Your Journalists Are Failing You

I am not a journalist nor should you settle for me.  

On April 15th, Lowell Thomas released a statement citing his reasons for his resignation under duress at Steppenwolf and the theatre community shared it across all social media platforms. No major media outlets paid attention. Two weeks later, on Tuesday April 27th, I compiled an article that included large excerpts of artist statements that had been made individually by Lowell Thomas and Isaac Gomez. The only person who amplified it was Chris Jones, who said Rescripted, aka I, was calling for divestment and dissent, a mischaracterization of the piece as a whole. The hot take is that I am apparently, inciting a riot (I am not). We will unpack how dangerous this is to say about a group of people of color another time. 

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Divestment and Dissent – Artists Speak Out on Steppenwolf Theatre

Steppenwolf has had internal complaints about equity from their staff of color for years, which began to accelerate after The Great Leap when Deanna Myers’ complaints of harassment on the job went viral on social media. In the past year they have struggled to retain their staff of color for a variety of reasons, many having to do with inhospitable job environments, under-resourced shows, and pay inequity. Recently, two artists affiliated with the theatre have spoken to their journeys of navigating and negotiating with this institution. This article includes all three statements from these artists including the essay published by Isaac Gomez just today.

It is only fair to present these separate and yet deeply related arguments alongside each other, in order to ask ourselves what our path of engagement or divestment may look like. It is not a short read, but diligence is required of those seeking justice. Lowell Thomas served as Video Content Producer and resigned from the company earlier this month. Here, Thomas states his reasoning in his own words, posted on Instagram April 15th:

Steppenwolf Theatre Company has committed itself to inequity. Time has revealed that the leadership of Anna Shapiro, Brooke Flanagan, and Leelai  Demoz betrays the very people who have helped it maintain its renowned status. It smugly ignores the urgency of the We See You White American Theatre Demands and offers only tepid reflection as a response. It buries claims of harassment, racism, and sexism to avoid accountability and real change. There is no redemption for this kind of leadership. It will continue to exploit its artists and staff under the guise of “grit” while clutching its pearls whenever presented with the harm it has inflicted on others.  Continue reading “Divestment and Dissent – Artists Speak Out on Steppenwolf Theatre”

Abolish The Police

Publishing our planned pieces would have felt out of place this week, as we mourn Daunte Wright, yet another Black citizen killed by police. We also honor Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy killed by police here in Chicago. As the inevitable news and social media cycle starts up yet again, it becomes even more blatantly obvious that the only way to stop this is to disarm, defund, and abolish the police. We have seen again and again that police reform does not work, and is in fact often used as an excuse to funnel more money into already huge police budgets. Abolishing the police will not fix systemic racism, and must include other reforms like abolishing prisons — but it is an important first step. If you want to learn more about these ideas, or want to donate to causes that are pushing for this change, we’ve compiled a short list of resources below.

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police

The “abolish the police” movement, explained by 7 scholars and activists

To All The Black People Killed Before Me

Donate to support Daunte Wright’s family

Donate to the Brave Space Alliance

Donate to My Block, My Hood, My City

REVIEW: Theatre in the Dark Adapts a Tale of Aquatic Hubris with ‘Moby Dick in the Dark’

I went into Moby Dick in the Dark (adapted and directed by Cory Bradberry) mostly oblivious, knowing little about the plot or characters of Moby Dick other than what I’ve absorbed through cultural osmosis. I was very excited, as I’d edited two previous reviews we published about Theatre in the Dark productions — I was intrigued by the company’s approach to all-audio, live Zoom theatre, and wanted to see what the hype was about. I logged into the Zoom waiting room and, according to the company’s recommendation, made myself a hot drink and found a comfortable, dark corner to sit in.

There is something very primal and exciting about a live audio-only classical tale of risk and adventure — and without all the flair of in-person theatre, a stripped-down, barebones approach to a famously overhyped text is an enormously clever idea. The sound design and original music from Nick Montopoli do a lovely job of setting the mood, with some minimalist violins and drums, the evocative and harsh crashing of ocean waves, the textured creaking of wooden ship planks, and the shrieking of seagulls. The adaptation from Cory Bradberry aptly and succinctly condenses the story into something listenable. In its original iteration, the book (I’m told) contains many long, meandering explanations that are only tangentially related to the plot — and here, they are either cut entirely or reduced to a few essential sentences. At only 90 minutes, I can only assume this is a tight adaptation of Herman Melville’s gargantuan classic.

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Mosque4Mosque SCOUT Presentation Sets a New Standard at Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s new play development initiative, SCOUT will present A Virtual Reading of Mosque4Mosque by Omer Abbas Salem on Sunday, March 28th at 2pm CST. This free reading is the culmination of a 30-hour workshop process directed by Arti Ishak.

Mosque4Mosque follows Ibrahim, the average 30-something Queer Arab American Muslim. Normal job, quiet life, easy men. Between dodging reminders of how unmarried he is from his relentlessly caring immigrant mother and helping raise his smart, popular, hijabi cheerleading sister, Ibrahim has always found comfort sinking into the background. But when his mother sees a glimpse of what could be his first real relationship, she feels compelled to take Ibrahim’s future into her own hands by seeking out the perfect man for him to marry. Mosque4Mosque is a comedy about a normal Muslim American family that asks us to wrestle with what we believe normal to be.

“I wrote Mosque4Mosque to reimagine my experience with family, religion, and being queer. I also wanted to create a world in which Arab artists felt proud to exist, because I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt ashamed by what passes for our representation. I can’t thank Steppenwolf enough for the support and opportunity to uplift our voices and begin correcting a wrong in American theater.” – Playwright, Omer Abbas Salem. Continue reading “Mosque4Mosque SCOUT Presentation Sets a New Standard at Steppenwolf”

The American Theatre is Not Built for Us

Theatre can be a world of contradictions. It’s a space, it’s an experience. It’s a service, it’s a product. It’s a community builder, it’s a gentrifier. It’s a means of education, a townhall, it’s just entertainment.  As a writer-director, I’m looking to connect to an audience, engage the local community, express myself and entertain — so how come I measure my success by ticket sales, sold out crowds and glowing reviews? How come my success as an artist can be measured at an end of quarter board meeting? The American Theatre exists under the umbrella of American Capitalism. Its survival has always depended on ticket sales and various forms of investment from the upper class. With the relatively recent advent of the non-profit theatre, we’ve convinced ourselves that the non-profit and the commercial worlds are separate when, ultimately, they abide by the same rules of capitalism. We’ve convinced ourselves that the non-profit is a safe space for the artistic, the creative, the developmental, but the systems in place were never built to support the artist or the financial failure that can come with further exploring the New.

The system was not built for us artists. However, this blanket statement hasn’t always been true. There have been many attempts to democratize the American Theatre, only for artists to be washed ashore by the tidal wave that is capitalism. There were the repertory companies of actors and director/managers that toured the country in the 1800s, and the revelatory Federal Theatre Project of the 1930s. Then, there was the Regional Theatre Movement that modeled itself off of European theatre models in the 60s that largely influenced our administrative models today. Aesthetically, we can trace how we got from one artistic moment to another, but what’s lost on us is the Economic History of the American Theatre and how its affected Artistic Development today.  Right now we live in a moment of the in between. We have a lot of folks, purists, waiting for everything to go back to the status quo without knowing where we came from. On the precipice of societal change, now is the time for artists to look back at history, question our models, examine the possibilities, and imagine a new future.

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Victory Gardens’ Incoming Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin on Leadership and The Road Ahead

Victory Gardens Theater  has found its new Artistic Director in the multi-hyphenate and accomplished producer Ken-Matt Martin (he/him/his). Chicago artists may know him best as the Associate Producer at The Goodman, where he co-created and curated the Future Labs new play development program with Jonathan Green and Quenna Barrett. Regionally, Martin’s resume is just as impressive, beginning with his co-founding of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, IA, a company inspired by the Black Arts Movement. He served as Pyramid’s Executive Director until 2018, and it is there where his aesthetic compatibility to Chicago becomes clear. At Pyramid, Martin directed Ike Holter’s Prowess, and produced Hooded: Or Being Black for Dummies, both shows that ran to great success at Chicago companies. He then put his skills to action to national acclaim as the Producing Director of Williamstown Theatre Festival where he produced the revivals of Raisin in the Sun directed by Robert O’Hara, Ghosts starring Uma Thurman, and numerous other world premieres. 

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Rescripted Launches Patreon, Announces Community Funding Model

Big news: We are launching an official Rescripted Patreon! As of 2021, Rescripted is restructuring financially so that we are funded by you, our community. All of our reviews, essays, and other content are free to access, and our site is ad-free. Our Patreon is a way for you to support us so we can continue advancing our work: giving artists agency in their critical process, and reshaping our field from a place of empathy, justice, and accessibility — as well as paying ourselves and our writers a decent wage.

Some of the perks and benefits we’ll be offering include:

  • The Weekly Digital Roundup, a summary of the most exciting digital theatre happening online curated by our Assistant Editor Aaron Lockman. This is the same list that gets sent to our writers, so you get the scoop at the same time our writers do!
  • Our monthly Patron-only newsletter, featuring exclusive content such as artist profiles, a letter from the Editors, interviews, and behind-the-scenes access.
  • Credit on the Rescripted website as one of our top donors.
  • And at the highest level, exclusive access to the monthly Rescripted Podcast, where Chief Editor Regina Victor and Assistant Editor Aaron Lockman discuss the hottest topics in Chicago theatre.

Thank you so much for your support, both as we move into this new crowd-funded era, and over the last three years. Please go support us on Patreon if you can!

A Straightforward Monologue About Grief: ‘The Catastrophist’ at Marin Theatre Company and Round House Theatre

The Catastrophist, written by Lauren M. Gunderson, is a filmed one-man play about the playwright’s husband Nathan (William DeMeritt). Gunderson’s non-fiction drama introduces us to this epidemiologist who has devoted his entire life to the study of pandemics, also known as the massive cultural event we’re all currently stuck inside. One might then expect The Catastrophist to be a play about science — but it ends up being a play about death, and grief, and how to live with the inherent unpredictability of the world even as you strive to predict it.

Continue reading “A Straightforward Monologue About Grief: ‘The Catastrophist’ at Marin Theatre Company and Round House Theatre”

Sideshow Theatre Presents ‘You For Me For You,’ Mutual-Aid Food Drive

 Sideshow Theatre Company is pleased to launch its 2021 season with a one-night-only benefit screening of its 2018 hit You For Me For You, written by Mia Chung and directed by Ensemble Member Elly Green*. The archival recording of this imaginative production will stream Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 7 pm CST via sideshowtheatre.org, as well as the company’s YouTube and Twitch channels. Tickets (pay-what-you-can) are currently available at sideshowtheatre.org

Sideshow is also partnering with Paramount Catering to offer meal add-ons the night of the benefit. Prices start at $40, including delivery for one person, and meals can be donated to those in need starting at $30. Vegetarian and meat options are available. Sideshow will be providing its own donation of free meals to those in need through Farm, Food, Famlias during the month of March, and the meals patrons donate will be added to this number. Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Presents ‘You For Me For You,’ Mutual-Aid Food Drive”