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”

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”

Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays

Sideshow Theatre Company just announced its 2021 Season, featuring an all-virtual line-up of entertainment. This announcement comes only weeks after the announcement of their new company members. The season kicks-off this month with a one-night-only benefit screening of Sideshow’s 2018 hit You For Me For Youwritten by Mia Chung and directed by Ensemble Member Elly Green. This summer, Sideshow presents a reading of Preston’s Choi’s new play Drive-In at the End of the World, directed by Associate Artistic Director Justin J. Sacramone and created through “The Freshness Initiative,” Sideshow’s new play development program. Throughout the year audiences can also enjoy the Sideshow House Party Series, five virtual readings by some of the company’s favorite playwrights – each followed by an interactive celebration.

Sideshow Artistic Director Regina Victor states: “The Sideshow Ensemble is excited to have cultivated a season full of curiosity and delight to gather the community in these tough times. Looking at the plays we’ve chosen to present, each one in their own way asks the question: Who am I, and who decides that, really? Power dynamics play out across race, class and gender in unconventional ways across our season, and there’s even quite a bit of magic sprinkled in. I’m so grateful, in this moment of leadership transition and COVID-19, to be able to continue to build upon Sideshow’s legacy of presenting and developing some of Chicago’s most memorable and exciting plays. I really have the ensemble’s artistic determination, and the dedication of my Executive Director and board to thank for that.” Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays”

This Is Who I Am Transcends Politics and Makes the Palestinian Identity Personal

“Sorry it’s so late, it’s the only time I could” the son mumbles to his father, on a call at the top of the play.  My heart panged and the guilt bubbled up as I counted the days (weeks?) since I last spoke to my mom in a way that didn’t involve emojis, feeling the tension between my words “I can’t find time” and my fear of their hidden meaning “I can’t find time for you”. In This is Who I Am by Amir Nizar Zuabi, we experience a late night zoom call between an estranged father and son as they struggle to perfect a mother’s recipe from memory. At the same time, they struggle to see and be seen by each other, each hoping for a connection that feels just out of reach. Continue reading “This Is Who I Am Transcends Politics and Makes the Palestinian Identity Personal”

“We See You, White American Theatre” Speaks Out on Anonymity, Colorism and more

We See You White American Theater has grown exponentially since we last covered this dynamic and controversial movement in June.  Their Change.org petition has grown to over 100,000 signatures, and their Instagram has over 20,000 followers.

Who are they? Why are they anonymous?  Look no further for an answer. #WeSeeYouWat has launched a new Medium page. They are using the platform to speak directly to the Black, Indigenous, and POC community, answering the questions we’ve been asking.

In a series entitled “12 Days of Watchmas,” they seem to be revealing both the structure of the organization as well as the experiences of people that are motivating the movement. According to the first post on the  Medium page a new article will drop every day for twelve days.

Think of it as an advent calendar for the people, written for us and by us. Published on our terms. There are MANY voices going into this effort that reflect the multidisciplinary, multigenerational movement we’ve built.” – We See You WAT.

Rescripted firmly believes in letting artists speak for themselves, and so below we have published the entirety of the first essay originally posted on Medium.  You can also follow the movement on Twitter or Instagram.

The Anatomy of Anonymity

When we met, we didn’t know why we were meeting. We were various disgruntled BIPOC theatremakers, all fired up from the unrest in the nation. We saw the testimonies of our colleagues on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. We were boiling over with discontent and we needed release. We didn’t all know each other. We weren’t being selective. It wasn’t a hot club to be a part of. It. Was. Random. When we signed onto an anonymous zoom, we had no idea who else would be on the line. We were gathered by circumstance, and began to have church over our collective fed-upness with the field-wide fuckery. Suddenly, we felt like we HAD to do something together, and allow it to be a catalyst for future action. This was how the original Dear White American Theatre letter was born.

We then all decided to call ten friends to get them to sign the letter if they felt inspired. And ultimately, we wanted to invite our entire field into the cause by creating the change.org petition. And they did. We are the mighty 101,000 and still going.

Since then, we’ve been bombarded with the questions — Who are you? Who is behind We See You? Why are you anonymous?

Then came the accusations: We are a shadow government. We are the BIPOC illuminati. We are cowards. Elitists. Exclusionists. Simply because we refuse to quench the thirst for exposing our rotating leadership. Well let us break down why…

We study history. We have activists among us who have lived through several eras of liberation movements. We have multiple generations of culture workers in our ranks. We know what happens when leaders are identified. They are pacified and movements are destroyed. We know what happened to the Civil Rights Movement. To Chicano Movements. To Black Liberation Movements. To Workers Rights Movements. Leaders have been assassinated. Our field is no different. There are multiple ways to assassinate theatremakers: stifle their voices, exploit their talents, mute their outrage, cancel their productions, bar them from auditions and crews, blacklist them. We are not having it.

Many of us have already suffered personal attacks, been hunted and cornered by White American Theatre leaders, been targeted by the press and threatened with losing our jobs in the middle of an economically stressed season in our industry. We will not allow each other to be silenced or intimidated. We have each others’ backs, and we have the backs of our entire field of anti-racism workers and bullshit-resisters. We are working to put impact and volume behind our colleagues who have stepped out individually to share their experiences of harm.

There were initial impulses among us to step out front and be the face of the cause. But how can any one of us be the face of so many? That’s some ol’ white supremacy nonsense and we are not going to copycat. In fact, ego and glory-seeking are the antithesis of progressive movement organizing. So we theatre makers made a joint decision to resist the desires for recognition and credit that often plagues our industry-wide culture. We decided to receive NO individual credit. We chose service over shine. We chose principles over personalities. We chose to stand together. And we will not be broken.

We know we don’t speak for everybody. That would be ridiculous. And some folks are perfectly fine speaking out for their own causes. Please feel free to keep ‘doing you’.

But if you are feeling expendable and exhausted, we have your backs. If you are working in the highest positions on Broadway, or if you are working in the smallest office in the regions; If you are a student frustrated with your program and feel like you have no allies and advocates, You Do. We are not superheroes or a shadow government. We are vulnerable theatremakers who have given our blood to this field at every level. We want to see it be better and more equitable for you and for all of us. We are your accomplices. And we need you to be ours. We need your amplifying, testifying and co-signing. We need your eyes, ears, and outrage. Not to hide behind you. Not to get in front of you and block you. But to soldier alongside you, in worker solidarity.

If you want to know who we are, look around. We are all over this field. We are its backbone. And we are not playing games. We will continue to push for it to be best, because it is what we all deserve.

Yours in Love and Action,

WSY

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”

WHAT WE DO Interview Series: Lavina Jadhwani

WHAT WE DO is a visual interview series where we briefly talk to Chicago theatre artists about their art — what they do, why they do it, and what their creative process is like, even as it shifts in the midst of a pandemic. We’ve given each artist 8 written questions, as well as 3 prompts for photographs that capture their current headspace. 

Today we’re hearing from Lavina Jadhwani, Chicago-based director, adaptor, and activist. She’s directed for Writers Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Remy Bumppo, the side project, and many others.

SELF-CAPTURE: A selfie, self timer portrait, a baby photo, or just a really awesome picture of yourself that you love.

Continue reading “WHAT WE DO Interview Series: Lavina Jadhwani”

The Challenges and Surprises of Making Theatre on Zoom

In early March, Emma Durbin was midway through writing her capstone project for her playwriting BFA at DePaul University. The workshop of Durbin’s landscape was to be the first time she had worked with a team of professionals on a script of her own. The self-titled “playwright, dramaturg, and amateur sports climber” had been developing landscape for over six-months: drafting proposals, consulting with mentors, researching rock climbing in early-1900’s Scotland — and, of course, writing, rereading, and revising. She was halfway through a full draft when DePaul announced that the university would be switching to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the announcement, Durbin’s workshop was promptly canceled. Canceled and moved to Zoom.

Durbin’s landscape was one of many rehearsals, workshops, and performances that met their untimely end on account of the pandemic. Artists around the country, from community theatre hobbyists to BFA students to Tony-award-winning veterans, have been forced to find new ways to create live theater. More often than not, this has meant producing work over online platforms such as Zoom.

Continue reading “The Challenges and Surprises of Making Theatre on Zoom”