AGMAzine Spotlight: Whitney McAnally on the Power of Inclusive Language

Published March 21, 2022   |  By Musical Artists  |  Post in All Areas

In the Fall 2021 issue of AGMAzine, Production Stage Manager Whitney McAnally penned a short essay on why representation matters in the Performing Arts, and the power of inclusive phrases and word choices. McAnally joined the LA Opera staging staff in the fall of 2012 and became Production Stage Manager in 2019. Throughout her career, she has worked across the nation at AGMA and regional Equity theater houses. She spends her summers at Santa Fe Opera and is proud to be a member of AGMA for over 20 years. We are happy to share her piece once more as part of our AGMAzine Spotlight Series.

“Representation matters.” These are not new words and these days we are all navigating the best way to be as inclusive as possible in our daily lives. How do we do this? It seems so simple and yet, there are so many small habits we all have that need adjusting.

The most obvious in the opera house is the use of “Ladies and Gentlemen” but extends to paging the Chorus or Supers and even Principal Artists. It is often up to the staging staff, especially the Stage Managers, to set the tone in the room and onstage. This summer at Santa Fe Opera, at the encouragement of the Production Stage Manager (PSM), Hester Warren-Steijn, we began using full names for Principal Artists and vocal types to address the Chorus. While it’s certainly more to say, I’ve found that it feels like the right direction to go in. Once I returned to my home gig at Los Angeles Opera, I realized I wanted to make the same transition here and several of my other colleagues at LAO were already doing the same. As PSM, I’ve asked the rest of the staging staff to make these adjustments as well.

The shift has been easy and one that, hopefully, allows for additional conversations to take place, conversations that I feel are incredibly important. My hope is this one gesture makes each of the performers feel seen, feel included, and feel open to say how they identify so we can support them in a way that enables each person to do their best work.