In Ohio, playwright Charlie Yvonne Simpson fall Production planned at the Cleveland Play House last month for her latest work, “Now I’m Back.” After the manager said that the theater mishandled an actor’s report that she had been sexually assaulted in the building where the theater housed performers.
In Chicago, Erika Dickerson-Dispenza commanded the Victory Gardens Theatre to stop its production “Cullud wattah,” Flint’s water crisis sparked a family drama, in the middle of its run last summer to protest One of the measures that included isolating the artistic director of the theater.
And in Los Angeles, Dominique Morisot stopped a production of her play at the Geffen Playhouse.blue heavenA week after it opened in late 2021, he said the black women who worked on the show had been “verbally abused and diminished.”
The steps playwrights have taken to halt productions of their work reflect the concerns of frustrated black artists at what they see as the failure of theater managers to live up to lofty promises made during and after the spring of 2020, when George Floyd died at their hands. of the Minneapolis police sparked national protests and calls for change in many corners of American society, including the arts. In the theatre, a coalition of artists led by Anonymous, known by the name of its first manifesto, “We see you, white American theatre,” parlayed a wide range of demands for change.
“We don’t want to withdraw our plays—we’re playwrights, we want our plays done, we want our plays to be done, we’re away from money, we’re away from seeing our work on stage,” said Moreso. “But this is not an act of ego and it is not an act of a diva. What we do is stand up when no one else is.”
The cancellations came as theaters were trying to reopen and rebuild after the extended closures of the pandemic.
There has been a notable change to address concerns about diversity and representation: an increase in the number of plays by black writers on Broadway and off; a wave of appointments of color officials to high-ranking positions in the theater industry; Renamed two houses on Broadway after black performers (James Earl Jones and Lena Horne).
But the cancellations reflect frequent concern about conditions in the industry. There’s pain everywhere—although actors often still get paid, playwrights can lose fees, theaters lose box office revenue, and production costs sink. And there are reputational risks: Will theaters still want to hire these artists? Will artists still want to work in these theatres?
“It hurts theatres, it hurts playwrights, it hurts all the artists involved, but it highlights issues that need to be brought to light, and I hope it catches the attention of the field and reminds us that we didn’t have to do anything,” said Sheldon Epps, senior artistic advisor at Ford’s Theater in Washington, and artistic director. Former House of Pasadena, and author of New notesMy Own Attitudes: The Black Man’s Journey in American Theatre. “We had all those conversations and all the conference calls, and the conversation was valuable but there’s clearly a lot of work to be done.”
These cancellations began in October of 2021, when Jeremy Harris Posted on Twitter An email he sent to the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles, saying he wanted to “start the process” of canceling that theater’s production of “Slave Play,” a popular drama about interracial relations. The Los Angeles production was to be the first since running a pair of raucous Broadway shows, but Harris was upset that the theater had only announced one season of a woman’s work.
The reaction was immediate. The company publicly apologized, and within a week it did Pledge that the next season on his Mark Taper forum will feature only the works of women or non-binary playwrights. Harris then allowed “Slave Play” to continue; The production became Taper’s best-selling show since the pandemic stopped.
“We have nothing to lose by telling the stage that we don’t want to be mascots anymore,” said Harris.
“Here’s the thing: Writing a play is an act of community service, and even when you pull the play, you’re doing an act of community service—and that’s what theatre is, too, because the conversation that erupts is like the conversation raised by doing the play.” “The only cost is the vanity of theater managers who drop the ball into supporting the policies of the playwrights who programmed them.”
Harris ultimately praised the Center Theater Group for their response, and Megan Pressman, the theatre’s managing director and executive director, said she was “grateful” for Harris’ confrontation, even though it was difficult.
“We were called to task, and we learned a lot,” she said.
Moreso was next, pulling the rights to “Blue Heaven” from Geffen. The accelerating incident was not made public, but Moreso he said at the time “The hurt happened internally within the creative team, when fellow artists were allowed to act disrespectfully.” Geffen apologized, say“An incident between production members was brought to our attention and we did not respond decisively to addressing it.”
In an interview, Moreso said she considered withdrawing her play as a last resort, and said, “I felt like there was nothing else to do.”
And why has it been canceled so many times in recent months? “I think what you’re seeing is a failure of institutions and institutional leadership to take seriously the harms that Black women experience,” Moreso said. “It’s nothing new for us, but it’s very disappointing to experience it in an ecosystem of theater that we’re all striving to be better. You can’t welcome us and our stories, you can’t welcome the people who tell our stories and the bodies our stories are told about.”
Playwrights, unlike screenwriters, have enormous power over the use of their works, sometimes by virtue of their contracts, and sometimes by the nature of their relationships with regional theatres.
In the pre-pandemic period, there were occasional instances of playwrights exercising these rights for a variety of reasons. In 2016, Penelope Skinner Withdraw the right of a Chicago play to stage its own black comedy, “The Village Bike”, after a news report detailed allegations that the conductor of the theater had mistreated the performers; In 2012, Bruce Norris Withdraw German Theater Right introduced its Pulitzer Prize-winning satire on race relations, “Clybourne Park” because it was outraged at its plans to cast a white actor to play a black character; And in the 1980s, several playwrights canceled productions due to a union dispute.
“We encourage authors to exercise all of their contractual rights to the fullest extent possible,” said Ralph Sifusch, executive director of business affairs for the Dramatists Guild of America, an association that represents playwrights.
For the theaters affected, the cancellations were crippling—in each case, tickets were already sold out. Victory Gardens, already falling apart when the “cullud wattah” was pulled, has since ceased producing shows. The Cleveland Play House and Geffen Playhouse both issued apologies.
“The Cleveland Playhouse acknowledges missteps in efforts to respond to sexual assault,” the organization said in a statement last month.
The financial implications vary from case to case. When Blue Heaven was cancelled, Moreso said, “every artist was paid by their contracts. I, as a writer, and Geffen, as an institution, are the only ones who take any financial hit.” David Levy, a spokesman for the Union of Actors’ Equity Union, said that “Every stock agreement anticipates the worst-case scenario in which a production is canceled before the full show is completed. When that happens, the union does our part to enforce the contract so that the actors and stage managers are taken care of.” In Cleveland, the union filed complaints that led to its members paying for the canceled show there.
The current round of cancellations ties in directly with the racial reckoning that has hit theaters over the past three years; There have been a wide range of calls for change, from period limits to industry leaders and more diverse creative teams sought by We See You petitions, to rebranding theaters and the use of racially sensitive coaches won in a charter negotiated by the organization Black Theater United.
Black artists cited the issues that drove those movements in describing their current interests. In Chicago, Dickerson-Dispenza withdrew the rights to her play after firing the theatre’s artistic director, Ken Matt Martin, who was one of three black leaders in senior positions at Victory Gardens. At the time Dickerson-Dispenza denounced the painting’s “patriarchal, capitalist values of white supremacy”. On Wednesday, the council issued a statement saying: “The Victory Gardens Theater strongly disagrees with the description,” noting that it had a diverse staff and council, adding that “we hope for that, rather than jumping to conclusions and distortions.” We can all move forward with the common goal of a vibrant and inclusive theater community.”
Storyline, who directed both the canceled production of “Now I’m Back” in Cleveland and the production of “Blue Paradise” in Los Angeles, used similar language in Share on Instagram About the two experiences, citing “The Culture of White Supremacy in the Theater Industry.” Both of these theaters declined to comment beyond their written statements.
Simpson, the playwright who pulled the rights to “Now I’m Back” from the Cleveland Playhouse, said she decided to make the move after Ayers pulled out of the production due to the theater’s response to an actress who said she had been sexually assaulted in an elevator in the theatre’s artist residence.
“To put it simply: if the health, safety, and welfare of the people working in my play are in question, then the play need not have happened,” Simpson said. “I no longer trust that the theater will take care of the people who will stage my show.”
Simpson said she was not sure what would happen next with “I’m Back Now”, because it was commissioned by the Cleveland Play House, and it was her first production. The play is about three generations of Cleveland residents, including a historical figure named Sarah Lucy Bagby, who was the last person forced back into slavery under the Fugitive Slave Law.
“You want to produce, you want to make it possible, and you’ve learned a lot of us to be very grateful for that and to ignore things that might upset us,” Simpson said. “I never imagined I would have to take away the rights.”
“Certified alcohol aficionado. Organizer. Explorer. Lifelong writer. Falls down a lot. Proud social mediaholic. Freelance student.”
Ponniyin Selvan 2 Trailer: Twitter Obsessed With Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s Nandini
A fourth animal dies at the Milwaukee Zoo: the now 30-year-old giraffe
whisk. The school district forbids first graders from singing the Cyrus-Barton duet “Rainbowland” at a concert