“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 Presents ‘You For Me For You,’ Mutual-Aid Food Drive

 Sideshow Theatre Company is pleased to launch its 2021 season with a one-night-only benefit screening of its 2018 hit You For Me For You, written by Mia Chung and directed by Ensemble Member Elly Green*. The archival recording of this imaginative production will stream Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 7 pm CST via sideshowtheatre.org, as well as the company’s YouTube and Twitch channels. Tickets (pay-what-you-can) are currently available at sideshowtheatre.org

Sideshow is also partnering with Paramount Catering to offer meal add-ons the night of the benefit. Prices start at $40, including delivery for one person, and meals can be donated to those in need starting at $30. Vegetarian and meat options are available. Sideshow will be providing its own donation of free meals to those in need through Farm, Food, Famlias during the month of March, and the meals patrons donate will be added to this number. Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Presents ‘You For Me For You,’ Mutual-Aid Food Drive”

Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays

Sideshow Theatre Company just announced its 2021 Season, featuring an all-virtual line-up of entertainment. This announcement comes only weeks after the announcement of their new company members. The season kicks-off this month with a one-night-only benefit screening of Sideshow’s 2018 hit You For Me For Youwritten by Mia Chung and directed by Ensemble Member Elly Green. This summer, Sideshow presents a reading of Preston’s Choi’s new play Drive-In at the End of the World, directed by Associate Artistic Director Justin J. Sacramone and created through “The Freshness Initiative,” Sideshow’s new play development program. Throughout the year audiences can also enjoy the Sideshow House Party Series, five virtual readings by some of the company’s favorite playwrights – each followed by an interactive celebration.

Sideshow Artistic Director Regina Victor states: “The Sideshow Ensemble is excited to have cultivated a season full of curiosity and delight to gather the community in these tough times. Looking at the plays we’ve chosen to present, each one in their own way asks the question: Who am I, and who decides that, really? Power dynamics play out across race, class and gender in unconventional ways across our season, and there’s even quite a bit of magic sprinkled in. I’m so grateful, in this moment of leadership transition and COVID-19, to be able to continue to build upon Sideshow’s legacy of presenting and developing some of Chicago’s most memorable and exciting plays. I really have the ensemble’s artistic determination, and the dedication of my Executive Director and board to thank for that.” Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays”

PHOTO ESSAY: Black Drag Royalty Demands Boystown Reparations

In an effort to bring our audience an authentic look into the activism taking place “on the ground,” Rescripted will be periodically featuring protests and highlighting the unseen heroes who are bringing restorative justice to the underrepresented masses.

On June 14th, Chicago drag performer Joe Lewis, also known as “Jo Mama,” organized a queer demonstration that many would consider to be the queer march heard round the world. What began as a protest against police brutality and violence against trans individuals turned into a call for accountability and reparations for the local black drag and trans community. Amidst a crowd of upwards of 1,000 people, some of Chicago’s most prominent black drag performers called for the dismantling of white supremacy throughout the historic Boystown gayborhood. Among the notable speakers were Lucy Stoole, Miss ToTo, Lúc Ami, Tatyana Chante, Zola and Rupaul’s Drag Race competitors Dida Ritz, The Vixen and projected All Stars front runner Shea Couleé. Miss Couleé transfixed the crowd as she told local bar owners and show runners to “make room” for the black drag talents who nurture the livelihood of Boystown but are all the while pushed to the periphery of queer nightlife. Couleé’s speech along with a spoken word piece performed by local trans activist Zola garnered viral status across all social media platforms. As a result, there was a virtual town hall that brought many Boystown gatekeepers into conversation with black drag performers who came bearing grievances. Tatyana Chanté, a local activist who has also organized multiple protest in the Chicago area said that they “hope people are awake now… and committed to being anti-racist” so that “Boystown can actually be a welcoming place for more than cis-white gay men.”

Photos by Christian Bufford

Dear White American Theater: #WeSeeYou Movement is 64,000 Strong and Counting

The #WeSeeYou movement sweeping the nation is asking our theaters for accountability, and investments in anti-racism. The initial call to action was an open letter entitled “Dear White American Theater”  launched at 7pm on June 9th. This letter invited the community to sign the petition in solidarity with this letter on www.weseeyouWAT.com. Since then they have received at the moment of this publishing over 64,000 signatures and counting. In other words, if you don’t know, now you know. This is the original letter that dropped on June 8th, 2020, followed by their statement released today June 10th, 2020.

#WeSeeYou statement from June 10th:

“In reaction to civil unrest in our country, we—Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) theatremakers—formed a collective of multi-generational, multi-disciplinary, early career, emerging and established artists, theater managers, executives, students, administrators, dramaturges and producers, to address the scope and pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and racism in the American theater. Our response was to draft a strong testimonial letter, ‘DEAR WHITE AMERICAN THEATER’, collectively crafted by theatremakers from across the country, exposing the indignities and racism that BIPOC, and in particular Black theatremakers, face on a day-to-day basis in the theater industry. Continue reading “Dear White American Theater: #WeSeeYou Movement is 64,000 Strong and Counting”