As Debra Ann Byrd begins residency at Stratford-upon-Avon she says ‘colour-blindness’ only possible with closed eyes

The head of a US mixed-race theatre company will never forget the racism she encountered when, as a graduating drama student, she was cast as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. “I was a black woman playing a traditional white role and the rest of the cast were white,” she said. “When the audience came to see the show, some folks were shocked.”

Related: Kwame Kwei-Armah: ‘As a black male you’re told you can’t do this. I’ve tried to go: yes we can’

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