Barriers to entry are everywhere, from grade school, to college, and beyond. How can we change that? What we’ve been told is that hard work and elbow grease are all you need, but the actual fact is that it takes much more than that to reach “success”. With this in mind, it was a privilege this past summer to have a candid conversation with 3-time Tony Nominated Costume Designer Toni-Leslie James. With credits ranging from Footloose to Come From Away, Jelly’s Last Jam to Bernhardt/Hamlet, and The Wild Party to The Scottsboro Boys, hear about her decades-long journey from young, bright-eyed student at Ohio State in the late seventies, to multi-award nominated costume designer. Get your notebooks ready… class is in session.
The podcast is back this week with Changing the Landscape-Episode 4: Barrier to Entry. There’s a lot of discussion about barriers to entry later in the journey toward success as a designer, but really, the most basic entry point, grade school, has some pretty high barricades of its own. In this episode, Alan Edwards speaks with three high school arts teachers in Rochester, New York: Christine Sargent, Trish Annese and Marcy Gamzon. These educators share what they’ve seen in their decades of experience, what they know now that they didn’t know then, and what we can do to make this career more available to people of color, and young people in general.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled Sunday with this bite-sized bonus episode with Brad Nelms from We Make Events North America to discuss their current campaign and the upcoming day of action on Sept 1 entitled Red Alert Restart. The goal of the movement is to raise awareness for the RESTART Act currently sitting in Congress which would help out businesses facing economic hardship from the COVID crisis as well as push for badly needed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The Arts & Culture sector in this country accounts for 877 billion dollars in economic value and 4.5% of the US GDP. Millions of entertainment workers have no jobs to return to yet and Theatre, Concerts, Tours, Live Music Events, and Festivals are all in desperate need of help to survive. Brad is here to tell us all of the ways you can get involved to make our voices heard. And let’s see those buildings Red!
Changing the Landscape returns this week with part two of our interview with Steve Jones, former Director of Production at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. Steve tells us how he went from a young lighting programmer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to a well-seasoned Director of Production at the Apollo Theatre… with a whirlwind eighteen-year stint working with music legend and icon Harry Belafonte in between. He’s sharing stories from the filming of ‘We Are the World’, to how he reshaped the culture and expectations of a predominately Black crew when the Apollo became a Local 1 IATSE House and what happened when Rev. Al Sharpton called him with an extraordinary request. And Steve and Alan discuss why Black artists are continually forced to fight preconceived notions about their skill level and talent and how to fight those misconceptions.
Changing the Landscape is back this week with Episode 2: Perception of the Unknown. In this episode, the first of two parts, Steve Jones, former Director of Production at the Apollo Theatre in New York City, sits down with Alan to tell us where he came from. Beginning with his origins in Flint, Michigan where he started taking part in theatre activities in grade school, Steve started taking theatre seriously after a sports injury sidelined him for the remainder of his college career. He walks us through his experiences in applying for grad schools, leaving Flint, MI, and his first big-time job in New York City at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The podcast is about to hit 100 episodes, but before that milestone, we are pleased to present a brand new mini-series entitled ‘Changing the Landscape: Examining Race in Theatrical Design.’ Guest hosted by Lighting Designer Alan Edwards, this multi-part series will ask the questions where are the theatrical designers of color in history? Why has the roster appeared to grow only recently? What are the challenges of going from grade school to professional? And is there anything that can be done? In this first episode, ‘It’s Not That We Don’t Exist’, Alan sits down with Cory to discuss the impetus of the mini-series and then talks with Lighting Designer Kathy Perkins who tells us about her path from Mobile, Alabama to the world of professional design, why she decided to document and write about Black theatre-makers, how she thinks schools can do better at recruiting and seeking out young Black students, and whether she believes there is a shortage of Black designers or just a perception problem. She is a great and knowledgable voice to kick off the series and we hope you’ll join us over the coming weeks as Alan speaks with educators and designers such as Toni-Leslie James, Steve Jones, Luqman Brown and more.
It’s the end of week 10 of quarantine which means it’s time for another Happy Hour and episode #99! Joining Cory and Jen this week arre Associate Scenic Designer Erica Hemminger, Associate Lighting Designer Jessica Creager, Costume Designer Linda Cho, and Lighting Designer Japhy Weideman. As parts of the world slowly start to open up, the group shares their feelings on venturing further out from home and how New York (and North Carolina where Japhy is) are starting to feel a little different. We hear stories on how Erica (heading up Derek McLane’s studio) continues to work on future productions of ‘Moulin Rouge’ and other shows even as we wait to see when theatre will return, Jess tells us about being 4 days out from freezing ‘Company’ on Broadway when everything shut down, Japhy shares stories of working with the great Terrence McNally, sadly one of the first high profile deaths related to Covid19, and Linda makes a loaf on Sourdough LIVE on air! It’s a podcast and a cooking class! It’s peak quarantine cliches! What are you waiting for??
The pandemic has raised a host of questions regarding current and future contracts, pay schedules, working conditions, health insurance, union dues and many other topics and Carl Mulert is back with us to help wade through it all. Carl is the Business Rep for Live Performance for United Scenic Artists, and he joins us, along with Jen Schriever and Bradley King, to break down what we know about how theatre will come back (very little) and what questions will need to be answered before that happens (quite a lot.) Carl also shares with us conversations being had regarding streaming rights, a very important distinction in how the different USA contracts are legally binding, and how the lack of leadership from the federal government is making it difficult to establish guidelines for how venues will be able to reopen. Knowledge is power so tune in and power up with this important episode!
We’re back this week with another Quarantine Happy Hour featuring Scenic Designer Mike Carnahan, Production Designers Rob Bissinger and Anita La Scala, Scenic Designer Donyale Werle, Costume Designer Paloma Young, and Lighting Designers Jeff Croiter and Jen Schriever! After checking in as to how everyone is doing at the end of week 7, the group dives in to discuss what kind of work is appropriate to do before a contract, how people are engaging with future work, they discuss the newly released Barrington Stage plan for their summer shows, and whether everyone is having crazy dreams (hint: yes). Paloma tells us how the pandemic threw a wrench in her wedding plans, Mike recounts getting the last flight out of Brazil in March, and Donyale explains how she’s essentially been preparing for a quarantine her entire life. There are surprise appearances from babies and dogs, Rob shares details on a secret hobby and Jeff brings a really big bottle of Gin!
The world remains shut down but our Happy Hour rages on here at the podcast with episode 96. This week we’ve got Scenic Designers Adam Koch and Paul dePoo, Projection Designer Alex Koch, Costume Designer Andrea Hood, and Lighting Designers Amanda Zieve and Jen Schriever. The group shares their feelings on what changed this week as everyone started thinking bigger picture about the theatre industry as a whole and what our jobs might look like when they come back. Everyone shares their shutdown stories, where they are getting their news, whether audiences will want to come see a show, how we can help graduating young designers, and of course a check-in on everyone’s unemployment status. Pour whatever you’ve got lying around and come join the party!