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Pivot, step ... what next?

By EMILY MCGILL

Growing up in dancing school, any time we needed to quickly and easily change directions during our routines, you bet a “pivot, step” was thrown into that choreography to help a bunch of rambunctious, privileged white kids get to wherever their teacher told them to go for the next formation. It’s something that I’ll do to this day when I’m walking down the street and need to turn around, complete with hearing the words in my head. “Pivot, step.” And it feels like nowadays nothing and everything has changed – that teacher is now the universe, and the kids are humanity.


Photograph: Danielle Cerullo

At the top of the year, I wrote about my 2020 vision for this magazine – no-thingness. The idea was to replace the numbing that I felt I needed to survive the ever-demanding energy of New York with a quiet, empty space that allows for endless capacity to create. Little did I know that Ms Rona was sitting straight ahead waiting for so many of us to take a collective breath. (Pivot.) We suddenly had space, time no longer existed, and the senseless distractions of our invented “busy" lives vanished. (Step.) And then another man couldn’t breathe, and the world changed yet again. (Pivot.)

"As a white lady who has prided herself on the representation across many facets of her life, it saddens me that it took the murder of George Floyd for me to stand up and take REAL action."

With the state of universal affairs, it is safe to say that transformation is the only way forward. What has worked for very few for a long time is being questioned and challenged, and rightfully so. As a white lady who has prided herself on the representation across many facets of her life, it saddens me that it took the murder of George Floyd for me to stand up and take REAL action. After initially lashing out at people in my community, the theater industry, a wise friend told me that I’d picked up a sledgehammer for a scalpel job. In that instant, I recognized that my tactics needed to be fine-tuned. No one likes to hear that they’re racist.


Quickly, an increasing number of stories began popping up from our sisters and brothers of color about their experiences of racism in the workplace. Posts and reposts, a new chorus of voices were speaking out, but the theater media was not reporting on them. As a recovering Broadway publicist, I’ve long seen people I love treated poorly by our industry, be it racism, sexism (or insert the -ism that suits), incredibly talented artists and managers have been burned by those with so much privilege they can’t begin to see it. And I’d finally had enough, so I did something about it.


The a-ha moment came when seeing a friend of a friend offering up pro bono services for anyone who was doing work that supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Immediately, I knew that if artists had access to a template and sample press release to write about their project themselves, I could easily help them with formatting while keeping their voice intact. Then it was simply a mail merge away to share it with my pretty large list of theater, arts, and entertainment journalists and make direct introductions for anyone who was interested in covering the story – a straightforward way to amplify unheard voices, which I’ve come to learn, is my calling.


"When you discover your purpose, it feels like the most obvious thing in the world."

We’ve seen the latest news, Broadway is now refunding tickets through the top of 2021. Personally, I don’t think any of us will be sitting in a Broadway theater before the fall of 2021 (please, Universe, let me be wrong about that). With the future of my beloved industry completely unknown, it is impossible to plan for anything. Except how to make a difference.


When you discover your purpose, it feels like the most obvious thing in the world. I always thought that I’d be working in the theater industry for the rest of my life, and maybe I will. But once the realization hit that amplifying others’ voices is why I’m on the planet at this moment, the last several months of quarantine, six years of therapy and spiritual exploration, nearly a decade and a half in the New York theater community, and 35 years of my life finally made sense.


To think that it took yet another Black man being murdered for me to understand that is heartbreaking. But not as heartbreaking as growing up without your dad because he was murdered for the color of his skin.


ABOUT EMILY

Emily McGill is a recovering Broadway publicist who is passionate about cultivating community and connection through memorable experiences. She’s the founder of Emily McGill Entertainment, The Pink Tank, and a cofounder of S.N.O.B. (Sunday Night On Broadway). Obviously, those are all online these days. Lately, she’s been living her best life amplifying unheard voices, playing with her plants, and doing tarot readings.


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