Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre

This is a testimonial piece by Chicago Theatre Community member Robin Minkens, who had a multi-year experience with Trap Door Theatre, a local storefront theatre. This is a personal experience, told from a single perspective. These pieces by their nature, and per our mission, are subjective by intention. *Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author. This is not reporting, but community support. Our aim as always is to amplify those who do not have a platform, and to empower the experience of the artist. 

Editor’s Note:  Robin came to me through Facebook at the end of April because she had seen my own testimonials on social media. Robin had recorded her experience in a draft, and was wondering if her experience had merit, and if it would be beneficial to share it with others. At that time, she did not know that I was an editor, or of the existence of Rescripted. When I had read the entirety of her story, I was appalled. What captured me about Robin’s testimonial is that it is a story many of us have lived through. Emerging into a professional theatre scene with abundant hopes and dreams, only to encounter prejudice, maltreatment, and gaslighting. The commonalities in this piece are harrowing to me, because they require us to accept that the way we have been working is not ethical. The experiences we have endured are not acceptable. This piece is a death by a thousand paper cuts. I encourage you to read it to the end. This is Part One, and you can access Part Two by clicking this link. 

This post is to share my experience, from the point of view of a woman of color, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, working at Trap Door Theatre. I have had the privilege of working at a variety of theaters in the Chicagoland area since graduating in 2017. The extra layer of education that comes with applying what you have learned in college is very helpful, but there is no rehearsal for the real world and its surprises. This is an outline of blatant neglect and unprofessionalism, the story of how a theatre company played a game with my trauma and forged an alliance with the person who violated my boundaries. The telling of how a theater company could not have your best interest at heart if it gets in the way of their power, ability to control you, and their egos. These events have taken place over the course of three years. 

I would hear about Trap Door rarely casting people of color, but I figured I had survived a predominantly white conservatory B.F.A theatre program, and a semester in Moscow, Russia. This would be an opportunity to grow in my artistry. After much contemplation, I learned that this is much bigger than myself.  I was very hurt by these circumstances, but what about future aspiring artists moving to Chicago, possibly fresh out of their collegiate career? 

I have been taught to journal my entire life, and after reflecting on my journal entries regarding Trap Door I realized something was very wrong. There has been a theme that Black women are strong and do not experience the same level of pain and trauma as other ethnicities- this is a common misconception black women face in most institutions. This is a warning to people of color, for what I am about to tell you can happen anywhere. 

From my experience, I learned that this company abused their power and my emotional tolerances. My dream with Trap Door turned out to be a nightmare, where I learned what I was willing to tolerate for my artistic passions. I have experienced deliberate gaslighting, assault, sabotage from my peers and leadership, accompanied by poor communication and malicious gossip. Continue reading “Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre”

A Triumph of Will in ‘Gender Play’ at About Face Theatre

The first part of the ritual was the coat. Black, regal, with safety pins up and down the lapels that made me feel like I was one of Shakespeare’s youths bursting at the seams with ambition. My outfit was freshly plucked off of the costume rack next to the Bookspan, like my fellow audience members. Leathers, vests, and even a sequined battle helmet complete with a blonde braid peppered the crowd. It was costume designer Uriel Gomez’s way of inviting the audience into the world of lush fabrics and textures that make up much of the world of Gender Play, or what you Will. 

The second part of the ritual was the tarot card. From the twenty-two cards that comprise the Major Arcana spread across the table in the dark hall, I first selected Strength, feeling the edges of the sturdy paper in my hand. I then eyed The Hanged Woman, suspended before a state of transformation – Death. I had drawn both cards just hours before. I took them both into the theatre.  Continue reading “A Triumph of Will in ‘Gender Play’ at About Face Theatre”

True Crime Meets Verbatim Theatre in London Road at Shattered Globe Theatre

A serial killer is suspected to live amongst the residents of Ipswich, UK when the holiday season is darkened by the murder of five sex workers. The town’s safety and reputation are at risk, and national attention only amplifies the danger lurking on London Road. Using verbatim theatre, London Road creators Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork adapt real interviews into a musical documentary that explores all the ways tragedy encouraged a community to come together and expose its negligent prejudice. Shattered Globe Theatre’s extraordinary ensemble cast, directed by Elizabeth Margolius, relives the horrifying events that rocked Ipswich between 2006 and 2008 with compassion, humor, and awe-inspiring skill. 

London Road relies on the actors to authentically embody the diverse characters whose interviews make up the production’s entire text. This lofty challenge is executed masterfully by a tight-knit ensemble that works as a team to make a town full of strangers feel familiar. Each performer portrays multiple characters and all effectively change their personalities in the blink of an eye. There is a wealth of talent packed in the cast of eleven and every performance shines. Countless breakout moments bring a beautiful dimension to the production where joy and horror live side-by-side. Continue reading “True Crime Meets Verbatim Theatre in London Road at Shattered Globe Theatre”

Shedding Skins: An Artists’ Response to Nataki Garrett’s Departure

On May 5th, 2023, at the height of a Scorpio Full Moon Eclipse, it was announced that Nataki Garrett would be resigning from her post as Artistic Director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival after four long years. This is a watershed moment in the history of the American Theatre. There will be news. What I have for you is my raw, artists’ response, as a Black, trans artistic leader, and an artist who participated in the Shakespeare festival last year. A letter to you, a letter to me, a letter to Nataki. I hope it soothes.

A Titan has been lost.
No. Not lost.
She can still be found.
A Titan has been displaced.
Still not right. She left of her own volition.

A Titan has shed her skin.
Yes. That’s right.
What happens when a Titan must move?
A Titan on whose back rested a village that worshiped her daily? Continue reading “Shedding Skins: An Artists’ Response to Nataki Garrett’s Departure”

Tackling Capitalism in ‘The Neo-Futurists Sell Out’

The first time I heard about Chicago’s Neo-Futurists was seven years ago, in a room full of playwrights, as an intern at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Neo’s now-closed production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind subsequently became my first Chicago Theatre-going experience as a newly-minted resident in 2016. Returning over the years to see multiple iterations of The Infinite Wrench, my favorite skit of all time was by Ensemble Member Leah Urzendowski, who kicked, punched, and stomped on a diagram of a vulva; a disturbingly accurate depiction of what it felt like to bike the gravel section of Clark Street between Foster and Montrose when it was under construction pre-pandemic. I have never laughed so hard in my life. While the Neo-Futurarium is the first spot I think of to introduce new friends and out-of-town visitors to the best-of Chicago Theatre, The Neofuturists Sell Out was my first time seeing a ‘prime-time’ show.

Hilarious and poignant as ever, the Neo-Futurists Sell Out is a skit-filled hour of entertainment with a special focus on capitalism, astutely directed by Lavina Jadhwani. Without the Neo’s typical greetings, menus, and nametags handed out at the door, the four performers instead rolled in chairs and desks on stage to launch straight into the action. But, with no greeting and minimal audience interaction until halfway through the show, this prime-time experience left me missing the performer-to-audience connection that usually drives the Neo’s pacing and energy; the connection that punches up their versed and starkly intimate sense of humor. Continue reading “Tackling Capitalism in ‘The Neo-Futurists Sell Out’”

The Importance of Play – A Keynote Speech by Regina Victor

The following is a transcript of the speech given by Editor-In-Chief and Cultural Designer Regina Victor at the American Stage Lift Every Voice New Play Festival on March 3rd, 2023 at the James Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. Published exclusively on Rescripted.

Hello everyone, what a marvelous gathering!

As Patrick said, my name is Regina Victor, my pronouns are they/them pharaoh, and I’m so grateful to be here at the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival. Thank you to the James Museum, and the team at American Stage for hosting us here together, to celebrate six new opportunities to play.

I want to start with a moment of collective memory. I want us to think back to the first moment we ever saw a play, when we knew we wanted to be creators and producers for the stage. Think back to that time, and think about, possibly even cherish, the amount you have accomplished since that moment. The stories you’ve shepherded, the lives you’ve changed, the joy you’ve discovered. Continue reading “The Importance of Play – A Keynote Speech by Regina Victor”

Women take control in Remy Bumppo’s timeless remount of Anna in the Tropics

Marela, the youngest daughter of a Cuban Cigar Factory Owner, casts a spell to bring sweetness to Juan Julian’s journey from the island of Cuba to Ybor City, as she and her mother Ofelia (the expressive, incomparable Charín Álvarez) and sister, Conchita, anticipate his arrival. Juan Julian (in an affecting performance by Arash Fakhrabadi) whose voice is “like a Persian canary,” is the new lector. His job is to read books to the Cigar rollers as they work. The characters and a digital dramaturgy packet both note that this tradition comes from the customs of the Taino people (the Indigenous people of Cuba, a first-contact tribe) listening to storytellers as they roll tobacco leaves.

Nilo Cruz’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning play is a Cuban American adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Cruz deftly crafts character relationships and factory politics to examine many of the same industrial binaries Tolstoy obsessed over. Machine vs. tradition, speed vs. leisure, with cigarette vs. cigar taking center stage. All are so incredibly specific to the play’s 1929 setting while simultaneously resonant today. 

Continue reading “Women take control in Remy Bumppo’s timeless remount of Anna in the Tropics”

Flip The Script: Theatre Down Under

This is a new theatre series covering artistic experiences outside the city of Chicago. Kristin Idaszak writes about the various works they saw at the Sydney Festival. 

A few weeks after the bomb cyclone deep froze Chicago and floods battered the southeast coast of Australia in late December 2022, I arrived at the Sydney Festival, an international festival of performance and culture in Australia. These meteorological events, as well as Australia’s massive brush fires of 2019 and 2020, were on my mind. I was thinking about the weather because I hoped traveling eight thousand miles from home and exploring unfamiliar aesthetic and literal landscapes would reinvigorate my own creative practice, which focuses largely on the environment and the climate crisis. 

Emerging from my own pandemic-induced artistic hibernation, I was eager to experience work that offered new creative methodologies, and reconceived the look, feel, and sound of environmental performance. My first week at the festival consisted of a double-header of pieces inspired by climate change, Sun  & Sea and Polar Force, followed by a dance theatre performance grounded in First Nations dramaturgy.

Continue reading “Flip The Script: Theatre Down Under”

Playbill Article Opens Conversation About Danger, Safety and Standards for Broadway, So Why Aren’t We Talking About That?

On February 8th, 2023, playbill.com published an article by Margaret Hall, entitled “Physical Assault Vomit in the Aisles, Stalking in the Streets: Why Audience Misbehavior Has Gotten Out of Hand”.

The article consisted of interviews from Front of House staff on Broadway, whose compelling testimonies created an unignorable narrative: the culture of Broadway theatres and their patrons is unsustainable, disrespectful, and at times dangerous. It was met with immediate buzz and urgent discourse. On Friday February 10th, 2023, the article was pulled from playbill.com. It will be edited, and re-published at a later date. Below is an excerpt from the original piece: 

“Tessie, a former actor turned front of house worker, began working at a family friendly musical in the winter of 2021. Since beginning the position, they have been “spat on, shoved, had my ass slapped, and been screamed at more times than I could count.” Still, they consider themselves lucky; one of their coworkers was shoved down a staircase by an irate patron, resulting in a serious hip injury. Continue reading “Playbill Article Opens Conversation About Danger, Safety and Standards for Broadway, So Why Aren’t We Talking About That?”