Each week, our #StageDoorLive News Writer / Researcher Hillary Dziminski chronicles her interaction with the news of the week. Some of it that made it to the show, and other bits that didn’t… but they matter damn it. Watch the news that did make it in #StageDoorLive Episode Fifteen.
Hello, fair reader(s)! Remember that time I tried to propagate roses by planting cuttings in sprouting potatoes? Well, good news! I have several very healthy potato plants! Now, on to the news.
I am, like so many, completely enamored with Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins. But I am equally enamored with his gorgeous wife, Sabina. I keep trying to get them to come to my shows. (Sabina, if you’re reading this, please stop ghosting me, I just wanna be friends.) At the moment, she’s rallying support to preserve the last home of playwright Sean O’Casey, the house where The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars were written. At the moment, the plan is to renovate the building for homeless accommodation, but Mrs. Higgins argues that the house should be ‘safeguarded for development as a cultural hub’. What do you think?
In other building-related news, the 1200-seater Burnley Empire Theatre has been subject to a ‘sinister act of vandalism’. The space has been disused for 20 years but the Burnley Empire Trust has been working to restore the theatre; their efforts include a £10,000 fundraising appeal which was launched just days before the incident occurred. A representative from the group says that the act was a ‘deliberate and coordinated attempt to cause as much criminal damage as possible to the interior’. This poor theatre! Over the years it’s been subject to break ins and even a suspected arson attempt. Maybe it’s cursed?
2015, Cymbeline: “One of the characters is killed and beheaded and we had this very expensive dummy that had been produced for the show. And they ate his hands.”
No, you did not read that wrong. It says raccoons. This article is so delightful, if you only read one article in this week’s round-up…please read this one. Because we all need some joy right now. Long story short, the Delacorte Theater in New York City presents free Shakespeare in the park performances every summer; that’s not happening this summer (thanks, Covid) but Delacorte’s stage manager Buzz Cohen AKA The Raccoon Whisperer (seriously) has shared some excellent stories about their long history of raccoon cameos.
And what would a discussion of theatre venues be without mention of the Coronavirus! We’re all trying to innovate right now, and much of that out-of-the-box thinking has been centred on how we can reimagine our performance spaces to allow for safe audience gatherings. This article is full of interesting ideas, including wraparound transparent acrylic screens, a touring outdoor pop-up deckchair theatre, displacement ventilation, and antiviral fogging machines at stage doors. (Sounds very dystopian.) But honestly, after getting to be back in a theatre last week, I would do literally almost anything to be able to work in theatres again regularly.
Further proof that theatremakers are endlessly resourceful, useful, and wonderful. This photo series by Ali Wright documents how some practitioners have transferred their skills during the Coronavirus pandemic. Dev Danzig, for example, is a designer, stage manager and prop maker now working as a ventilator technician. Check out these beautiful, resilient folks! Do you know anyone here in Ireland with a similar story? Let me know, I’d love to hear it!
Obviously recovery from the pandemic is about public health, but it’s also about societal and economic recovery. In the U.K., stories are circulating that furloughed arts workers may be asked to repay their companies furlough contributions when shows start to return. The Alliance of Associations and Professionals for Theatre and Live Events has been formed to be a collective voice for off stage arts workers.
“While our immediate concerns must be for effective and safe Covid-19 responses, we intend for this to build to a ‘new normal’ of professional practice in the 21st century.”
As we discuss building out Better Normal (thanks, Tom Creed, this is my new go-to catchphrase), conversations about race, discrimination, and equity in the arts sector. And the language and terminology we use is complex and important. The Belgrade Theatre, in a direct response to a call to action from the West Midlands group Black Creative Network, will no longer be using the terms BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, Refugee), or POC (Person / People of Color). A statement on the theatre’s website says:
“We believe that people have a right to define their cultural identities on their own terms, and that the industry should respond to this, instead of imposing its own jargon on marginalised groups. As an industry that is centred on listening to people and telling their stories, theatre and the arts should lead the way in reshaping the conversation around diversity.”
This documentary is critical viewing for anyone with an interest in understanding the USA’s prison system, systemic racism, and embedded systems of oppression.
Aine O’Hara: Building an Accessible show: Cast, Crew and Audience
Are you a maker in need of advice on how to create an accessible show? Are you a looking to create a safe and comfortable working environment for all of your cast and crew? Then this workshop is for you.
The Limerick Lady Podcast – Episode 20: The Angry Women Special
Featuring my friend Roxanna Nic Liam, who you may have seen giving her Final Poetic Thought for Stage Door Live a few weeks ago. Roxanna talks about endemic sexist structures in Ireland’s arts community and #ReawakenTheFeminists.