Well, 2017 is almost over. That was a fun.

(JOY takes a long sigh.) The year was full of hashtags, laughing babies, and a lot of enticing theater. No matter where you go for that theatrical escape, we can all agree that we are extremely lucky to be in the so-cold-you-can-see-your-breath-and- it-makes-you-wonder-why-you-didn’t-move-to-LA Midwest.

This time last year, we were transitioning. We transitioned into a time where fear and hopelessness was the norm. Nuclear threats, sexual misconduct, lies and deceit are coming from “men” that are “in charge”. Things are as out of control as a Minnesotan on a fresh pile of ice. ( JOY high fives herself). Every day there is something for us to worry about. Trump, Net Neutrality, Amazon Echo’s* listening in on your conversations about the Viking game, and I don’t know if you heard about this, but UFO’s ya’ll. For real. Saturday Night Live’s “ close encounters” sketch  may become a real thing. With all of these first world problems we face, how will we make our next year be one of hope?

 

WE SHOULDA DONE DID IT

We can start by demanding fair treatment.

Someone grabs you, kisses you, offends you, scares you. Now what? Who do you talk to? What is the procedure? What if it’s the director? The system is set up so that if something happens to you, YOU are the person dealing with the issue. Even after you speak with the appropriate people in charge, it is often a long and convoluted process. There is a real fear in our community of being labeled as “difficult.” Because of this, conversations are springing up all over the twin cities regarding this topic. From talking to several actors, I know and have heard that harassment and assault is not always sexual. There is verbal harassment, bullying, and shaming that happens in this community and is swept under the rug. Just this month, I have had conversations with men and women that have felt chastised. And after speaking with the appropriate people in charge, there is no follow through procedure to see if the offender was reprimanded or disciplined. Sometimes, everyone in the room and in the theater KNOWS something wrong is happening, but they don’t know how to deal with it or they don’t want to be the one that stands up. This must stop. We must scream and kick up our heels in defiance. We must not fear that people will label us “difficult” but that they will label us “strong”.

We need transparency. There needs to be a structure where abuse can be filed and followed up. There needs to be a structure so that if the abuser is your boss or the artistic director, there are no reprimands to the victim. There needs to be a structure so that there is punishment that fits the crime. We need to start speaking openly about people that abuse their power, not only to avoid the same assault over and over again, but to build a healthy and safe environment. WE created this culture and this community. We are figuring it out, but we are still doing a lot of things wrong. We need to keep having these conversations, not only in official meetings, but among each other as friends and coworkers and partners.

We could start by supporting women in the arts.

Have you ever seen Back to the Future 2? The one where Marty McFly goes to 2015 and they have flying skateboards? We are in 2017 and the only thing flying through my neighborhood are Domino’s Delivery/the special bird that nobody can seem to catch/. I think of that movie when I think about all of these wonderful women that I admire that have transitioned to Artistic Directors, Directors, Actor, writer, teacher, dancer, Stagehand. You would think in 2017, we shouldn’t have to pat ourselves on the back for doing a season that features women as playwrights, directors, actors, and crew. And don’t get me started if its all women of color. Everyone loses their damn minds. At this point in history, women and women of color taking space should be comfortable. That shows how far we have yet to go.

That being said, there are some incredible events in store for 2018. Not only does The Jungle have an incredible season, they have a great new initiative for high school girls interested in playwriting JungleWrites. On the other side of the river, Penumbra has created a competition called “My America” that will feature people talking of their experiences in America and how they claim themselves and their identities. Also, Penumbra is partnering with Children’s Theater Company for the production of “The Wiz” and putting those BLACK. BODIES. ON. STAGE. (JOY claps on every capitalized word.) I just heard about Raw Sugar Theatre’s partnership with Theatre UnBound W/T/F playwriting workshop. Women/Trans/Femme workshops will create comedies that challenges how audiences see sexuality, gender, privilege and community. Keep your eyes on that one. Whomever takes over for Michelle Hensley at Ten Thousand Things Theatre will be exciting and most likely a woman based on previous statements. And, I must add, the people of Blackout Improv have a community that will continue growing with a mission of putting BLACK. BODIES. ON. STAGE. (You know I clapped.)

 

MY PROMISE FOR 2018

First, I’m going to stop using buzz words, beginning with resolution. There is a lot I don’t know. But 2018 is going to be about claiming what I do know. I know I’m caring, smart, talented, and funny AF. And I claim it. I want all women to claim who they are unapologetically. It is not hubris, it is facts. The sooner we can claim ourselves and our space, we can start setting acceptable parameters for how we move in the world. Personally, I want to read more plays by women. Double points if its a woman of color. I want to see more women in comedy. Double points if they are women of color. I want to strengthen my relationships. I want to appreciate every cold ass day that comes along with every sunny day. I want a dog. I want to write more and listen more and speak less. I want to achieve all of these things next year. What do you want?