Recently, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) asked me to write a regional spotlight on what I see happening in Michigan theatre. My short article is below. Enjoy!

Regional Spotlight: Midwest – Michigan
Spot Op: Amanda Grace Ewing

“I keep a variety of quotes from this year’s LMDA Conference on my phone, which I revisit when I’m feeling stuck or need some motivation. In the past couple of months, I’ve begun to look for a note as I scroll: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Affliction: trouble, burden, distress, oppress. Comfort: console, solace, support, uplift. Both of these verbs suggest a physical act of resistance and remind me that bodies carry text. As the national conversation around equity and diversity becomes more robust, theatre companies in my region, Southeastern Michigan, are more purposefully considering the dramaturgy of bodies: who gets to tell what stories and how? Who is afflicted and who is comfortable?

My artistic home is BoxFest Detroit (BFD), an annual one-act theatre festival that showcases local female-identifying directors. BFD has, and continues to, function as a springboard for local women and their directing careers. This year, when the organizers met to plan the festival, we began with strategizing how to leverage our visibility as an organization in order to serve more directors. In response to this challenge, we launched a new mentorship program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. The first award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with a regional, experienced, female-identifying director at an Equity theatre; and the later award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to direct a one-act play at an Equity theatre house. Our goals for this program are to: connect BFD directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community, support the education of female directors, connect BFD directors with other female directors working in the community, remove challenges for BFD directors and professional theaters associated with the cost of education, travel, and artist salaries. While we are still in our pilot year – we’re excited to see how this program will affect hiring and visibility of female-identifying directors in Michigan.

Another Southeastern Michigan theatre company looking to create opportunities for marginalized communities is Black and Brown Theatre (BandB). BandB was founded in the summer of 2016 to address the inequity of casting in Michigan theatre. Like many other regions, white artists dominate Michigan theatre, and when considering casting, white is synonymous with neutral. Despite the Detroit area’s diverse population, oftentimes actors of color are only considered in casting when the script breakdown specifically calls for a certain race. Since their founding, BandB has worked to interrupt this narrative by presenting staged readings, showcases, productions, outreach, and education for and with communities of color – each action driving BandB towards the goal of becoming extinct in the next five to ten years. One valuable act of BandB is a humble Google Drive of headshots and resumes of actors of color, that casting directors can ask for access to. Currently, the database is viewable by 64 directors and has the information for 84 actors of color. This simple task has completely negated any claim of, I don’t know any actors of color, I can’t find anyone for this role, etc., and generated access for actors and casting directors to each other.

I’m excited that BFD and BandB are challenging narratives around who is in the room doing the work, that there are more companies in our region asking questions about access and equity, and that theatres and artists are using the resources that companies like BoxFest Detroit and Black and Brown Theatre provide. I hope that as all of us connect with each other we can be a force to afflict those comfortable in the white narrative, and comfort those looking to see themselves in the texts we present.”

 

cropped-img_8349.jpg
Nyjae Maria in “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue” written by Asher Wyndham, directed by Amanda Grace Ewing. Photo courtesy of Kelly Rossi. (BoxFest Detroit 2017)

 

Advertisements

I’m really excited to announce that this year I will be directing at BoxFest Detroit! After taking a few years off to serve primarily as a producer of the festival, this year I am happy that I will be able to do both.

This year I’m working on a one-act called, “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue”. I’m thrilled to be working with this play that challenges the culture of sexual assault at comic cons through the voice of a single female character. I start rehearsals soon and I’m really looking forward to playing with the comic book style of this play. As an educator, I’m also really passionate about sharing this information on rape culture.

I’m excited to announce that I have been working as the production coordinator on a second Bad & Nasty event. This one is a birthday bash for the 45th President’s birthday. We’re calling it “Patriot Acts: 71 Wishes for 45.” Huffington Post recently did a story on the events happening around the country. Check out the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/593f11cae4b014ae8c69e345

“The brainchild behind Bad and Nasty, performance artist Holly Hughes, is co-hosting ’71 Wishes For 45.’ Revelers seeking performance art, improv comedy, finger puppetry, blanket forts, and subversive books should head to Bona Sera’s Underground in Ypsyilanti, Michigan to party with Lola Von Miramar (aka Larry LaFontaine Stokes), Annie Zirkel, Margaret Parker, and emcee Patti Smith (the vamp tramp). Donations will go to Count MI Vote, an organization fighting gerrymandering.”

The curators who brought you BAD and NASTY (Not MY President’s Day) Events in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit are coming together and meeting in the middle for the next installment in the BAD and NASTY canon! We invite artists of multiple disciplines and ALL backgrounds and orientations to submit proposals for short (4-5 min) presentational works and/or roving or one-one one performances, at our Flag Day/”Birthday party” for D. Trump (“45”).

The PATRIOT ACTS, or “71 Wishes For 45” performance party will take place during the evening of Thursday, June 15th (the day after Flag Day as well, coincidentally, as Trump’s 71st birthday) at Bona Sera Underground in Ypsilanti. There will be cake and ice cream! Balloon animals! Spankings, and blowing out of 45’s candles!

Consider proposing performances that might in some way offer up your most sincere and/or most raucous wishes for 45!
Submit your proposals including a brief description and any online documentation BY MAY 15th to lightboxperformance@gmail.com.

(Notifications will be received by Memorial Day)

The evening will once again be a benefit — this time for Count My Vote, an organization dedicated to fighting gerrymandering in MI.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

The 71 Wishes for 45 team,
Heidi Haire
Patti Smith
Holly Hughes
Melanie Manos
Callie McKee
Amanda Ewing
Emilia Javanica
Stefanie Cohen

More information here.

UPDATE: Here is the link for the archived Bad/Nasty event page:  https://badandnasty.com/detroit-bad-nasty-light-box-22017/

I wanted to take a minute to share a project I have been working on. I’m a co-curator and the production manager of an evening of performance and installation this Monday, February 20th, 2017. This performance is in solidarity with BAD AND NASTY’s (aka Bad Hombres and Nasty Women) https://badandnasty.com call for art and action on President’s/Not My President’s Day. Amid an abusive climate of bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, environmental devastation and a long list of injustices, this event calls on each of us to come out of our studios to strengthen our community, engage/rage in dialogue, rupture false rhetoric, disrupt the normalizing, and be heard. Facebook Eventhttps://www.facebook.com/events/259197951180180/?active_tab=about

 Doors open and installation based work begins at 6:00 PM
Performances begin at 7:00 PM
$5-10 donations to benefit ACLU of Michigan
with DELICIOUS meals for purchase by Mama Nezaa of Paradise Natural Foods! https://www.facebook.com/ParadiseNaturalFoods/

We’ve gotten some really awesome press – I can’t wait for you all to see it!

bad-nasty-image