Pia Wilson is a writer. Her plays have been developed and produced in theaters domestically and abroad. In television, she is developing projects with Sony and ABC Studios and has worked as a writer on National Geographic’s forthcoming Genius: Aretha limited series and BET’s Sacrifice.
Pia’s post was originally published as part of a Los Angeles Times piece edited by Ashley Lee, “40 Black playwrights on the theater industry’s insidious racism”. We are grateful to Pia and to Ashley for allowing us to share the piece with our community.
I was working with a theater’s public relations representative to put together a press release for my show. Upon discussing the themes of the play, she asked me, point blank, “Why would white people care about that?” I’m rarely flabbergasted, but I was on that day. Worse, I was diminished as an artist.
I told her that stories featuring Black people can be universal, and that people of color have been going to all-white shows for decades without anyone questioning if those stories were universal from their points of view. She dutifully wrote down what I said, but none of it wound up in the press release.
White people are so centered in American theater that this woman really thought she had asked a reasonable question. It made me sad when I realized that at least she asked this question to my face, whereas literary managers probably asked themselves this same question whenever they read my work. To really make a change — and to survive —American theater is going to have to put more BIPOC in the decision-making process.