Sideshow Theatre Expands Company Membership, Radically Embodying Chicago’s Cultural Landscape

Sideshow Theatre Company has announced the addition of ten new company members listed below:

Ensemble Members: estrellita beatriz, Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Hanna Kime, Tina Muñoz Pandya and Shariba Rivers.

Artistic Associates: Sam Boeck, Olivia Canaday, Sydney Charles, Micah Figueroa and Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom.

Sideshow Theatre Company’s first recruited cohort under Victor exploded with BIPOC representation. This year’s cohort continues to demonstrate the direction the company is taking under the guidance of Artistic Director Regina Victor and Executive Director Brian Pastor.

Comments Sideshow Artistic Director Regina Victor(they/them), “One of the greatest gifts of being the Artistic Director of Sideshow Theatre Company is the ability to collaborate with the ensemble to cultivate a community that reflects our artists, and our city. This past year we have spent time identifying our values and evaluating our ethics, which lets us be specific about who we are becoming, and who we want on that journey. We are all such huge fans of these artists, fans of their intellect, talent and values. Each of these artists represents the future of Chicago theatre in their own unique way, and I cannot wait for Chicago to get to know them even better through this affiliation.”

You can support Sideshow Theatre Company’s endeavor to diversify the Chicago arts landscape by visiting their website and/or donating to their $21,000 for 2021 campaign.

Bias Alert: Regina Victor is the Editor of Rescripted.org.

Rescripted is a community-funded publication, and we are grateful for your support. If you’d like to support arts criticism like this,  subscribe to our Patreon today! 

Founding Artistic Director of Writers Theatre Michael Halberstam Resigns

The Founding Artistic Director of Writers Theatre, Michael Halberstam announced in a press release today that Halberstam has resigned from his role at the theatre.

“It has been an honor and a joy to lead Writers Theatre for the past 30 years. I am proud of the strong working relationships I have created with some of the field’s finest practitioners. I am grateful for their many years of unparralleled artistry and the work we have created together. I am fortunate in having served one of the finest audiences a theatre could ask for and particularly for having  diversified our stages in the past five years. I am also profoundly grateful to our board of trustees, our superb staff, and the donors and patrons of Writers Theatre,” Halberstam said in his resignation statement on 7/14/2021.

Halberstam’s resignation marks the end of his 30-year artistic leadership career and stewardship of Writers Theatre, including the establishment of their new theatre building in 2016. Halberstam and Writers Theatre leadership state “now is the time to look forward, to create pathways for new voices and stories, and to build for the next 30 years.”

The Board, Halberstam, and the Writers Theatre leadership team, led by Executive Director Kathryn Lipuma, have begun a transition process with the best interests of the theatre, staff, artists, and its patrons at the forefront. Writers Theatre had received complaints about Halberstam’s workplace conduct and allegations of sexual abuse. Similar community concerns had previously voiced by local journalists about Halberstam’s sexual abuse and workplace harm allegations, while local artists have also been vocal on Facebook and Twitter.

The press release states, “the timing of Halberstam’s departure signals Halberstam and Writers Theatre’s desire to preserve the goodwill of the theatre and to continue to ensure a respectful workplace for all.”

A national search will be conducted for a new artistic director. Writers Theatre has appointed their long-time Director of New Work and Dramaturgy, Bobby Kennedy, to be the interim artistic director during the search. Plans for the Writers 2021/2022 season will be announced in late August 2021.

Resignations, and endings, are not always bad things. Sometimes they are necessary for the future to grow and truly be able to take root. The We See You White American Theatre Demands have a section that actually suggests leaders should consider resignation after 20 years. Harm reduction, safety, and securing a future for our artists are beneficial reasons to consider making staffing changes. We at Rescripted are sending our love out to our community as we undergo these leadership changes. Whether they inspire excitement or fear, hold the faith that we are constantly improving on ourselves. Our institutions can handle change, and I know from experience, it’s only going to make us better.

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. 

Continue reading “Your Journalists Are Failing You”

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”

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.

Continue reading “The American Theatre is Not Built for Us”

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. 

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

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!

How the Pandemic is Impacting Theatre Parents Nationwide

ABOVE: Costume designer Valérie Thérèse Bart with her infant during a Zoom meeting. Says Bart, “This was in August back before baby had mastered crawling and pulling himself up to stand. He could sit still for longer periods then.” Photo Credit: Rick N. Ho

A Homecoming Turned Convalescence 

When Chamblee Ferguson caught COVID-19, he’d been performing eight shows a week in the national tour of Broadway’s “Come from Away.” Playing to packed houses in dozens of cities amounted to infinite vectors of exposure. On March 12th the tour was playing his hometown of Dallas and his long time company, the Dallas Theatre Center, was hosting a celebratory reception when news broke of the citywide shutdown. Four days later he was symptomatic.

“I woke up on the 16th feeling, I’m sick, thinking, I hope this isn’t—but, it turned out to be, yeah.” Ferguson’s wife, actor Lynn Blackburn (who happens to be my stepsister), her mother, and their 6 year-old were ill for two weeks with respiratory symptoms Ferguson describes as “comparatively moderate.” Eight months later the couple find themselves unemployed while parenting their first grader full time, one of countless theater families whose lives have been upended by this crisis.

Parenting in theater was challenging before the pandemic. Now, embattled families must endure school closures, a collapsing daycare industry and skyrocketing positivity rates. As our industry reels from a tidal wave of layoffs, furloughs and canceled shows (virtual work notwithstanding), theater parents have the additional stressor of keeping their children healthy, learning, and fed at moment so many have lost, or will soon be losing, their health coverage and a quarter of American families struggle with food insecurity.

Continue reading “How the Pandemic is Impacting Theatre Parents Nationwide”

Ike Holter’s “Put Your House In Order” to be Adapted for The Roustabouts Audio-Thriller

It’s spooky season and Chicago playwright Ike Holter is delivering some delicious horror content via The Roustabouts for your pleasure this Halloween. The Roustabouts have announced the upcoming release of their first Audio-Thriller available for streaming and download. On October 28th, at 8pm, the creative arts ensemble will drop the world-premiere production of Put Your House In Order by Ike Holter to be available from just before Halloween until right before election day, closing at 11:59pm Central on Monday November 2nd. The play will stream for free, and suggested donation is $10 at www.PYHIO.com Continue reading “Ike Holter’s “Put Your House In Order” to be Adapted for The Roustabouts Audio-Thriller”