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.
Why do we post testimonials?
There is presently no system to hear directly from artists about their experiences, good or bad, besides individual posts to Medium shared on Facebook. On May 22, 2020, I shared the Playwrights Ensemble Mass Resignation from Victory Gardens in full, because I did not want to paraphrase the very important points this group of incredible writers was making. When I realized no other outlet had included the text of the statement, but instead were offering their takes on why the Playwrights were resigning, I reached out to a fellow theatre editor at a paper. They told me papers will typically take quotes, or link to the piece in full, but they won’t include large quotes. This is in part due to word count, and also because it’s considered “lazy” reporting to allow your subject to speak for themselves without including your own take.
This last part stood out to me. When I had been interviewed by a paper for a controversy, that paper also interviewed the openly racist and now-closed institution without telling us. This proper journalistic practice was extremely invalidating and stressful as a victim. I decided then and there, Rescripted would be the one place artists would be permitted to speak for themselves without worrying about giving their abuser a platform. Since all of our writers are already practicing artists themselves, it just makes sense. We have published several stories like this throughout the years, and as a result have started many necessary conversations. Occasionally, newspapers pick up on these conversations and use their resources to investigate, which has been generally beneficial to the community.
Where can artists be heard?
The value of a safe space to be heard became essential to me when I did not have access to it. Last summer, I needed to publish a testimonial about my abusive ex-partner and collaborator, Wardell Julius Clark. I knew what I had written was true, corroborated as much as possible in a short amount of time with peers, but there was no time to do a proper investigation and it frankly would have been unsafe to do so at that time. I felt I could not publish it on Rescripted, because I had been so gaslit at the time by him and his former friends, by societal ideas of “what’s appropriate,” and about the seriousness of his behavior, I did not know if that was responsible.
My heart hurts for my former self and the 18+ people who spoke out after me. I had the power of amplification in their laptop, and did not believe I deserved to use it. I had been that person for so many people – the first person to tell a colleague the abuse they faced was real, their story was valid, and it deserved to be out there. When I needed someone to be that role for me, there were no options. I posted to Medium, and the post was taken down within 24 hours. I had asked a small group of people to share it as soon as it came out. Luckily, someone had archived it and began spreading it unbeknownst to me. If I was not media savvy enough to gather support before posting, and my abuser had not been notable in the community, would anyone have cared enough to do that?
So, I feel stronger than I did before, if possible, about the necessity of this platform and the role of the testimonial.
Who does it benefit?
There is a great personal risk to publishing the opinions of my fellow artists, but it is the right thing to do. I consider it a form of service and donated time, and I’ve risked and lost personal and professional relationships in the process.
When we had a fiscal sponsor I made $200/month, which is the most I’ve ever been paid to do this work. Since switching to our Patreon funded model, almost all funds go to our other writers. At the I have yet to pay myself in 2023. We pay $50 per review, when I was on beat at papers in Chicago, they paid $0, $15, $30 or $45 for reviews – if they ever coughed up the check.
The community buy-in via our Patreon means we are responsible for covering the community’s art and culture. I have complete ownership over the outlet, which is an LLC, and there are no supervising investors.
Can media be biased?
Every media outlet is biased. We just spent several years learning how everything from CNN to Fox on down through the networks has a clear bias and agenda. When Rescripted was founded in 2017, at the height of this media circus, what was different about it was that we told you. If we were friends with an artist, if we worked with them before, if they’re our college roommate, if we’ve never been a fan, if we’ve always been a fan – the reader knows that from our Bias Alerts.
I stated the facts about ownership and time because it is important to understand them in relationship to perceived obligations. There is no obligation beyond what is legal, and ethical in my own view. Fortunately, I am immersed in the work of cultural design, ethics, and responsibility in my working life.
Where does bias live in this particular moment for me?
I recognize that I have given this Black woman as much trust and grace as white media outlets give white artists and institutions. I know that I am biased towards the individual artist, and towards folks whose stories are less likely to be heard due to systemic discrimination. It’s understandable that this is uncomfortable, as some of our readers may not have encountered this before. It will not be changing.
To be clear, I will quote Morgan Freeman, in Lean on Me.
“I don’t have to do nothing but stay Black and die.”
That is the truth. Rescripted has published many testimonies, but this is the second by a singular Black woman. It is the first testimony where a Black woman has spoken of an institution or individuals by name, and the first time the integrity of this outlet has been challenged. That must be acknowledged.
I’ve worked very hard to carve a space where I don’t have to concern myself with a white mainstream idea of decorum, or what we “don’t talk about.” When members of the American Theatre Critics’ Association critiqued me for criticizing other critics because it’s “simply not done,” they could not stop me. When two major critics and editors tried to silence me, they could stop my piece from being shared on other platforms, but not from being posted on my own site and shared by the community. I have fought in ways you could not even imagine behind the scenes, I have lost mentors and friends, I have cried about the constant threat of being blacklisted, I have been harassed, and I have had my character attacked – all by people I admire.
Why endure this?
As a Black trans person, freedom of speech means the world to me. It is a privilege to create a free, brave space and share it with my community. I know it cannot last forever, because people like me aren’t afforded this kind of freedom for long. Until that day comes, I will keep working to give voice to people that would otherwise go ignored.
So how do we resolve the bias problem?
The answer to bias is diffusion. There is nothing wrong with a biased opinion, as long as it is not the only opinion being heard. As I said above, the money raised through our Patreon goes toward scouting, hiring, and paying community writers. Every $50 donated is another play we’re able to cover.
You can write with us. Any Chicago area artist, or artist with something to say in relation to Chicago is welcome to pitch us, and has been able to since we started. Anyone can be a writer when they’re writing from their own experience. In our first few years, our guest pieces were sourced from a Facebook post that deserved to be expanded upon. I personally edit everyone’s first piece at Rescripted, to ensure that every author feels secure in their work before it goes to publication.
We publish a few types of articles, and you can find the various types on our newly updated Write With Us page.
Consider supporting Rescripted via our Patreon, writing with us, or simply by sharing the work. I cannot, and would not, do this work without you.