Decomposition Instead of Collapse: A Response from Jacob Padrón

Editor’s note: This essay series is by and for the theater community, and hopes to offer regenerative, communal thinking in the face of industry changes. We are providing a brave space for artists and administrators to focus on creating present and future solutions out of, or beyond our past [perceived] failures. This series builds upon Annalisa Dias’ essay Decomposition Instead of Collapse: Dear Theater Leaders Be Like Soil, originally curated and published by Rescripted and Nothing for the Group. To mirror the mycelial intent of this series, we decided to expand our collaboration and partner with 3Views, amplifying this content on multiple platforms. All editing for this series is done on a voluntary basis, and we offer a small honorarium to our writers for their perspectives. We encourage you to support/donate to our platforms so we can continue this important work. Thank you to Stephanie Ybarra, Lauren Halvorsen, and Annalisa Dias for being originating thought partners in this work. [This series is published in a commons with 3Views on Theater, Rescripted and Nothing for the Group, and you can read this content on any of our platforms for maximum amplification.] 

A Response to Annalisa Dias from Jacob Padrón, Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre:

I’m writing to share my deepest gratitude for your recent article in response to the  challenges we’re facing as a theatre community. I’m grateful for your invitation to adopt new “lenses” that allow us to think about this time in our history as one of new  beginnings, new discoveries, and new sunrises. To let go of fear, is to make room for  imagination. I wish more of us could illuminate this collective journey – the transformation of the culture of our organizations – with more questions than answers. When we lead with courage, we create a theatre of possibility, and we make better art. We must keep centering the thing we do best: building worlds, bringing people together, and telling essential stories.  Continue reading “Decomposition Instead of Collapse: A Response from Jacob Padrón”

Editor’s Note

This is a letter from Editor-In-Chief Regina Victor, about Rescripted’s approach to artist testimonials and community amplification, as well as ways to support and write with us. There were a couple of responses to our recently published piece that indicated a missing context regarding the history of how we’ve worked with our community. This piece clarifies some of Rescripted’s publishing practices and has information on how to pitch us. For our newer readers, this is an introduction to our work. 

On Monday, June 12th, the following text was added to our four part series: “Common Traps for the Aspiring Artist: A Testimonial at Trap Door.”

*Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author.* 

*We had thought this was evident from our initial editor’s note, but community feedback made it clear further clarification was needed. After some consultation, we have added this clause. Thank you for calling us in.

The accuracy in the language is very important, and we thank you for making us better at communicating our intent. Clarity is needed, because Rescripted will continue to post testimonials of this nature.  Continue reading “Editor’s Note”

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”

REVOLUTION GLOSSARY: What Is Accountability?

Green Rev Gloss

Rescripted’s Revolution Glossary is our new series where we dive deeper into words which are part of the conversations about justice happening around all of us. The goal of this series is to provide a resource for people who want to expand their vocabulary around social justice topics, or people who want extra context and perspective on their word choices. Our hope is that this series can spark some important discussions, and help people jump into those discussions with enthusiasm.

Accountability is one of those words that pops up everywhere, but which means something slightly different everywhere it’s used. Phrases like government accountability, personal accountability, and community accountability bring to mind completely different concepts, but they’re all drawing on the same idea. They all relate to a person or entity’s responsibility for themselves and others, but also imply a mechanism which assesses and enforces said responsibility.

When organizers in movements for justice talk about accountability, they’re often talking about community accountability. To talk about that we have to take a little detour through the idea of transformative justice. Transformative justice is about challenging dominant ideas about finding justice when someone causes harm. Transformative Justice will eventually have a Revolution Glossary entry of its own, but for now know that transformative justice grew out of feminist movements against racism and violence anti-racist and anti-violence movements. Trom the 60s to the 90s, there was a slow accumulation of new theories about what caused and prevented violence, the relationship between violence and racism, and the role of the state in sanctioning violence. Continue reading “REVOLUTION GLOSSARY: What Is Accountability?”

Victory Gardens Boards Windows Against Black Lives, Arts Community Protests Leadership

If you have not been following the ball of confusion that is Victory Gardens Theater’s leadership transition, let me catch you up:

1) On March 2nd, 2020 over 60 artists sent an open letter to the board asking for a transparent and equitable leadership search which you can read here.

2) On May 5th, 2020 Erica Daniels was appointed Executive Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater internally after serving as the Executive Director.  There was no transparent search, which caused the community to speak up in opposition of her appointment.

3) The Playwrights Ensemble of Victory Gardens Theater resigned in protest in an open letter originally published on Medium that you can read here.

“How can we do our best work when the basic tenets of trust and leadership are not guaranteed? We are calling on artists, audiences and donors to examine closely what happens when an institution like Victory Gardens Theater purposely ignores the mission it made for itself and abuses the very resources it claims to value and support.” – Playwrights Ensemble of Victory Gardens

4) The playwrights of the Ignition New Play Festival resigned in an open letter originally published on Medium you can read here:

“As the 2020 Ignition Festival of New Plays at Victory Gardens approaches, we four emerging playwrights have decided to pull our respective plays from this development opportunity. We demand that leadership in Chicago theaters dispense with hollow gestures of solidarity, hold themselves accountable for past mistakes, and listen to the needs of their community and artists.” – The playwrights of the Ignition Festival.

5) The opposition to her appointment revolves around many factors but that are exacerbated by the following professional concerns: Rumors persist that Daniels facilitates unsafe work spaces in the theater per her tenure teaching classes for Profiles and managing Second City. You can read about her involvement with Profiles in the Chicago Reader, and the exodus of Artists of color at Second City was widely reported on, including by CBS Chicago.

“The classes were held at the theater on Mondays or Tuesdays when there were no performances or rehearsals. But Cox knew that studying at Profiles alone wouldn’t be enough of a draw. So he asked his friend Erica Daniels, then the casting director at Steppenwolf and, therefore, a powerful person in Chicago theater, to help out. Daniels, now president of Second City Theatricals, also occasionally cast shows for Profiles, including the production ofThe Glory of Living directed by the fictitious “Carla Russell.” – Aimee Levitt, “At Profiles Theatre the drama—and abuse—is real” June 8, 2016. 

Currently there is a movement happening called #OpenYourLobby asking theatres to open their doors to protestors, and several Chicago theatres have found their lane in helping aid the current resistance movement. Steppenwolf is doing supply runs, the Goodman is opening its doors to protestors, and there are more efforts underway or in the works by our community.

The #OpenYourLobby initiative is especially relevant for Victory Gardens, outside of which protesters were arrested (photo below, Trigger Warning Police Violence). They could have provided a sanctuary space and facilitated a peaceful interaction with police, but the building was empty. As you can see, their marquis says “art will survive,” not “Black Lives Matter” which it was changed to after the incident.

On June 6, 2020,  upon learning that the institution was boarded up, scenic artists decided to lead an impromptu gathering to write messages on the boards that supported #BlackLivesMatter and the artistic community at large.

Below are original images from the protest, taken by me:

“The air is charged with an indescribable emotion. It is something that this world has not seen for centuries. It’s a combination of pride, fire, fatigue, tenacity, and righteous indignation. It is oozing from our pores, onto the streets, and into the hearts of all. This is for Emmitt. For Sandra. For Rekia. For Martin and Malcolm. Get on board little children. There’s room for many a more.”
– Sydney Charles, Actor / Director / Activist.

“VG was an institution I trusted to care about their community. It was one of the first spaces I worked at and one of the first spaces that thought me about the intersections of art and activism. Their recent actions have demonstrated a shift to the VG that I admired. Their recent decisions around their change in leadership sets a dangerous precedent in the American Theatre. I joined the artists and organizers to show solidarity and to demand that VG show us they care about their artists and they care about black lives. Theatre is and has to be a civic institution.”
– Abhi Shrestha, Steppenwolf Education Associate.

“Someone told me that they wanted to ensure my legacy at Victory Gardens would be honored.

I said that legacy does not live inside of buildings. They live in the people, artists, workers, audiences and communities. And wherever they go, the legacy of stories we told and shared will live on in these wonderful people.

That legacy was alive and well on Lincoln Avenue today.

And that legacy now belongs to these incredible citizen artists who will find another home or homes in Chicago to create and to lead where their voices, their skins, their communities are valued, and are treated equitably.

I stand with them.”
– Chay Yew, former artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater in a public Facebook post.

Celebrating 2019 Chicago Dance: A Community Sourced List

Editor’s Note: Three members of the Chicago dance community, Alyssa Gregory, Erin Kilmurray, and Nora Sharp approached Rescripted with a community-minded approach to celebrating the quality of Chicago’s dance world in 2019. The survey and its results were compiled in an effort by these folks to ensure all of the pieces lifted up by their community could be mentioned. We have so enjoyed embarking on this journey with them and learning more about the dance community by celebrating them. We hope you will too. 

Alyssa, Erin, and Nora: As Best-Of 2019 lists rolled out, we found ourselves reflecting on what kind of work receives recognition, whose voice has a say in selecting such highlights, what those chosen works signify, and through the lens of what platforms. How do these lists impact the broad and varied dance communities that call Chicago home? Honestly, what even is Chicago live dance performance? Continue reading “Celebrating 2019 Chicago Dance: A Community Sourced List”

Chicago Theatre Community Space for Healing, September 28th. CW: Assault

Content Warning: Sexual assault, Abuse, Sexual assault prevention

Members of The Chicago Theatre Community have created space this Saturday for the community to begin the process of healing in the wake of community member Joel Ewing’s arrest for sexual assault.

The space will be held at Victory Gardens’ upstairs Richard Christensen Theater, Saturday Sept 28th from 1-3pm at 2433 N Lincoln Ave.

In the organizers’ words: “This is not a panel or lecture, but an open conversation about how to support and heal our community and those affected. Experienced Sexual Assault Prevention Educators will be there to help guide the discussion if needed.”

The counselors are trained, and they are part of this resource and framework intended to empower and center community members who have been affected and are interested in beginning the healing journey, together.

See the organizers’ post below for more details:

How I Missed The Jeff Awards, or, The Misrepresentation of the Chicago Theatre Community

Did you know the Jeff Awards were last Monday? If so, you’re already doing better than me. When I returned from working on Pipeline at Indiana Repertory Theatre, I said to a few friends I was planning on going to the Jeffs, which I thought was next Monday (today). I then had a quiet night in my home, scrolling through Facebook, reading scripts and hanging out with my cat, when my friend came over. “Hey!” She said, wine and cheese in hand – how any good friend should arrive at your door – “My boyfriend is at the Jeffs so he won’t be home for a while!” At this point, imagine me, going to the sunken place à la Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out. Continue reading “How I Missed The Jeff Awards, or, The Misrepresentation of the Chicago Theatre Community”

The 2018 ALTA Awards: A Night of Celebration for Latinx Artists

Pictured: The core team of organizers for the ALTA Awards being thanked by Isaac Gomez, co-Creative Director of the Awards (the other co-creator Nancy Garcia Loza).

“Just look at this turn-out! And we’re only 15 minutes into the night. Like WE’RE always running late!” – Laura Alcalá Baker, casting director and artistic programs manager at Victory Gardens.  The crowd attending the ALTA awards that evening at Victory Gardens Theater had packed the lobby barely 20 minutes into the cocktail hour! Continue reading “The 2018 ALTA Awards: A Night of Celebration for Latinx Artists”

Steppenwolf Fellows Present: Crafting a Cohort

Steppenwolf’s Fellowship Cohort Presents: Crafting a Cohort
Monday, April 30 at 7pm.

Free Community Event Explores the Question, “How do we, as POC and queer artists create space for ourselves in institutions where we are often ‘the only one’?”

CHICAGO (April 24, 2018) –Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 2017/18 Multicultural Fellows are proud to present Crafting a Cohort, a free event that aims to unite people of color and members of the queer community (POC/Queer Folx) in various levels of theatre career tracks by providing a space for discussion and connection. This event is curated by the 2017/18 Steppenwolf Multicultural Fellows cohort. The Steppenwolf Professional Leadership Program Fellowship is for early-career people of color working in various theatre disciplines and provides paid professional development opportunities both in and out of Steppenwolf Theatre. Jackie Taylor, Executive Artistic Director of Black Ensemble Theatre, will deliver the keynote address. This event takes place on Monday, April 30th from 7-9pm at the Merle Reskin Garage (1624 N. Halsted St.). Admission is free and snacks and drinks will be provided. RSVP by clicking here. Continue reading “Steppenwolf Fellows Present: Crafting a Cohort”