What a daunting question to start a blog series with. Is it a bit hyperbolic? Sure. But what else would you expect from a theatre person writing their free thoughts on the internet? And even beyond the theatricality, I think it encompasses the feelings I have had as a young, queer, person of color making my way out of college and into the world of professional theater. Before I get to all that though…HI! My name is Alejandro Saucedo, I am a recent graduate of Texas Christian University, and I am an actor/director working in the DFW area. My favorite color is green, my favorite animals are penguins, and I spend most of my free time trying to decide if I should watch Hulu on my laptop or TV. I was born in Fort Worth, TX, and now reside in Haltom City, TX…I think that’s where I’ll stop so I can limit my chances of being doxed.
I was a very lucky kid. My mom never let me worry about anything and I grew up in a school district that knew the arts were intrinsic to producing successful adults (shoutout to BISD and Haltom High School). The most custom-breaking decision that came from this interweaving of support was my allowance to pursue the arts. My family was a composite of first-generation Mexican-Americans and with that came a lot of struggles. My father traveled here from Mexico, only having a brief connection to the states and a middle school education to his name. My mother was the eldest in a family of women and was the first to settle into a standalone way of supporting our family after dropping out of high school to take care of me. The dream was to work. It did not go past that. Though the lines to a “full” academic education came just out of reach, they made do with the connections and opportunities found as the world progressed to accept a new wave of citizens.
The entry point for my parents to support my artistic endeavors was band. That connection was very helpful because bandas played all around me in every familial celebration (quinceañeras, carne asadas, trips back home). I added choir into the mix shortly after. Then, in my freshman year of high school, came theatre. Theatre was the space where I could put who I was on a platform. That platform also brought people who knew the ins and outs of theatrical performance and college admissions. Renee Norris and Harry Parker (love you both) banded together to get me to the next step of my journey, which ended up being TCU. Now I know I jumped pretty quickly through K-12, but that’s only because I had a fantastic time around people who looked like me and shared in the passions I did. There might be a future blog about funding the arts in schools and the connections we need to make to the younger generation in performance. But for now, I will let it live on as the years of my life that jump-started my spirit.
TCU was an experience of learning and finding purpose I hadn’t come close to experiencing before, especially as a first-generation college student. Then the shutdown of the world branded me with a heavier responsibility than I could have ever imagined. Our collegiate space brought someone in to work through the new awareness of how people of color in the department and in the world saw themselves reflected in theatre. Well, more hidden than reflected. Because of those conversations, I found that shadowed part of my creative being and decided to nurse it through supporting other people who felt neglected by the arts community we strived to work in. I became a talking head in season-selection committees, faculty meetings, and classes. Then the emotional work continued into my roles as a TA and director later in my college career.
I felt so empowered in a leadership position at a PWI (predominantly white institution) and hoped to clear a way for more people who looked like me. I wanted people around me to feel they could speak up for themselves without any fear. With a highlighted group of us sampling this and support from faculty in the department, that began to happen. We failed to realize at the time that once the peripheral vision was on for issues that affected us daily, it wasn’t possible to turn off. The only thing that kept most of us from going insane was watching our community triumph through that difference. Having a collective to share in the struggles and knowing that we were never alone recharged the energy we needed to simply exist.
That community dissipated as I made my post-graduate journey. Being estranged from a group with active celebration and support was jarring, especially when I moved into an amplified version of everything I learned to question. Especially going into the professional world as some of the stronger strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion started to fizzle out. All-white cast announcements, leadership position transitions, and season choices surrounded me weekly. Without a direct line of feedback for possible change, the thoughts could only sink in my mind. What would it communicate to the overlooked people of my community if I worked at this theatre? Can I exist as a younger person in this industry when the majority of the people who came before me chose to leave due to lack of support? How can I fix this? In a world where being a full-time artist was hard enough, I now had the weight of future generations and representation dumped on my shoulders. Not because I made any clear decision early on in my artistic journey, but because I was born outside of the cis straight white male point of view. Launched outside of the blank white page that so many actors strive to be.
The only way forward is to succeed anyway. Sounds simple enough, right? Just have to look past the limited number of roles there are for young people…and what parts of yourself you need to tone down to relate to majority-white audiences…and why you now have to add the burden of creating your own work to yourself too. You get the job! Once you’re in the building? Now you reassure yourself that the lack of representation in leadership roles doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome there…and know that how your white friends react when you get an opportunity they don’t isn’t really about you…and that you are still a mirror for society even if the other side of the mirror seated in the audience doesn’t look anything like you. Now start thinking what you could do to bring more people of color to come watch the shows you’re in…and laugh because being mistaken for another brown person is actually kind of funny…and being labeled as a diversity hire shouldn’t crush that spirit you worked so hard to build up…