LOOKING BACK, GOING FORWARD: Reflections on 2016 and Hopes for 2017

Business manager of The Chicago Inclusion Project, Elana Elyce offers her favorite things that happened in Chicago theater this year as well as her wishes for next year...

So long 2016! Many people are so pissed at you!! You weren’t all bad. You showed promising signs of growing in Inclusion in the Arts. Here are some of my fondest reflections:

1. United Flight 232 directed by Vanessa Stalling with The House Theatre of Chicago- I lived and breathed this project for several months. I still live the experience every day.

​2. How We Got On directed by Jess McLeod with Haven Theatre Company- this small cast of four toes the line a bit regarding Inclusion, but showcasing three young people who are making serious waves with their talent, professionalism and just plain likability, gives promise to the future of Chicago theatre.

3. Roundtables and panel discussions aplenty- although I was not able to attend all of the events popping up to address casting issues in the city, just knowing they occurred is encouraging. People are serious about change and are putting time and energy into making the noise that will lead to long term change.

4. A different kind of outreach- I am used to being contacted as the only black person a company’s producers may know and as a result am asked to do or recommend folks for various projects. In 2016, I have started to be asked to meet to discuss how to go about me not being the only point of contact. (It’s not been said that way, but meeting to chat about what a company/producer can do versus them just asking for referrals is a step in the right direction.)

5. The Nutcracker directed by Tommy Rapley with The House Theatre of Chicago- even tho I only saw this only days before writing this, it was Inclusive, it was moving, it was funny and just a delightful piece of theatre to end the year with.

6. Along with six amazingly talented incredible humans, I was welcomed as a company member of The House Theatre of Chicago.

Here comes 2017!! Things can only get better. Right?

In the new year I hope for:

  1. More underrepresented actors to show up to auditions they may have felt unwelcome to in the past. Get in the room. Be seen. We are fighting for you and need your help!

  2. Broader thinking in casting. This is on repeat and will be until it is no longer necessary. Try something different. It’ll probably be awesome.

  3. More honest open dialog that results in action. We’ve talked long enough.

  4. A collective recognition that underrepresented actors can be cast in roles that are just humans; that an actor in a wheelchair can play a person and a human of color can, y’know, portray a person. Let us not create limitations where there are none.

  5. The broad understanding that the work we are doing towards Inclusion is about creating opportunities-not taking any away from anybody. There is enough art for all of us, if we allow and nurture it as such.

  6. Chicago theatre to start to have more Inclusion OFF stage: casting folks, stage managers, designers, house managers, board members. The impact of this is only positive and guess what? Having that will influence production and casting choices going forward. Think "be the change you want to see."

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