2020 was a wack year for all of us. On top of a pandemic sweeping the globe, the United States was finally forced to reckon with the racism entrenched in its heritage, ignited on May 25, 2020 with the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. Rocked by a firestorm of protests, and with little entertainment or escape due to Covid-safety protocols, a group of theatre designers, directors, actors, managers and technicians, produced an open letter titled ‘We See You White American Theatre’, and laid it square in the public eye. The letter detailed the many transgressions accumulated toward theatre-makers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, by the predominantly white American theatre in the United States, and has reverberated through management structures, teaching institutions and theatre producing organizations at all levels prompting a new, thorough, unavoidable level of public conversation and accountability. Joining Alan to discuss these topics is award-winning Scenic & Costume designer and activist Clint Ramos, Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor Adjunct in Theater Management for Yale School of Drama and General Manager of Yale Repertory Theatre Kelvin Dinkins, Jr, and Managing Director of the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University Al Heartley.
Before we take 2020 out and bury it in the backyard, we can’t let the year go by without checking in on one of our favorite guests, Lindsay Jones! For a guy who spends most months away from home, this year has been a major adjustment for our resident travel expert. He is chatting with Cory (and Jen!) about what it’s been like being home for 9 months, how his relationship with his family has changed during this time, how he’s embraced LA as a walking city, what he misses most about travel, and what traveling may look like when we eventually go back to work. We are also talking about Lindsay’s recent Tony Noms for ‘Slave Play’, and his designs for the podcast ‘The Imagine Neighborhood’, and a radio play version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ Also, Lindsay teaches Jen about uber eats, Cory talks about finally having lounge access in a year where no one is flying, and Jen regales us about getting takeout from New York’s famed restaurant Rao’s. AND we premiere new theme music written by Lindsay in honor of crossing 100 episodes!
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.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced so many designers into an unpredictable and scary situation, but it’s especially difficult for artists living in the states who are not US citizens. Today on episode 100, we are sitting down with 4 immigrant designers to discuss how they have been affected by the shutdown and about the formation of the See Lighting Foundation to help artists in need. Cory and ‘Changing the Landscape’ producer Alan Edwards chat with Cha See, Rodrigo Muñoz, Yee Eun Nam, and Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene about the difficulties non-citizens are facing including the inability to collect unemployment, the rules surrounding work visas that prevent them from seeking out other work which could lead to possible deportation, and how this administration’s callous and hostile behavior towards immigrants has affected their lives. The group also reexamines the idea of the American dream and the notion that this is a country built by (and made great by) immigrants, whether that America still exists, why they persevere in the face of such adversity, and why, ultimately, calling America their home is important in their journey as an artist. The contribution of artists from all over the world is critical to the theatre community to ensure we keep telling stories that reflect our diverse makeup and give voices to other cultures. Please enjoy this important conversation and then visit seelightingfoundation.com to learn more and help in any way you can.
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??