Even in Oregon
Actor Christiana Clark is well known here in the Twin Cities. (She did win an Ivey award.) You may not have seen her around town for a while, because she's been out working at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, making Minnesota proud.
For you young hip people who only know Oregon as the home base of that mythical hipster paradise called Portland, I've got some bad news for you. Oregon can be home to some pretty messed up stuff (besides pseudo-militia nutjobs who think occupying a bird sanctuary is a blow against the government).
Clark recently posted a video on her Facebook page in which she recounts a run-in with a local Oregonian who stopped her randomly on the street and told her "It's still an Oregon law. I could kill a black person and be out of jail in a day and a half. Look it up."
For you young, hip liberals who are scratching your heads and wondering how such a brazen act could occur outside of the South, you should know something: the South doesn't have a monopoly on racist dickheads. In fact, the state of Oregon was originally founded as a whites-only utopia. And not just in the informal "sundown town" sort of way; in very real state laws that barred black people from even being there.
Just because those laws have been rescinded doesn't mean that the culture that dreamed them up just disappeared. Unfortunately for Christiana Clark, she had to run into its dregs. Fortunately for the rest of us, she has the ability to share her story and be heard. As of the last time I checked, her video has been shared over 2,500 times and watched over 155,000 times. At the very least, people now have the ability to call attention to this sort of behavior and call it for what it is.
And lest you despair for the direction of the nation, you should also think about the place where Clark currently works. Oregon Shakespeare Festival is leading the American theater world in diversity practices, and it has made them one of the strongest, most vital and sustainable regional theaters in the country, which suggests to me that there is actually plenty of hope for the future.
Let's not be Profiles
Since we're on the subject of despicable things that are shocking to outsiders and not really shocking to those in the know, let's look again at the revelations about Profiles Theatre in Chicago. This is not to harp on the allegations again. Profiles is closed, and we're not going to be hearing from anyone associated with it again for quite a while. No, this week we go into the phase where we should reflect on our theater community as a whole and wonder if there's something we've been doing (or not doing) to allow situations like Profiles to proliferate.
In DC, critic Alan Katz responded to Christopher Piatt's apology on behalf of critics in Chicago for helping to create the situation at Profiles. Katz expands the premise to other issues of workplace safety and offers up this pledge for himself and other critics to follow:
1. I will never let my fears for the safety of any member of the theater Community here in DC ever go unvoiced.
2. If any member of this community comes to me personally or professionally with allegations of abuse or harassment or any kind of inhumane or undignified treatment, I will believe you.
3. If any member of the community comes to me with those kind of allegations and requests it, I will use my pen to support them.
At the Clyde Fitch Report, Sean Douglass looks at the cultural disparities that are generated in theater when male artistic directors, writers, directors and actors continue to create, select and promote work that imposes their own sexual fantasies on women. (Funny/sad/relevant side note: when I first pulled up this article, one of the ads generated on the page exclaimed to me: "Find beautiful women in your area now!")
If you're wondering how you can stop producing this kind of work (or if you believe that it's "not in the pipeline"), you should know that the Kilroys have released their third annual version of The List. If you're not familiar with The List, it is a juried selection of promising, but unproduced plays by female and trans playwrights put together to fight back against the common notion that there just aren't enough good plays not written by men.
There are just so many ways to be a decent human being!
(By the way, the play Orange by local Minneapolis playwright Aditi Kapil is on this year's list.)
Now that I've done my social justice warring for the day, let's turn our attention back to Broadway, the happiest place on earth, where nothing bad ever happens. We've reached that magical time of year, just after the Tonys, when productions that didn't win awards are taken behind the woodshed and mercilessly beaten to death with a shovel. Isn't that happy?
It's closing season on Broadway and a bunch of shows are getting the axe to make room for whatever will be getting the axe next year.
This isn't always about failure, though. The producers behind the 2015 Tony award winner Fun Home just announced that it will be closing on September 10. That show has more than made its money back and a national tour is pending, but some things just aren't meant to run for decades.
However, quite often, this is about failure. Plenty of shows lose money on Broadway, and several multi-million dollar musical productions are going into the flop category, including the musical adaptations of American Psycho and Tuck Everlasting (which are pretty much the same show, right?), the parody musical Disaster!, and the bluegrass musical Bright Star, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. If you're looking for something a little out of left field to produce in a few years, I'm pretty sure the rights to these are going to go for cheap.
Then there's Shuffle Along, the revival that's not a revival that probably would have taken flight in any other year than the ascendancy of the Hamilton juggernaut. With choreography by Savion Glover and a lead role for six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, the show has been pulling in almost a million dollars a week. Unfortunately, McDonald is due to go on maternity leave soon, and producers are pulling the plug the day she leaves.
Plenty of people have gotten up in arms about this. Commentators are incensed at the idea that producers have canceled the show because of McDonald's pregnancy and enraged at how badly they think the white producer behind the show has handled this black musical. They're just very, very angry.
Unfortunately, I don't think this is a case where producer Scott Rudin can be blamed much. (I say "unfortunately", because it's so much more convenient when there's just one guy that everyone can yell at.) Despite the fact that the show has been selling well so far, Broadway audiences have sent them a clear message: they don't want to see the show without Audra McDonald. Advance sales for the show post-McDonald have dropped off precipitously, and the best estimates show Shuffle Along running at a loss for the foreseeable future after that. It sucks for everyone involved, but, by and large, Broadway is a for-profit enterprise and Rudin has backers who plopped down $12 million to answer to.
But, like I said about those other musicals shutting down, this means that the rights to this show may become available soon. If you really believe in the project that is Shuffle Along, you could try your hand at it yourself someday.
Or you could keep scrambling to try to get Hamilton tickets. Hillary Clinton has a few she's willing to let go of for the low, low price of only $2,700.