Bea Cordelia Sullivan-Knoff is an award-winning, Chicago-bred writer, [solo] performer, activist, & educator specializing in issues of gender, sex[uality], queerness, & the body. Six of her plays have been produced to date and many of her poems and essays published, including the self-published chapbook of poetry 28.06 // Dear Sylvia. Her "life-changing" autobiographical solo show Chasing Blue recently featured in The Brick’s inaugural Trans Theatre Festival in Brooklyn and is making its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf this winter.

It took me a bit but I've compiled ten shows I'm looking forward to in 2017.

They are (in no particular order)

1. Chasing Blue by me in Steppenwolf's LookOut Series (because hey)

2. Men on Boats at ATC

3. Picnic at ATC

4. Written in Sand by Karen Finley in Steppenwolf's LookOut Series

5. Meet Juan(ito) Doe at Free Street Theatre

6. Bootycandy at Windy City Playhouse

7. Blues for an Alabama Sky at Court

8. King of the Yees at Goodman

9. The Scottsboro Boys at Porchlight

10. Faceless at Northlight

January 14, 2017

Terri Lynne Hudson is an actor, improviser and performance artist living and working in Chicago. She has spina bifida.  She wanted to point out that she's fairly sad to see a lack of disability representation outside of Vanya...She's wondering if she just doesn't know where to look, still being relatively new in town?

Vanya (or, That's Life): Rasaka Theatre

Adapted from Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya 
By Lavina Jadhwani

Directed by Kaiser Ahmed
Presented at The Edge Theater
5451 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640

Men on Boats: American Theatre Company

Written by Jaclyn Backhaus

Directed by Will Davis

Presented by American Theater Company

1909 W Byron St, Chicago, IL 60613

Picnic: American Theatre Company

Written by William Inge

Directed by Will Davis

Presented by American Theater Company

Great Expectations: Silk Road Rising

Adapted from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
By Tanika Gupta

Directed by Lavina Ladhwani and Nick Sandys
Presented at The Edge Theater
5451 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640

By Association: MPAACT

Written by Shepsu Aakhu

Directed by Lauren Wells

Presented by MPAACT

at The Greenhouse Theater Center 
2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Force Continuum: Eclipse Theatre

Written by Kia Corthron

Directed by Michael Aaron Pogue

Presented by Eclipse Theatre at The Athenaeum Theatre

2936 N. Southport Ave. 

Megastasis: Eclipse Theatre

Written by Kia Corthron

Directed by Aaron Todd Douglas

Presented by Eclipse Theatre at The Athenaeum Theatre

2936 N. Southport Ave. 

Cymbeline: Strawdog Theatre

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Robert Kauzlaric

Presented by Strawdog Theatre at The Factory Theatre

1623 W. Howard1st FloorChicago, IL 60626

Gloria: Goodman Theatre

Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Directed by Evan Cabnet

Presented by Goodman Theatre

170 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60601

Earthquakes in London: Steep Theatre Co.

Written by Mike Bartlett

Directed by Jonathan Berry

Presented by Steep Theatre

1115 W Berwyn Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

(and mentioned separately since they're solo autobiographical pieces)

No Hay Mal (storyteller Lily Be's solo show): Free Street Theatre

Presented by Free Street Theatre

1419 W. Blackhawk Street 
Chicago, IL 60642  

Beautifully Broken (Ashley Jeanette Hicks' solo show): Greenhouse Theatre/MPAACT Solo Jams

 Presented by MPAACT Solo Jams at The Greenhouse Theatre

2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

January 12, 2017

Abhi Shrestha is a Theatre Directing student at Columbia College Chicago, is currently the Literary Associate at Haven Theatre, and served as the Literary Assistant at Strawdog. He is currently assisting directing Marti Lyons for Wit with The Hypocrites and looks forward to working with director Will Davis in American Theater Company's upcoming production of Picnic.

AHHHHH. So many things. So many GREAT things are happening. Such beautiful movement forward, and such an exciting year for Chicago theatre.

Okay. my list: (in no particular order) 

Men On Boats - ATC

Jaclyn Blachaus is ferociously staking her claim as one of the voices that is defining the immediate future of this art form — The new canon that we desperately need. Her words combined with Will Davis’s visionary artistic mind and a brilliant gender fluid and inclusive cast with a roaring talent for story telling — oof. This is sure to be one for the ages. 

Pass Over - Steppenwolf

“I was hurting, and I needed to know why” — During Victory Gardens most recent Ignition Festival, Antoinette Nwandu shared these words when asked why she wrote her play “BREACH” that received a reading there — these words forever moved me and I’ve been excited for her next project ever since. Her work is emotionally vulnerable, and has a super saturated sense of immediacy that we need right now. 

Queen - Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens current season is littered with brilliant artists, and an array of vibrant diverse voices that continue to push the envelope for new work! I’m a huge fan of Madhuri Shekars work, and Joanie Schultz is coming back to Chicago to continue changing the effin’ game. 

Bootycandy - Windy City Playhouse

Y’all. I read this play inside a cramped fitting room that I had reconfigured as my “office”, for whatever reason, in the costume shop of the community college I was attending a few years ago and I was DYING. If you are unfamiliar with Robert O’Haras work. 1) WHAT? WHY? WHO ARE YOU? 2) GO SEE THIS SHOW. His work is bold, unsettling, ridiculously funny, and ultimately important as we are re-structuring the architecture of American Theatre. This play brilliantly addresses important conversations about intersectional identities and representation. I missed its production in DC, but will not miss this Chicago production. 

Hookman - Steep 

Lauren. Yee. Is. A. Monster. Her plays run the gamut of emotions and have a sharp, nuanced, sense of magical realism that draws you in and refuses to satiate your inherent sense of curiosity until the very end. Vanessa Stalling taught my Theatre History and Inquiry Class for like three days and I became obsessed with her and her work. Steep has an amazing season and I am really excited to 

The Wolf at The End of The Block - Teatro Vista

I have never seen an Ike Holter play. I know. I know. I messed up. I have been in Chicago for about a year and a half and missed every opportunity to his work. I will not miss this one! No one can refuse that Ike Holter is distinguishing himself as one of Chicago’s most important writers — reading his plays take you on a wild ride of brilliant storytelling, intricate and vulnerable characters, and hilarious/ fearless writing. That cast is crazy talented and I can’t wait for this one. 

The Wiz - Kokandy

THAT CAST IS CRAZY. HAVE YOU SEEN THE CAST LIST BECAUSE YOU SHOULD! One of my favorite musicals, told by brilliant artists of color, led by THE Lilli-Anne Brown, at a time when it feels more necessary than ever. 

Snack Break - The Yard & VG

Again — Nothing makes me happier than theatre for young folx, by young folx. The Yard is a professional youth theatre company that is "committed to producing theatre that is relevant to young people and performed by young people.” They’ve been partnering with theatre companies and churning out wonderful, thoughtful, vital work. "Snack Break" is an evening of short plays by a slew of RIDICULOUSLY brilliant playwrights that are changing the landscape of American Theatre. AHH! 

Monster - Steppenwolf for Young Adults

Nothing makes me happier than theatre for young folx, by young folx. SO important. I am excited about the work that Steppenwolf is doing to create space for these young artistically curious minds and giving voice to the future of our art form. “Monster” tells the story of Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old boy in juvenile detention and an aspiring film-maker. His life has been turned upside down by his alleged participation in a robbery gone awry and now he might spend the rest of his life behind bars.” Tell me that story doesn't feel important as hell right now. 

The Freshness Initiative - Sideshow Theatre 

3 brilliant playwrights, 3 hot directors, and Sideshows wonderful artistic team developing work throughout the year — Come ON, what more can you ask for ! I was able to catch a few readings from last years Freshness Initiative, and have been excited for this years as soon as I saw that list of artists! 

January 11, 2017

Richard Costes is the executive director of Chicago D(ART), or Deaf ART, a new arts organization focused on bridging the Deaf and hearing communities, creating works in a wide variety of mediums that reflect the underserved d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities in Chicago.  He is also an actor who can be seen in Rasaka's VANYA (or That's Life) and will direct David Rush’s POLICE DEAF NEAR FAR for Chicago D(ART). 


Top 8 Shows I'm Looking Forward To

As a deaf theatre artist, I have taken care to include only shows that are currently listed as open captioned or ASL interpreted for accessibility.  While my hearing loss does not preclude me from being able to see a show, I gain much more out of the experience if it is accessible. Although not all theatres are able to afford more expensive accessibility measures, such as interpreters, there are steps any theatre can take toward added access. For instance, I often ask theatres to provide me with a script to read before the show. While the Chicago theatre community has been absolutely wonderful in accommodating this request, reading a script before the show cannot fully replace access such as open captioning and ASL interpreters.

If you are a company looking for advice on how to make your shows accessible, feel free to shoot us an email over at chicagodart@gmail.com or get in touch with us on Facebook and we'll be happy to assist as best as we can or put you in touch with people like the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium who can!
 

To find out what shows are accessible, I generally follow the "Chicago Accessible Theater for  Deaf and Hard of Hearing" group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/397117753676007/) or refer to the League of Chicago Theatre's Access Calendar.  You can find that calendar here: http://www.chicagoplays.com/access.html.

So while there are a lot of shows I am looking forward to, here are my top 8 shows that are currently listed as accessible for the d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  I'm sure more will be added as we move forward through 2017.

In no particular order:

Night Runner at the Theatre School at DePaul University: A new Ike Holter play?  I'm there!  I'm dying to see what Holter can do within the constraints of children's theatre - a style of theatre that is largely ignored by most theatregoers but is just as vital, if not more so, in furthering awareness of social issues in the minds of those who have the power to effect the most change in the coming years.  Holter's work has always been socially conscious and Night Runner will undoubtedly be no exception.

A Disappearing Number at TimeLine Theatre: I'm fascinated by the use of math and other sciences to tell stories about things that cannot be constrained with the use of numbers.  Converging multiple narratives, cultures, and a wealth of new ideas together in a piece originally devised by Théâtre de Complicité, this promises to be one of the more fascinating shows of 2017.

A Wonder in My Soul at Victory Gardens Theater: Marcus Garvey wrote one of my favorite plays of 2015, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, and I am dying to see how director Chay Yew tackles a piece that is "told though music, poetry, and dance".  Gentrification of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, as so many neighborhoods have their own cultural flair to them that is being lost.

Straight White Men at Steppenwolf Theatre: Using the familiar narrative of a father/son play as the backbone of the piece, the play promises to examine white male privilege in new and interesting ways.  This is probably the play I know the least about; however, my familiarity with the previous work of the playwright, Young Jean Lee, makes me especially curious about what it may turn out to be.

The Scene at Writer's Theatre: I lived in New York for a grand total of four months.  By month two, I knew it wasn't the right place for me: I still have lots of friends there, and they all enjoy it, but the culture there isn't my thing.  Chicago's culture is a better fit for my personality, but I still hold a place in my heart for the experiences I had there in the few short months I resided in Manhattan and the personalities that come into conflict in this play.  I'm a sucker for pieces with a small ensemble going at each other, alternatively building each other up and tearing each other down.

King of the Yees at Goodman Theatre: One of my resolutions for 2017 was to make a conscious choice to see theatre about and for cultures I have little experience with.  Lauren Yee's play explores the patriarchal Chinese-American community in San Francisco's Chinatown across the divide of a generation gap.  This play originally premiered as part of the Goodman's New Stages program a few years ago; I missed it then, but am not planning on missing it now.

Her Majesty's Will at Lifeline Theatre: I'm a huge Shakespeare nerd.  This is the other "biographical" play about Shakespeare happening in 2017: while Chicago Shakespeare's Shakespeare in Love will undoubtedly get more attention, that is a story I've seen before.  What I haven't seen is this fictional take on Shakespeare being a superspy with Christopher Marlowe on a quest to save the Queen.  This whole concept sounds so ridiculously fun that I just wanna buy a big box of popcorn and sit and have a good time.

Cymbeline at Strawdog Theatre: Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's weirdest works.  At times it reads like Will just threw in all of his favorite plot points from his previous plays, mixed it up in a blender, and ended up with Cymbeline - a hodge-podge of ideas that at times throws out some of the most beautiful language I've

read (that funeral song, for what it's worth, is what I'd like recited at my funeral when I've shuffled off this mortal coil). I have a particular fondness for watching directors tackle some of Shakespeare's lesser known works because that always seems to expose textual nuances and innovative approaches to Shakespeare that I haven't seen before. 

January 10, 2017

Lavina Jadhwani is a Chicago-based director and adaptor.  She wrote this list roughly in order in which they open (and all are affordably priced, to boot):

- Tympanic's Waiting for Godot: I read the casting announcement for this show and thought, "You had me at hello." 

- Wolf at the End of the Block (Teatro Vista): Because Ike Holter does not miss a beat (and Gabe Ruiz is usually ok, too).

- American Hwangap (co-pro between A-Squared and Halcyon): I first met Helen Young as an actor and I'm so excited by her work as a director as well!

- Hookman at Steep Theatre: I'm such a Lauren Yeel fangirl (I've already seen two other productions of this play) and she and Vanessa Stalling seem like a perfect match.

- Force Continuum, Eclipse Theatre: the whole season of Kia Cothron's plays is on my "must see" list, but I'm partial to this one because one of my favorite artists and humans, Michael Aaron Pogue, is directing.

- Peerless, First Floor Theatre: I've been longing to see this smart and funny riff on the Scottish play -- Jiehae Park's wit is razor sharp.

- Beauty's Daughter, American Blues Theater: I know very little about this show but admire many of the artists involved, and I love that ABT is committed to a diverse design team.

- We're Gonna Die, Haven Theatre: I trust Josh Sobel with anything, really, and I've shamefully yet to see Young Jean Lee's work (but will finally catch this as well as Straight White Men at Steppenwolf this year).

- Police Deaf Near Far, Chicago D(ART): If you only catch one show on the list, make it the debut production by this vital new company that explores ways to bridge the communication barrier between the d/Deaf and hearing worlds. Read more at www.chicagodart.com

- the Gift Theatre's entire 2017 season: I couldn't pick just one. Go see 'em all.

Honorable Mentions

Men on Boats at American Theatre Company (the only reason this didn't make the cut is because I assumed it would be on everyone else's lists, but I have a huge crush on this entire cast and production team), Sideshow's Freshness Initiative (new work by Isaac Gomez, Selina Fillinger, and J. Nicole Brooks!), Into the Beautiful North and Muthaland at 16th Street Theatre, whatever the New Colony has in store (I don't know what it is, but I trust them that much)

Other Productions in the Midwest

- How to Use a Knife (Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, January 19-February 12): I've seen two readings of this play, and it's so compelling that I basically held my breath the whole time. (Also playing at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, January 25-February 19.)

- I Call My Brothers (Cleveland Public Theatre, February 9-March 4): this play, this company, and this director should all be on your radar.

- Vietgone (Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, April 10-30): I don't care if you're tired of me yelling about how good this play it is IT IS SO GOOD. Full script will be published in American Theatre Magazine next month. To quote Amy Kim Waschke, "[Vietgone is important] because it shows refugees as human beings. Not a problem or a number -- but human beings."

January 9, 2017

Hannah Gomez is a Freelance Actor, and Outreach and Membership Co-Manager of ALTA. She enthusiastically endorses all the choices others have contributed to TCIP and so she adapted this assignment to be "10(+) Latinx-Inclusive Works to Look Forward to in 2017". 

It is important to note that she wrote this in a British dialect so you know it's legit. These are not in any particular order!

* American Theater Co. - MEN ON BOATS

A genderfluid and inclusive cast of women and folx otherwise defined doing a Jaclyn Backhaus work (YOTMN still has my heart.) directed by THE Will Davis in the historic ATC space. A summary like this shouldn't be unique, but given the foot-dragging that some theaters are prone to in regards to not-secret best practice, this is an important and exciting work with top talent that is not to be missed.

* Anything Aguijon Theater

* & Colectivo El Pozo produce.

These companies don't follow traditional seasons so we don't know what they're doing until this spring and summer, but if you don't know who they are, you are already failing the Chicago theater community. Follow and favorite them on Facebook right now. Some of the best storytelling in all aspects is happening on these stages and your life will be changed. I do not exaggerate. The directing, the writing, the acting, the design puts all of your other favorite theaters to shame. Don't worry; both companies have supertitles if you are intimidated by Spanish (But also, why? Whhhhhyyyyy? WHYYYY are you intimidated by Spanish??? In a public statement, please write me why you are intimidated by Spanish, awards committees and theater critics. WHY?) Go like them on Facebook now. I'll wait. And I will ask you when I see you. And I WILL be loud about it.

* Teatro Vista - THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE BLOCK

Ike Holter is one of Chicago's most important writers. He is writing for the NOW and for the ALL to hear. No one else is writing characters like these with such humor, bravery, complexity, and vulnerability. This cast is on fire and we must all bear witness to what will happen on that stage. Also, La Havana Madrid will be equally exciting! Gender, race, and sexual identity inclusion always leads to better play

selection/production!

* Cor/Stage Left - WHAT OF THE NIGHT?

The team that these companies have assembled on and off stage and the history this company has for inclusive and relevant work and programming deserves our attendance and attention. I trust the talent they've assembled on all sides to make Fornes' work come to life.

* Victory Gardens - NATIVE GARDENS

I could not be more thrilled to see this work that will explore entitlement among other things. It's being done by a great theater with one of the most important overall seasons of the city. Karen Zacarias' work is also being produced at Vision Latino Theater Company with JUST LIKE US, which will surely be very different, but another valuable discussion on the privilege spectrum and the factors that affect it.

* UrbanTheater Company - LA GRINGA (Extension)

I missed this show's initial run, but we cannot miss this extension. UTC's current show explores Latinx identity when you're American born and raised and you visit the Latin American nationality abroad that you identify so

strongly with. It's extended for the talent and execution, of course. But also, this is a topic that is ongoing as identity becomes more complicated and those in the in-between still seek to identify themselves.

* Free Street Theater - NO HAY MAL: A New Solo Show from Storyteller Lily Be

This solo show is going to be the hottest solo show ticket in town so do. not. miss. it. For your social status, sure, but for your soul, more

importantly. Free Street lifts up the vital voices that you can no longer ethically ignore in favor of a higher cost theater ticket downtown.

* Second City - REVOLUCION

Miguel Lepe, Jr. and Vernon Mina (two talented

and reputable comedians in their own right) have been curating stand-up, sketch, storytellers, musicians and more for a show that I plan to see it in its next iteration. I hope in the new year, we can all come together to support comedy artists and vise versa as important things are being said on all sides and it's all theater, really. The things we can gain and exchange with our fellow artists can only empower us all. Our struggles and triumphs are not dissimilar! Support these folx!

* iO - HERALDO

Did you know there are improv teams in Spanish? And it's not just for Spanish-speaking audiences? TRUTH. And you can not know Spanish and go to and enjoy and understand a Spanish speaking show. What? YES. The comedy industry at large may have a LONG way to go regarding representation (Retire, Lorne Michaels.), but maybe if we start supporting talented and amazing groups like this, things will change dollar and laugher by dollar and laugher.

January 3, 2017

The Chicago Inclusion Project founder and producer, Emjoy Gavino, discusses this past year's brightest moments and her wishes for the new year.

My Favorite Moments of 2016

June, The Gift Theatre

The day after the Orlando shooting, there weren't many rooms I wanted to be in, aside from my own dark corner at home.  But it was the only time I could see a run through of The Grapes of Wrath at Gift Theatre before it opened. I hadn't seen many of these actors since director Erica Weiss, artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton and I cast them several months before.  It was their first run through after teching the entire beast of a show.  This point in any show's process is typically tense and tiring and stressful.  But I saw none of that. I saw an ensemble and production team become a family.  They were mourning too, but they had to do their job.  And they did it with more care and love than I had witnessed in a very long time.  They told Steinbeck's story of an American family incredibly well, and obviously would continue to get better at telling it.  But beyond that, they exhibited a spirit of true generosity.  Looking at this stage picture: black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, able bodied, differently-abled, crying, hoping, singing, "IF NOT NOW THEN WHEN?"…They took every ounce of sadness they must have been feeling - we had all been feeling -  that day and turned it into something beautiful that permeated the rest of the run: Care, hope, love.  That day will never leave me. 

July, Jackalope Theatre

I was one of the lucky few who barely made it into the closing performance of Prowess by Ike Holter, directed by Marti Lyons.  4th of July weekend in Chicago is one where citizens brace themselves for the popping sounds of explosions, not knowing if they're gunshots or fireworks.  Leaving the theater after what was one of the most terrifying and cathartic things I could imagine seeing, we walked to the car in silence, not talking to any of the industry friends we knew on the way out.  Donovan Diaz, Andrew Goetten, Julian Parker and Sydney Charles did more than perform play well.  They reached into our collective heart and soul and forced us to deal with our present day and fears, with all the fierce honesty I've only seen displayed in Chicago.  I still shake, thinking about it.  

July, Writers Theatre

Avi Roque is a trans actor and devisor of color who also happens to be charismatic and wonderful with language.  To be at the first table read and see them as the titular character in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan – I kid you not, it felt like this is the way Shaw wanted this story to be told.  Played by some of my favorite actors in the city, some making their Writers Theatre debut, the men that surrounded Joan had no idea what to do with this vibrant, brilliant leader who dared to defy the Church and the order of things. The world couldn’t put Joan in a box.  Over 100 Writers Theatre patrons stayed for the talkback and strongly advocated for the show, with this cast, to be done on the mainstage. 

August, American Theater Company

Alongside fellow TCIP associate, Steph Diaz I got to watch ATC artistic director Will Davis run an audition room (both at the ATC generals and in callbacks for upcoming productions of Picnic and Men on Boats) with the exact creative, inclusive and loving spirit that we expected to see from Will.  I witnessed actors I’ve known for years do some of their best work because of the space and opportunity to delve into roles they hadn’t necessarily been able to explore.  When

theaters do a William Inge play, they seldom invite minorities into the room and to Will’s point – Inge wrote himself into each character – marginalized, misunderstood, yearning for a better life.  Who better to tell his stories than people of different gender identities, abilities, ethnicity? The generosity of Will’s direction throughout the day provided a new jumping off point for text we thought we knew. 

August, Timeline Theatre AND Victory Gardens

The Chicago Inclusion Project collaborated with Timeline Theatre Company for a staged reading of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room: or the vibrator play, featuring an amazing cast, directed by company member, Mechelle Moe.  The cast members assembled and their performances were

spectacular. We had a sold out house, standing room only, mostly full of Timeline Theatre patrons who were seeing some familiar faces in different context and some very new faces to the Timeline stage, but we also had industry folks, which wouldn’t be out of the ordinary…Except that evening was also a major theater event a few miles over:  The Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists (ALTA) was hosting a town hall event responding to whitewashing of Latinx roles in the theater community.  The Victory Gardens event was also full of artists and patrons trying to figure out how to create action toward making change in the representation of minorities onstage…These two packed houses on this one night told us something about THIS MOMENT in time: that artists and patrons are ready for change. 

August,  The Hypocrites                                                                            

I don’t know what I expected at first rehearsal when I finally got to work with The Hypocrites.  But when we were all seated and I got a chance to look around the room, the cast, production and artistic team of mainly minorities and women, each person beginning their introduction with “My name is, my pronouns are…” I remember thinking this is where I’m supposed to be, this is what every room can look like.  Artistic leaders (director, Devon De Mayo, artistic director, Sean Graney and casting director, Lavina Jadhwani) made space for all of us.  They believed that this group of people (many of whom had never worked together before) could tell these classic stories from American and British literature.  Jaclyn Backhaus's You on the Moors Now challenged what those heroines could look like.  Throughout our run, there were quite a few girls still in grade school in our audiences.  And the idea that their first picture of Jane Eyre, Jo March, Cathy Earnshaw and Lizzie Bennet could look like this...

It proved that in theatre there is a bigger world.  And they deserve it. And so do we.

My Wishes for 2017

For there to be new voices in theatre criticism.  There just aren’t enough different perspectives. When audiences wonder what shows they should see, not all audiences have a voice that represents their ethnicity, their gender identity, their economic status, their educational background, their physical ability.  There are some smart artists out there, giving their opinions on shows that are culturally relevant to so many people, but they’re not technically a “critic.”  Yet so many audiences and so many theaters representing different groups would benefit greatly from these writers getting their word out there.  Your opinion is valid. Your voice is valid.  And needed.

For institutions to start teaching ethics in casting. Now I understand this is still controversial – not everyone agrees that if you are not the ethnicity/gender identity/physical ability of the role you shouldn’t audition for it.  And I also know that there is nuance to this conversation.  But this is a conversation that can start to at least be opened up in school so students don’t have it drilled into their heads that “if they can pass, they should go for it.”  Representation in theater is a major problem and is just now getting the attention it should be getting. Let’s start it early.

For accessibility for artists and patrons. Theaters complain they lack the funding or staffing to accommodate people with different abilities for audience members.  And consideration for artists from that community is hardly a whim in many institutions (making the audition, rehearsal, performance process welcoming to all). There isn't an excuse for this anymore.  At the ADA Cultural Accessibility summit hosted by The Goodman, Michael Patrick Thornton asked artistic leaders in the community, "Are we coasting? Or are we leading?" He challenged everyone to do what they can within their institutions, even though "the right thing is often the hard thing...Do the right thing."  Evan Hatfield (co-chair of the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium) offered solutions - can't afford ASL interpreters?  Captioning is possible in most spaces.  Touch tours are always an option.  Want to know more?  Check out the CCAC website for resources and workshops.

For audiences to realize their power.  Your pocketbook can be your activism.  Literally the CHANGE you want in the world.  Do you believe in inclusive casting practices? In stories by playwrights with a new perspective?  Buy tickets to the shows and theaters already doing that.  The more successful they are, the more likely everyone will follow.  Many of these shows don’t even cost very much, but if expense is an issue, email the producers telling them you want more of this. OR email producers who aren’t making these new choices and tell them exactly what you want to see.  Producers make decisions based on what they think you want. Don’t give them a chance to decide you want the old regime.  Keep the institutions already doing good things the chance to keep doing them.  And stop supporting those that refuse to see the light. 

For all of us to dream bigger. No one else is going to do it for you.  You have to dream the theater scene and the artist trajectory you want for yourself. A lot of us have been trained to not aspire to things "outside of our boxes," to make those around us comfortable, not to ask for what we want.  That mandate often comes from people afraid you'll take something precious away from them.  Remember that opportunity belongs to all of us.   

For artistic leaders to let go a little.  Look. I get it. You’re the artistic director of a company, money is tight, board members are scared of a risky season, you don’t know if your audience is ready.  But…do you have to direct every show in the season?  Do you have to use the exact same design team for your space? Do you have to do that classic piece the exact way it would have been done 30 years ago? NO. You don’t.  It's time for you to step up and step aside. To make room for people.  To give opportunities to new voices, new directors and designers, new administrators, new decision makers.  We are storytellers.  We take risks.  You can do this and it can be beautiful.

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