Contemporary Graphic Design, based on stories from the Bible.
(Proceeds from Old & New print sales will be donated to Blood:Water Mission to provide safe drinking water for the village of Lwala, Kenya.)
Check out the full project here.
This was origionally posted at 2amtheatre.com.
A lot has been said about the Guthrie’s season announcement, and probably a lot more will be. I want to focus on one part of it. But first, I want to say that while I don’t disagree with most of the criticism the Guthrie has worked hard over the last decade or so to foster –I’ve yet to hear anyone I’ve known from Minnesota stand up for Dowling—it should be clearly stated that the Guthrie is not alone.
That was on my mind as I read the transcript from this All Things Considered interview with Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling.
There’s a lot in Dowling’s interview that can be dissected but this paragraph in particular, struck me as patently absurd.
But I think diversity is a very big issue and I’m not certain that we’re all addressing it in a sort of responsible way. The question that’s risen specifically in regards to our season has been about women directors (Tom Crann: and playwrights). Let me address the playwrights first. We’re largely a classics theater – that’s what we do and I may be reading the wrong books but I find it difficult to see – because of social history in the 17th, 18th, 19th and indeed early 20th century – which are termed ‘classic plays’ – women playwrights emerged who would be able to fill large theaters.>
Now that’s changing and it’s changed quite dramatically in the last couple of years and there are now a lot more valuable women playwrights…”
It’s telling that Dowling responds to questions of diversity by primarily focusing on women, or that he doesn’t mention, the name of the “second of the Tarell Alvin pieces.” Or the playwright’s last name. (The Brothers Size and McCraney, respectively.) Even so, his argument about lacking plays, the idea that he can’t find any classic plays by women is ludicrous; there are centuries worth of great plays by men and women from across the globe.
There is no way any argument could be made that a classical theatre can’t find plays to broaden their season beyond exclusively white men–other than he didn’t bother to try.
I stopped and thought about it for a couple minutes. Two. I set a timer for one-hundred twenty seconds. I was curious to see if I could come up with a possible twelve play season, without consulting google or my bookshelf. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Of Śakuntalā… Kālidāsa
2. Dog in the Manger – Lope de Vega
3. Autumn in Han Palace – Ma Zhiyuan
4. De Monfort – Johanna Baillie
5. Las Hijas de Las Flores – Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda
6. Georgia Douglas Johnson’s one-act cycle
7. A Bold Stroke for a Wife – Susanna Centlivre
8. Rachel- Angela W. Grimke
9. A Solid Home – Elena Garro
10. Wine in the Wilderness – Alice Childress
11. Sacrifice – Rabindranath Tagore
12. Emperor of the Moon – Aphra Behn
Now, upon greater reflection, I very well might change some of these plays in a hypothetical season. I don’t expect everyone to know the plays I do. In addition to curating our annual Alcyone Festival, I admittedly have a very different reading list than most. However, I do expect anyone who runs a theatre to have a broad knowledge of classic works. And while salaries are often irrelevant to these types of conversation, I can’t help but mention that Joe Dowling is extraordinarily well compensated for running the Guthrie. At that level of stature and compensation, I do expect a broader knowledge than a general audience, or even most of the field. But that’s not the point.
The point is, I spent one-hundred twenty seconds and came up with twelve plays, none of which are by white dudes. (Okay, maybe one, depending on how you view de Vega.) Surely over the course of season planning Dowling could find one, if he tried. And if he’s not trying, why is he running a classical theatre?
Polly Carl's latest essay on HowlRound.com is a beautiful read:
As we make our way into a very ugly and gendered political season, and as I look at the seasons of many of our regional theater stages, the most egregious being the one just announced by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, well, I am compelled to talk some truth about finding yourself “other” in a white man’s world—about the importance of insisting on being seen. I didn’t want to be the one to take this on, but as I’ve been searching for other voices to jump into this discussion, I realize I’m asking them to perhaps risk their own livelihoods down the line—I’m asking them to risk what I haven’t wanted to risk myself.
Seeing Yourself on Stage
In my career in the theater I have mostly decided not to think about this problem of my gender dysphoria. I’ve always survived my otherness through stories, through imagining I could be anyone and anything—it was Spiderman for a long time. I’ve been so lucky to work in the theater and submerge myself into the stories of others, constantly lost in the possibilities of what I could imagine versus staying stuck in the limitations of the present moment. In other words, I didn’t want to focus on some of the painful realities of my own story, but have preferred instead to dramaturg and produce many other very compelling stories.
I’ve been supportive of, but not super involved in, all the talk of women’s discrimination in the theater. I didn’t feel I was quite the right choice to be a spokeswoman for the cause, though the lack of women’s voices on our stages enrages me. I’ve kept quiet about that subject because in accentuating my otherness, I feared exacerbating it. And honestly, I didn’t want to ever be dismissed as someone with a chip on my shoulder, a victim of my own circumstances. I want to be taken seriously in this business, fit in to the degree that I can, and make good stories for the stage.
So, I’ve made my way as a boy in a man’s theater—in a theater dominated by men’s voices, predominantly white, both straight and gay. And I like men, I identify with them. They are my best friends and I like making theater with them. And had god forced me to choose, I’m certain I’d have compared wardrobe choices and decided to be a man.
But that said, I believe the transformative power of art rests in undiscovered stories, and if large not-for-profit theaters don’t lead the way in developing and producing those stories, then who will? And if we give the leaders of those theaters a pass because it might cost us something later, then we’re not being nearly imaginative enough about the possibilities for a new future for ourselves and our field.
Read the entire essay here.
As some of you may know, we’re in the process of gearing up for our annual Alcyone Festival. I say gearing up, because the pieces are about to start becoming more public. In truth, it takes between eighteen months to two years of planning to curate and produce the festival each year.
Curation is a fairly malleable word for arts organizations. Depending on the context, it could mean a ton of different things. The short version is picking the shows that you see for each year’s festival.
That’s what most people ask me when the subject comes up, “how do you pick the shows?”
In truth I don’t pick them. I do, but I don’t.
Each year the festival has a different theme. That’s where my curation is probably felt the strongest. I usually pick the final theme. Because of the lead time, I’m working on nine possibilities for future fests right now.
Once the theme is set, the next step is finding all the plays that could possibly fit the theme, reading them and narrowing down those into the top twelve possibilities. I usually read between 300-500 plays a year, so I’ve got a pretty good working knowledge of what’s out there, but I also keep finding amazing plays by women, so I also ask writers, critics, literary managers, actors, godparents, anyone who has ideas for any women I don’t know about.
It’s a pretty incredible process when I can take a second to step back. I’ve been sent scripts for the festival from six continents. Most often, it’s accompanied by a simple note: “she’s amazing. I love her work. You should know about her.”
Once I’ve narrowed down the pool, I start talking with directors. I try to bring both young and more experienced directors to the table. Because it’s the biggest thing we do, it’s the best opportunity for us to give newer directors a chance to work with a great play. But we also try to work with directors who I can just set loose and watch them create something I can’t wait to watch.
As there are few things more painful than watching a show directed by someone who didn’t like the script, I don’t pick the plays first, but usually give the directors the pool of plays to look at and see what they’re passionate about. If the find something they love, great. If not, or if rights are tough to track down, I’ll send some more, until we find one that fits with the theme and the director wants to take on.
Because the fest is about celebrating the depth and breadth of women writing for the stage, the final slate usually reflects that. It also makes the curation different than some festivals with a more narrow focus.
For this year’s festival we are focusing on plays by Mexican women. I was intrigued by what I had heard about the Lark’s US-Mexico playwright exchange, but hadn’t read many of the scripts. Then at the last Latino Festival at the Goodman, I was able to catch some of the readings.
Trying to get the word out about the program, Henry Godinez matched several of Chicago’s Latino theatres with plays from the Larks program. I loved a lot of what I saw and the idea of doing some of them for the Alcyone fest has been in the back of my head since.
Initially the idea for this year’s festival was going to be new plays about women who shaped Chicago’s history, but after last year’s festival, I decided we didn’t yet have the infrastructure as an organization to do two festivals of all new works back to back. When I made that realization, I happened to run into Henry at a show and I immediately knew what the new theme would be, and one of the directors I would try to bring onboard.