When it rains, it pours, with last week’s East Coast storm flooding Soho Rep’s acclaimed production of Annie Baker’s version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. A different kind of trouble was also pouring last week, with the South Carolina Arts Commission vetoed, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s production of David Adjmi’s 3C in legal trouble, and a color-blind casting controversy besetting La Jolla Playhouse’s production of The Nightingale. Thankfully, the sun broke over South Carolina, with the hard work of arts advocates helping overturn Governor Nikki R. Haley’s veto to restore the Commission.
There seems to be some light breaking for Rattlestick and Adjmi, as well. 3C came under fire for alleged copyright infringement of Three’s Company, with copyright owner DLT Entertainment issuing a cease-and-desist letter. In protest of this action, playwright Jon Robin Baitz penned an open letter to DLT and their law firm Kenyon & Kenyon, with nearly 500 supporters adding their signatures. As David Adjmi is a TCG published playwright, and Rattlestick a Member Theatre, we felt urgent action was needed, and have signed and posted the letter here, and suggested potential pro bono lawyers to David. Per Jon’s request, TCG is taking over management of the letter, so add your signature in the comments and we’ll include it in the main letter.
We must also come together to advance the values of diversity and inclusion within our theatres. The Nightingale is a new Duncan Sheik and Stephen Sater musical based on the Hans Christian Andersen fable. When concerns were raised about the number of Asian American actors cast in the deliberately racially-diverse ensemble, La Jolla’s Artistic Director Christopher Ashley issued a public statement embracing the conversation, and held a panel on July 22nd with members of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition to discuss the concerns. As The Nightingale director and panelist Moises Kaufman said, “I think this conversation we are having today is perhaps one of the most important conversations we can be having in American theatre.”
This openness to the difficult conversations of diversity is essential, and was a major theme of our 2012 National Conference: Model the Movement. We’ve added archive videos of the Conference to our website, including the diversity-themed plenary session, Ensuring the Sustainability of our Field. I encourage you to watch and respond to the video, and join Conference 2.0 Groups like Allies Eliminating Racism in Theatre to share working models of inclusion and keep the dialogue going. Diversity will also be the primary theme of our Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge, which will assemble Member Theatre leaders and trustees in New York City from November 9 – 11, so mark your calendars now.
On that theme of leadership, we’re thrilled to announce the first round recipients of our inaugural Leadership U[niversity] program. Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this program matches talented early-career leaders with established leaders for hands-on mentorships, and empowers mid-career and veteran practitioners to step outside of their routines to deepen and expand their leadership skills. Learn more about this program and our inaugural round of recipients here.
Soon, in dryer weather, I’ll take another chance at seeing Uncle Vanya, and when Sonya and her uncle speak of the saving grace of work, remember all that remains for us to do.