“I Hate It Here” Heralds a Fresh New Wave of Theater Innovation

“How do we capture something that is fundamentally, profoundly, a live experience?” – Lili-Anne Brown asks the audience in her pre-show interview at one minute to curtain. I Hate it Here by Ike Holter is Brown’s savvy answer to theatre’s existential dilemma.

A title slide appears: ‘Going live in a few moments,’ which marks the beginning of the incredible adventure you’re about to see. Shot in the style of a 90s sitcom, a reality TV show, or the live medium of Saturday Night Live. Release your need for linear storytelling and let Ike Holter and the cast and crew of I Hate It Here take you on a grief, rage, and pandemic fueled fever dream that will have you laughing and crying for 80 minutes straight.

Did I mention it’s all live? Continue reading ““I Hate It Here” Heralds a Fresh New Wave of Theater Innovation”

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”

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 Company Explodes with BIPOC Representation

Sideshow Theatre Company is welcoming eleven new company members, six ensemble members and five artistic associates, respectively.

Ensemble members include Wardell Julius Clark, Greg Geffrard, Arti Ishak, Krystal Ortiz, Gabrielle Randle-Bent and Netta Walker. Artistic Associates include Patrick Agada, J. Nicole Brooks, Brynne Frauenhoffer, Jyreika Guest and Sarah Price.

These new additions to the company are predominantly BIPOC artists. This influx of representation marks a fresh and necessary wave of diversification in theatre. Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Explodes with BIPOC Representation”

Letter from the Editor: Visions for 2021

Your Life Does Not Have To Be A Crisis

I find it exceptionally hard to look backwards at this time of year, I enjoy designing what could be, much more than living in what was. This is why sharing my visions for the future with you all is a yearly privilege that brings me so much joy. Dreaming, visualizing, creating opportunity for change like this has only in recent years been met with this kind of love, attention, and intention. It gives me great hope for our future. 

Speaking with this kind of optimism, being struck with this kind of inspiration, after our year of crisis feels strange. Hope is a word that doesn’t sit in our mouths the way that it used to, it no longer slides off the tongue as easily as it did more than a decade ago. Living in crisis and neglecting hope is a critical error on our part. To lose hope is to lose opportunity. Opportunity to co-create something different. Even if that something different is just experiencing what you are doing — differently.  Continue reading “Letter from the Editor: Visions for 2021”

“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

Love Yourself Like My Life Depends On It

The Revolution Starts With You.

One person can change everything. We know this. We are powerful, connected and talented beings.

What does your revolution look like? Marching? Phone banking? Demonstrating? Facebooking?

I want to know if you have asked yourself, really asked what the revolution means for you. Not for the “movement,” and not for the stolen lives America has taken through the centuries up to this point. Your revolution may look like marches, demonstrations, Facebook rants, phone banks. Your revolution may not look like intentionally considering what you want this world to be when we are done.

What is your revolution?

Your own, personal liberation?

Continue reading “Love Yourself Like My Life Depends On It”