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”

Rescripted Launches Patreon, Announces Community Funding Model

Big news: We are launching an official Rescripted Patreon! As of 2021, Rescripted is restructuring financially so that we are funded by you, our community. All of our reviews, essays, and other content are free to access, and our site is ad-free. Our Patreon is a way for you to support us so we can continue advancing our work: giving artists agency in their critical process, and reshaping our field from a place of empathy, justice, and accessibility — as well as paying ourselves and our writers a decent wage.

Some of the perks and benefits we’ll be offering include:

  • The Weekly Digital Roundup, a summary of the most exciting digital theatre happening online curated by our Assistant Editor Aaron Lockman. This is the same list that gets sent to our writers, so you get the scoop at the same time our writers do!
  • Our monthly Patron-only newsletter, featuring exclusive content such as artist profiles, a letter from the Editors, interviews, and behind-the-scenes access.
  • Credit on the Rescripted website as one of our top donors.
  • And at the highest level, exclusive access to the monthly Rescripted Podcast, where Chief Editor Regina Victor and Assistant Editor Aaron Lockman discuss the hottest topics in Chicago theatre.

Thank you so much for your support, both as we move into this new crowd-funded era, and over the last three years. Please go support us on Patreon if you can!

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”

Ike Holter’s “Put Your House In Order” to be Adapted for The Roustabouts Audio-Thriller

It’s spooky season and Chicago playwright Ike Holter is delivering some delicious horror content via The Roustabouts for your pleasure this Halloween. The Roustabouts have announced the upcoming release of their first Audio-Thriller available for streaming and download. On October 28th, at 8pm, the creative arts ensemble will drop the world-premiere production of Put Your House In Order by Ike Holter to be available from just before Halloween until right before election day, closing at 11:59pm Central on Monday November 2nd. The play will stream for free, and suggested donation is $10 at www.PYHIO.com Continue reading “Ike Holter’s “Put Your House In Order” to be Adapted for The Roustabouts Audio-Thriller”

Boys Like That: How two ‘West Side Story’ adaptations are perpetuating harassment and assault

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual harassment and assault. 

Like the state of 2020, no one could have predicted the show that would mark this year would be West Side Story. To some, it refers to the Ivo van Hove-helmed Broadway revival. Van Hove made drastic cuts from the original, which tracks with his reputation for re-imagining classics. These included eliminating Maria’s only solo, “I Feel Pretty,” and the quintessential “Somewhere” ballet (buh-bye Jerome Robbins) while compressing the three-hour musical into one act. Van Hove also added multi-racial actors, but sent mixed messaging by casting them as the Jets, originally intended to be white. He brought on choreographer Sergio Trujillo and ballet dancer Patricia Delgado for consultation to make the dance more “authentically Latino”, but only after the cast requested it. Did I mention there were also cameras?

Another recent adaptation that had the theatre community on its heels was Steven Spielberg’s film penned by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) still scheduled to premiere this December. Boasting the film debut of many young talents including newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria and Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Hamilton) as Anita, it has come with a lot of buzz.

Continue reading “Boys Like That: How two ‘West Side Story’ adaptations are perpetuating harassment and assault”

ESSAY: What I Did For Love, And How I Plan To Do Less

A strange ritual would often take place in the halls of my university’s theatre center. College students would convene before classes or rehearsals to present the hours of sleep they had claimed the night before. The student who shared the lowest number would wear this insomnia as a badge of honor. Bonus points were awarded if the time spent awake was done at the library, or in the theatre after hours. I perceived this bizarre ritual as a product of the college experience. Little did I know, the professional theatre would not be that different.

Grind/hustle culture exists in every industry and is designed to incentivize overwork. The archaic 40-hour work week is pushed aside as the bare minimum and anything short of 110% is not enough. This workplace environment leverages guilt to maximize productivity. For an industry that thrives off freelance and contracted work, however, the hustle is more than just a point of pride. It is a necessity. The theatre has an age old habit of underpaying (if at all). Artists are forced to take on overlapping projects and survival jobs just to make ends meet.

Continue reading “ESSAY: What I Did For Love, And How I Plan To Do Less”

Revolution Glossary: Unpacking Allyship

Green Rev GlossThe 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.

We’re diving right into our Revolution Glossary with the word “ally,” a word which often lands differently than  intended. Broadly, allyship is when a person with a dominant identity acts to counteract the oppression which gives power to their group and takes it away from a marginalized group. The first social justice related instances of the term ally probably referred to straight people in movements for LGBTQIA+ rights in the 70s. But in recent years ally has become a widely used and debated term.

Within the idea of “allyship” lies a bigger question. What role should people with dominant identities play in movements for the liberation of oppressed people? Oppressed people often disagree. In the present day activists have called for white people looking to take action on racial justice to redistribute their resources,  use their bodies to protect the lives of Black people, and  intentionally redirect focus towards the voices of Black people and other people of color. If a white person does all of these things, can they then claim the title of ally?

The obvious danger here is that regardless of the changes any individual person makes, racial inequity and colonialism aren’t math problems that can be solved by a simple transaction. A person with a dominant identity can go to great lengths to untangle themselves from one part of their privilege while still benefiting from it in other ways. And can a donation — or attending a protest — undo every microaggression, biased decision, or moment of privilege that person has experienced? Obviously not, but it’s easy to see how a privileged person might want to think so. There’s no way to make up for being racist or benefiting from racism, but when activists for racial justice put out calls like the ones above, they often report being inundated by white people who are looking for absolution. For that reason, many activists and advocates have decided that the term ally and the concept of allyship do more harm than good, and that they can accept help from people with dominant identities without giving them a specific title.

Other terms have arisen as potential replacements. “Co-struggling” emphasizes that everyone who organizes against oppression has to commit to a constant personal struggle, and that charity and pity are unhelpful lenses. “Accomplices” emphasizes that people with dominant identities should try to support an effort rather than lead it, but people in criminalized communities have sometimes pushed back against appropriating justice system language. And other people are fine to stick with the term ally, not necessarily as a title any person can claim, but as a goal to strive toward.

Whether or not you, dear reader, should call yourself an ally probably depends on context, and whether the people you’re talking to feel okay with you using that language. Either way, knowing  a bit about the term’s history and controversy will help you use it better in conversation, and understand the debate around it.

 

Inclusion in Improv: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Use the Bomb

Famed improviser Stephen Colbert once gave the sage advice for comedians to “learn to love the bomb.” To translate for non-comedians, he meant that when you are failing onstage, feeling humiliated and embarrassed, you have to learn to find joy in the process of failing, so much that it leads you through the fear, out of insecurity, and into success. To be an even semi-successful comedian, you have to learn to love the bomb.

But what happens when the bomb is racism?

Continue reading “Inclusion in Improv: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Use the Bomb”

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”