridge educated, I understand it’s the done thing. Then, “When Mr. Nunn was a few years out of school, Peter Hall, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first artistic director, invited him on as his assistant and then named him his successor.” Ah well, okay. Glad we gave everybody a chance there.

To be fair, ‘invited’ and ‘named’ could mask an actual application process from which Mr. Nunn emerged as the best candidate. I am not criticizing a past and path he cannot change, and I am certainly willing to believe he is talented.  I point out this flattering moment of being hand-picked because it is the positive discrimination that men (mostly white men) have been benefiting from for hundreds of years. It is a habit that anyone who is not a man (probably white) is critical of because it overlooks other types of people of equal or greater merit and denies them their opportunity to grow their career the way Trevor Nunn did.

This issue was at the heart of a discussion on BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show Wednesday about the lack of women nominees for press awards. Well articulated and worth a listen (starts at about 14 minutes). Nepotism might be fine if everyone got to do it. Or if the those with the power to do it were collectively as diverse as the world they inhabit. But until then, how ’bout we take names and pictures off of resumes, CVs and Linked In and make those critical hiring decisions based on experience and being a match with the role?


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