Hank Kimmel is a founding member and board president of Working Title Playwrights. He’s also board president for the Alliance for Jewish Theatre and a is a published and produced playwright. Kimmel manages a small real estate company and works as a mediator, primarily through the court systems of Fulton and DeKalb counties. He graduated from Brown University, the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Emory School of Law.
I feel presumptuous addressing issues about race. Mainly because I believe what I do will be a lot more meaningful than whatever I might write or say, especially since we’re barely at the starting line for addressing such issues. As a statement, I believe it’s hard to improve on what Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: “Racism is man’s greatest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for the minimum of reason.” Nevertheless, I do see value in speaking up to acknowledge the racial wounds that are much deeper than I ever suspected.
I see a tremendous opportunity to build community through theater, understanding that empathy comes from hearing each other’s stories. It is now especially important to hear those stories that have gone unsaid. Of course, I realize, more practically, that if I’m there for others in crisis, it’s more likely they’ll be there for me. It’s a credo we reinforce at Working Title Playwrights, where we aim to serve as a united artistic home to more than 200 theater artists of various backgrounds.
As for the Atlanta theater and funding communities, I’ve often been struck by the lack of courtesy exhibited to those with less stature. The hierarchical, top-down leadership structure often leads to displacement (or worse) for those who should be our next generation of leaders. In a city with a large BIPOC population, it also strikes me as bad business not to be more inclusive.
I am optimistic about the future. As a mediator, I’m professionally trained not to assign fault or blame but to take a situation and help parties navigate toward a more workable future. That’s why I’m proud to be affiliated with Working Title Playwrights, the Alliance for Jewish Theatre and the Hebrew Benevolent Temple (The Temple) — three organizations that, to me, demonstrate that words are the first small step to action. More personally, as I write this, I remind myself of the importance of being a loving collaborator, connector and partner to those committed to healing wounds and building forth from there.
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