Haven Chicago Presents ‘The Art of Bowing’ A Muscular and Engaging Ode to Artists

The Art of Bowing by Nathan Alan Davis presented by Haven Chicago is an experimental must-see and galvanizing production for anyone uncertain about their role in the performing arts, whether patron or performer. Directed by Haven’s Artistic Director Ian Damont Martin, The Art of Bowing honors and eviscerates the theatre in equal measure, and left me thinking about my role as an artist, critic, and patron in theatre’s survival.  Continue reading “Haven Chicago Presents ‘The Art of Bowing’ A Muscular and Engaging Ode to Artists”

Part Four: Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre

This is a testimonial piece by Chicago Theatre Community member Robin Minkens, who had a multi-year experience with Trap Door Theatre, a local storefront theatre. This is a personal experience, from a single perspective. These pieces by their nature, and per our mission, are subjective by intention. *Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author.* This is not reporting, but community support. Our aim as always is to amplify those who do not have a platform, and to empower the experience of the artist. 

Editor’s Note:  Robin came to me through Facebook at the end of April because she had seen my own testimonials on social media. Robin had recorded her experience in a draft, and was wondering if her experience had merit, and if it would be beneficial to share it with others. At that time, she did not know that I was an editor, or of the existence of Rescripted. When I had read the entirety of her story, I was appalled. What captured me about Robin’s testimonial is that it is a story many of us have lived through. Emerging into a professional theatre scene with abundant hopes and dreams, only to encounter prejudice, maltreatment, and gaslighting. The commonalities in this piece are harrowing to me, because they require us to accept that the way we have been working is not ethical. The experiences we have endured are not acceptable. This piece is a death by a thousand paper cuts. I encourage you to read it to the end. This is Part One, and you can access Part Two by clicking this link

End of 2021: Revelations 

October, 2021. At this time, Trap Door was to edit their website. They asked for pictures from projects and any reviews from shows that we would like to include on our profile for us to market ourselves. I was reluctant to submit my materials, considering everything I had experienced up to this point. However, I did eventually decide to submit them. I was so proud of what I had accomplished up to that point, even with the odds being stacked against me. I chose my favorite professional photos with reviews from the shows. I sent in my photos and reviews, and the only piece of my materials that made it to my profile on the website was my bio. I did not get a response to my email with my materials. Beata has yet to return from Poland, gone since 2019. This caused me to deeply inquire about communication practices at Trap Door.  Continue reading “Part Four: Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre”

Part Three: Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre

This is a testimonial piece by Chicago Theatre Community member Robin Minkens, who had a multi-year experience with Trap Door Theatre, a local storefront theatre. This is a personal experience, told from a single perspective. These pieces by their nature, and per our mission, are subjective by intention. *Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author.* This is not reporting, but community support. Our aim as always is to amplify those who do not have a platform, and to empower the experience of the artist. 

Editor’s Note:  Robin came to me through Facebook at the end of April because she had seen my own testimonials on social media. Robin had recorded her experience in a draft, and was wondering if her experience had merit, and if it would be beneficial to share it with others. At that time, she did not know that I was an editor, or of the existence of Rescripted. When I had read the entirety of her story, I was appalled. What captured me about Robin’s testimonial is that it is a story many of us have lived through. Emerging into a professional theatre scene with abundant hopes and dreams, only to encounter prejudice, maltreatment, and gaslighting. The commonalities in this piece are harrowing to me, because they require us to accept that the way we have been working is not ethical. The experiences we have endured are not acceptable. This piece is a death by a thousand paper cuts. I encourage you to read it to the end. This is Part Three. Click here to access Part Two, and Part One.

Decomposed EP. 5

December 2020, comes for the first virtual rehearsal of Decomposed with everyone in the cast, and I see and learn that Nicole had cast a few individuals who had not, to my knowledge, ever worked at or auditioned with Trap Door. There was a group of five all working together at someone’s apartment that included Emily, David, Miguel, Maryam and Maryam’s boyfriend (who to my knowledge had never been in a play before). Matty Robinson, his girlfriend, Nicole, and Nicole’s now-fiancé, who was the music director, the same way he was for The White Plague, in their same apartment building. Then there was just myself filming at my apartment, and my main scene partner at her separate apartment. 

I realized that I had seen Matty’s girlfriend on The Quarantine Files episode with Matty –  the company Matty said he was not interested in working with. Again, I understand that perspectives may change when the future of a professional field is uncertain. I was surprised because when I initially saw his girlfriend’s name in the email that went out I had no idea who she was, or that they were together. I learned during rehearsal that she was brought in by Matty, and that they were in a relationship. Continue reading “Part Three: Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre”

Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre

This is a testimonial piece by Chicago Theatre Community member Robin Minkens, who had a multi-year experience with Trap Door Theatre, a local storefront theatre. This is a personal experience, told from a single perspective. These pieces by their nature, and per our mission, are subjective by intention. *Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author. This is not reporting, but community support. Our aim as always is to amplify those who do not have a platform, and to empower the experience of the artist. 

Editor’s Note:  Robin came to me through Facebook at the end of April because she had seen my own testimonials on social media. Robin had recorded her experience in a draft, and was wondering if her experience had merit, and if it would be beneficial to share it with others. At that time, she did not know that I was an editor, or of the existence of Rescripted. When I had read the entirety of her story, I was appalled. What captured me about Robin’s testimonial is that it is a story many of us have lived through. Emerging into a professional theatre scene with abundant hopes and dreams, only to encounter prejudice, maltreatment, and gaslighting. The commonalities in this piece are harrowing to me, because they require us to accept that the way we have been working is not ethical. The experiences we have endured are not acceptable. This piece is a death by a thousand paper cuts. I encourage you to read it to the end. This is Part One, and you can access Part Two by clicking this link. 

This post is to share my experience, from the point of view of a woman of color, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, working at Trap Door Theatre. I have had the privilege of working at a variety of theaters in the Chicagoland area since graduating in 2017. The extra layer of education that comes with applying what you have learned in college is very helpful, but there is no rehearsal for the real world and its surprises. This is an outline of blatant neglect and unprofessionalism, the story of how a theatre company played a game with my trauma and forged an alliance with the person who violated my boundaries. The telling of how a theater company could not have your best interest at heart if it gets in the way of their power, ability to control you, and their egos. These events have taken place over the course of three years. 

I would hear about Trap Door rarely casting people of color, but I figured I had survived a predominantly white conservatory B.F.A theatre program, and a semester in Moscow, Russia. This would be an opportunity to grow in my artistry. After much contemplation, I learned that this is much bigger than myself.  I was very hurt by these circumstances, but what about future aspiring artists moving to Chicago, possibly fresh out of their collegiate career? 

I have been taught to journal my entire life, and after reflecting on my journal entries regarding Trap Door I realized something was very wrong. There has been a theme that Black women are strong and do not experience the same level of pain and trauma as other ethnicities- this is a common misconception black women face in most institutions. This is a warning to people of color, for what I am about to tell you can happen anywhere. 

From my experience, I learned that this company abused their power and my emotional tolerances. My dream with Trap Door turned out to be a nightmare, where I learned what I was willing to tolerate for my artistic passions. I have experienced deliberate gaslighting, assault, sabotage from my peers and leadership, accompanied by poor communication and malicious gossip. Continue reading “Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre”

A Surreal Thrill Ride in ‘Among the Dead’ at Jackalope Theatre

Among the Dead is the story of Ana (played with a grounded pathos by Malia Hu), a young Korean American woman in 1975 who arrives in a hotel room in Seoul with a box of her recently deceased father’s ashes, as well a multitude of questions about her own family history. Upon receiving a gift from the hotel’s mysterious handyman Jesus (yes, that Jesus, played with an easygoing charm by Colin Huerta), time and space begin to fracture around her in a gloriously surreal joyride. Catapulted back into the past as her white American father (a textured and tortured performance from Sam Boeck) and her Korean mother (the incredibly charismatic yet tragic Jin Park) first meet, both stranded in the jungle at the end of World War II, Ana must puzzle through the tumultuous sequence of political, social, and interpersonal factors that led to her own existence.

Hansol Jung’s script does excellent work combining unsettling surreality with hilariously relatable characterization, and Kaiser Ahmed’s direction ratchets up the tension and mystery with ease. The incredible set design from Paloma Locsin is on its face simple and straightforward, consisting of little more than a normal 1970’s hotel room. As the show unfolds, however, interactive elements across the set subvert their functions at key moments, shocking the audience and keeping us on our toes.

The lighting design from Samuel Stephen deserves particular praise for so effectively creating the show’s surreal atmosphere. The contrast between the everyday yellowish-white wash of the hotel room and the vibrant colors, wild moods, and otherworldly emotions of Ana’s time-bending journey couldn’t be more stark.

For all its time-and-space-bending mind-fuckery, however, at the end of the day Among the Dead is telling a deceptively simple story; that of Ana attempting to heal from a trauma that she didn’t even know her father had unjustly passed down to her. At its core, the show is about the catastrophic decisions of one deeply damaged man, their far-reaching consequences, and how to heal from them. The fact that we are shown this story through the lens of a gripping and spooky thrill ride, sprinkled with mind-blowing twists and heartwarming humor, is not just a nice added bonus but a thematic necessity. Uncovering these types of secrets in this cruel and chaotic world, Among the Dead seems to say, is always going to be unnerving, uncomfortable, even horrifying. But the deep satisfaction of the resulting catharsis cannot be argued with – making this show an absolute must-see.

Among the Dead runs at Jackalope Theatre until December 11th.

Rescripted is a community-funded publication, and we are grateful for your support. If you’d like to support arts journalism like this, consider subscribing to our Patreon by clicking this link. 

CAST
San Boeck (Luke)
Malia Hu (Ana)
Colin Huerta (Jesus)
Jin Park (Number Four)

CREATIVE
Hansol Jung (playwright)
Kaiser Ahmed (director)
Monét Felton (associate director)
Paloma Locsin (scenic designer)
Isaac Pineda (costume designer)
Samuel Stephen (lighting designer)
Quinn Chisenhall (master electrician)
Michael Huey (sound designer)
Sheryl Williams (intimacy/fight choreographer)
Catherine Miller (casting director)
Isabelle Cheng (dramaturg)
Anna Brockway (stage manager)
Josh Derby (asst. stage manager)

Photo credit: Joel Maisonet

‘Our Dear Dead Drug Lord’ at Steep Theatre casts a bloody spell of empowerment for young women

Rich with blood sacrifices, teenage angst, and unfiltered punches to the gut, Alexis Scheer’s intimate and formidable Our Dead Dead Drug Lord is the play every 90’s kid lesbian must see this fall. Squeeze (the tenacious Elena Victoria Feliz), Zoom (the eager Lauren Smith), and Pipe (the imposing Isabella Maria Valdes) of The Dead Leader’s club assemble to welcome their newest member, Kit (the daring Isabel Rivera), who may or may not be the secret daughter of their latest subject of study, Pablo Escobar. At first, it seems like the girls’ biggest concern is convincing their private school to reinstate their official club status for their college applications and a disturbing yet familiar teenage lust for toxic men – but under the surface, they are wading through much murkier water.

Sophiyaa Nayar’s moving and tactfully directed production makes excellent use of Steep’s new home. Sydney Lynne’s crafty set design puts the audience inside the club’s scrappy treehouse. Produced in an old church with no lighting grid or rigging yet installed, lighting designer, Eric Watkins aptly illuminates the fort with a combination of string lights, lanterns, and a spooky swinging lightbulb.

As someone who used to have to frequently explain having a dead dad to other kids, most of whom wouldn’t experience a loss of the sort for many more years, I quickly learned that humor was the best way to prevent cloying attempts at empathy. The deep laughter throughout this play, and especially following the line “because my dad died,” was a dynamic display of artistic excellence with credit to both Scheer and Nayar’s comedic timing, which rang exceptionally poignant for me.

While my own admittedly anachronistic high school resume credit of Grief Support Group Co-Facilitator never involved seances or cocaine, the guilt, the shame, and suffering felt by Scheer’s willfully ferocious characters remain profoundly familiar and heartbreaking. I felt a visceral solidarity with the older women in the audience who clutched their friends’ hands for dear life (see here for a detailed content warning and list of mental health resources). And yet, with the most powerful piece of brujéria saved for the very end of the play, I left Steep Theatre more hopeful and empowered than ever.

Our Dear Dead Drug Lord runs at Steep Theatre’s new location, 1044 W Berwyn Ave, until December 10. Masks and proof of vaccination are required for this production.

Rescripted is a community-funded publication, and we are grateful for your support. If you’d like to support arts journalism like this, consider subscribing to our Patreon by clicking this link. 

CAST
Kit – Isabel Rivera
Squeeze – Elena Victoria Feliz
Zoom – Lauren Smith
Pipe – Isabella Maria Valdes
Additional Roles – Liliana Renteria
Additional Roles – Adriel Irizarry

CREATIVE
Director – Sophiyaa Nayar
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus
Scenic Designer – Sydney Lynne
Lighting Designer – Eric Watkins
Associate Lighting Designer – Liz Gomez
Costume Designer – Serena Sandoval
Scenic Collaborator – Shannon Evans
Sound Designer – Matthew Chapman
Props Designer – Lonnae Hickman
Intimacy & Fight Choreographer – Gaby Lobotka
Choreographer – Jenn Freeman
Assistant Costume Designer – Jessica Gowens
Assistant Director & Brujéria Consultant – Daniela Martinez
Dramaturg – Kristin Leahey^
Dialect Coach– Sándor Menéndez
Production Manager – Jennifer Aparicio
Technical Director – Darren Brown
Co-Casting Directors – Lucy Carapetyan & Lisa Troi Thomas                                         Assistant Stage Manager – Lili Bjorklund
Graphic Designer – Stu Kiesow
Photographer – Jeremy Hall
Costume Embroidery – Uncommon Closet

‘Alma’ at American Blues Theatre Interrogates the American Dream

Alma has dreamed about her daughter getting a perfect SAT score since first coming to the United States. On the evening before the big test, Angel reveals that she has other plans. With college around the corner and the 2016 election results looming overhead, Alma and Angel wrestle with an unknown future and the threat of deportation. Playwright Benjamin Benne captures the quotidian tension, dread, and overwhelming concerns that grip households with mixed citizenship status across the country. With heartfelt direction by Ana Velazquez, Alma finds power in the bond between mother and daughter.

Continue reading “‘Alma’ at American Blues Theatre Interrogates the American Dream”

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Lyric Opera Dazzles and Baffles in Equal Measure

I fully knew what I was getting myself into when I sought out a press ticket for Fiddler on the Roof at the Lyric Opera. As a lifelong devotee of the show, with a deep spiritual connection to the material, I suppose it was inevitable that my biases (unavoidable for any critic) would eventually spiral into full-fledged opinions about how I believe Fiddler should be done. And indeed, in a dismaying and ironic twist, it turns out that I am a bit of a “traditionalist” when it comes to Fiddler. When somebody tries to get even a little bit artsy or figurative with it, my inner old fogey inevitably rises to the surface (although to be fair, he’s never that far below), and so this is an important grain of salt to keep in mind as you read.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy this production; far from it. But for every element onstage that left me cackling with glee, there was another that I found utterly and completely baffling. Many of the directorial choices seem utterly disconnected from Fiddler’s themes. The musical is almost 60 years old at this point — and yes, a new production that’s basically just a remount, with no new choices and nothing new to say, isn’t going to cut it these days. However, it feels like the director’s choices to change certain aspects were made without a full comprehension or appreciation of the work’s themes. Fiddler is an incredibly intelligent show, with many crucial little details that all fold together in a complex clockwork of joy and heartbreak. Messing with that clockwork, then, is not a task that should be entered into lightly, and one which can easily be derailed.

Continue reading “‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Lyric Opera Dazzles and Baffles in Equal Measure”

Shattered Globe Serves Up a Satisfying Regional Premiere of ‘Stew’

All the Tucker women are under the same roof again and Mama is making her legendary recipe. Known simply as “The Stew,” this traditional dish is prepared for only the most special occasions. Director Malkia Stampley turns up the heat on this gripping kitchen-sink drama and brings simmering tensions to a rolling boil. Stew by Zora Howard is a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama that depicts the seemingly unbreakable patterns that connect three generations of women.

Continue reading “Shattered Globe Serves Up a Satisfying Regional Premiere of ‘Stew’”