Decomposition Instead of Collapse: Seven Years Later, Rescripted Ends

This collapse is necessary.

Decomposition Instead of Collapse is not a binary concept. Decomposition and Collapse are intertwined. One can be found inside the other. Decomposition is the act of identifying the pieces that make the whole, the ingredients, the notes. The collapse is the Tower of Babel, the destruction of complacency that marks the creation of culture. Then, the introduction of the Holy Ghost – the energy that introduces new languages and brings forth societies. Decomposition, Collapse, Rebirth. A spiral. 

Gratitude to my teachers, many who are of the Theatrical Jazz tradition, whose bravery and improvisation guides my courage even now. Call your people’s names, they said: Laurie Carlos, Daniel Alexander Jones, Onawumi Jean Moss, Dr. Omi Osun Joanie Jones, and Sharon Bridgeforth, Phylicia Rashad and Raelle Myrick-Hodges, and, and, and…. I owe the format of this essay to Daniel Alexander Jones’ Decomposition Instead of Collapse: Playing Changes.

In June of 2017, shortly after the death of my maternal grandfather, Carson Bryant, I launched Rescripted.  I got the news of his passing on opening night of the first play I would ever review, We’re Gonna Die at Haven Theatre. I wrote that review on the flight back from his funeral service, where full military honors recognised his ability to climb the ranks as an aerospace engineer in the face of blatant discrimination. His obituary reads: “Carson was truly a real life ‘hidden figure’ in aerospace engineering history.” 

All of my ancestors – whether living, dead, or artistic – have had to create the conditions for their work. 

When I began working in Chicago I saw brilliant plays. From 2016-2018, local  theatre crackled with innovation, from BLKS at Steppenwolf, to No Child at Definition, to Tilikum at Sideshow, to The Displaced at Haven, to The Light at The New Colony. The list is in our archive. For that, I am grateful. Three out of five of the companies mentioned here no longer exist.

The circle of life is a masculine concept, with beginnings and endings. The feminine and queer spiral of the universe will always collapse in on itself to create something new… 

Rescripted was a moment of deciding to act on foresight, and intuition. I had never intended to start this business, it was a half baked idea I had discussed with my co-founder Katherine O’Keefe. It was the community conversations that motivated me to take this risk. It was so clear we were all holding this fear and uncertainty together.   

We held a panel, The Need For Cultivating Critics of Color. I craved membership in the creative artistry of this city, but the artists themselves defined that the conditions in which to create were hostile and rotten. The critical landscape was inhospitable to work by artists of color, trans folks, women, and a litany of other under-recognized voices.. That is why, in the final moments of the panel, I looked up into the lights and blurted “this summer I’ll be starting a media outlet called Rescripted…” With the launch of Rescripted, the Chicago Theatre community now had a platform for and by them, to transcend the comments section and join the critical conversation.

I have always been a gateway. I have always been changeable. 

I have always been a natural fan of other artists. Artists are brilliant when they speak about the work of their peers. They are observant, generous, and have an understanding of the effort that goes into making a show. I define Rescripted as the moment the Chicago community began showing up for each other on paper. People lent their time and expertise to our publication, well before we were able to afford to pay for their thoughts. For that, I am forever grateful.

Our mission “reprogram the way we critique each other” is tied directly to how we perceive each other…

Theatre is a sacred place, where you go to face yourself and the other. It is where we ask the ugliest questions about ourselves without consequence. It is where we do the bloody work. The work of births and transitions, of futurities and past examinations. 

The reception of Rescripted was mixed, full of underhanded comments about “bloggers” and nasty emails from associate artistic directors, other critics, and other editors. Last week, I was clinging to a barstool, doubled in laughter, because the bartender suggested listing all of my personal vendettas in this letter. “That word count would put my readers to sleep.”

In spite of a healthy opposition, I had it in my blood to create the conditions for the work, and history tells us creating those conditions is bloody. This outlet marked the beginning of true media delusion, and I knew we were in the midst of a culture war that has since evolved into global horror and multiple genocides. 

My eyes were wide and my pen never left the page, my fingers never left the keyboard. What began as wholehearted passion transformed into righteous rage in the face of cycles of ignorance. I was a menace. Penning response pieces on a plane from California to Chicago, furiously striving to publish before I landed. I wrote my very first review on the plane home

Sekhmet was the eye of Ra, and the medicine applied to a sick and corrupt society. She is known as the Egyptian goddess of blood, war, and menstruation, and the protector of ma’at (the truth and balance in all things). Sekhmet slayed evildoers as punishment, and eventually lost control. A plan was concocted to quell her bloodthirsty rampage . One day, it was arranged for the Nile to be filled with poppies and wine. Mistaking the mixture for blood, Sekhmet drank, and drank, and drank… When she awoke, the powerful magic of her community had transformed her into the goddess of spring and fertility, Hathor.

I have tasted sweeter things, and I no longer thirst for blood. I desire birth, new timelines, new growth, and softness.

The heart of the matter is this – “I” was a weapon as long as “I” was needed. I myself now know how to meet an ending with a smile.  It has been a joy and a pleasure to run Rescripted for the past 7 years. Cultivating change in this way has come to an end for me, as I return to the sea of artists from which I came full time.

Spiritually, mentally, physically, I am not who I was when we met. I am a tarot reader, and my spiritual practice is growing every day.  I am the cultural producer of The Bombay Beach Biennale in Southern California, a social, ecological, and artistic blueprint for future arts engagement. I am directing and developing new plays in Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

“I walk with ghosts. I dream of Hades. I can no longer be your steward. I must return to the river.”

I have had the joy of being in so many of your lives, your theatres. I have taught many of you through DePaul, UIC, Columbia and Northwestern. I have fond memories of breaking bread at your tables, and dancing away opening nights, in the hope that my presence could dispel the idea that critique is not part of community. 

Over the past seven years, I have watched so many of you learn to be your own advocates. I implore you to continue this work. To take risks. To be your own ambassadors. Rescripted started with the intention of removing objectivity, moving from a “one” to “I”. The spiral folds back in on itself and now, we repurpose this energy to the collective we and us.

“We are the leaders of society.” – Iya Awotunde Judyie Ella Al-Bilali, at the Inaugural Theatrical Jazz Conference 2024. She is referring to artists, not as the leaders of industry but of society. The concept of the starving artist, she argued, was a dangerous and colonial concept. How can the moral center of your society be in a condition of starvation?

This is not a resignation letter. This is a renewal letter. This is the self proclaimed scribe writing the prologue for the next chapter of the story. I don’t have to know how the first chapter starts, I just have to follow my intuition, and the next great thing will find me, as this did. The same is true for you.

What will we write next?

I would to thank Emma Durbin, Monty Cole, Abhi Shrestha, Emjoy Gavino, Michael Locher, Aaron Lockman, Rebekah Heusel, Kristin Idaszak, Kristin Patton, Brian Loevner, Adrianna Desier Durantt, Jessica Thebus, Hallie Palladino, Aaron Carter, and all of our contributors throughout the years. I could not have done this alone. 


‘True West’ at Steppenwolf Honors the Classic and Shows Shepard a New Frontier

Sibling rivalry and resentment is the golden thread that runs through Sam Shepard’s classic play, True West. What begins as a standard tale of bickering between the Golden Child and the Black Sheep quickly takes a hard left turn when we realize that this Black Sheep may be mentally disturbed and harboring violent tendencies. Namir Smallwood plays an arrestingly intense Lee, toggling with ease between a playful and jovial energy and a cold, detached dominance without a moment’s notice. His presence as an aloof angry drunk drives this play, bringing a kinetic element of fear and excitement to an otherwise pedestrian moment. Breaking away from the tenor of Malkovich’s intense performance in the 1984 film, Smallwood’s portrayal of the grifter is still creepy but also somewhat charming and endearing, which helps contextualize why his brother simply wouldn’t call the police on sight. Continue reading “‘True West’ at Steppenwolf Honors the Classic and Shows Shepard a New Frontier”