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Archive for May, 2017|Monthly archive page

“Aerialists and Giant Flowers” from Elizabeth Barrett

In Assistantship, Carpentry, Internship, Scenic Design, Scenic Paint, Scenic Painting, Scenic Props, Technical Direction, Uncategorized on May 23, 2017 at 6:08 AM

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This week was incredibly busy as we approached tech week for the Elizabethan productions. This means the shop was split between installing pieces in the Lizzy and constructing finishing touches back at the shop. I spent a lot of my time working on the mechanical marvels that are The Merry Wives flowers that bloom mid-production. This has been a crossover between the properties department and scenic carpentry and everyone had been involved. Thus, I have been able to work alongside OSF’s talented prop’s department making human sized flowers bloom.

This weekend I attended at Aerialist showcase at The Le Cirque Center. Several OSF employees are Aerialist’s and showcased their work at the scene shop party in April. I was amazed by their performances so I attended another one yesterday. I love how many artists in OSF branch out for their specific fields through venues like The Le Cirque Center, The Open Mic Night, and Midnight Projects. It allows theater artists, who almost always have more than one specialty, the ability to continue to grow in all areas they are passionate about. This specific performance had over 12 Aerialists demonstrate acrobatic skills on silks, ropes, hoops, and bars. It was mildly terrifying to watch them in the air doing acrobatic tricks and suddenly dropping and catching themselves at the last moment. I would highly recommend going to see a show there!

“Juneteenth” from Roberta Inshco-Cox

In Assistantship, Community Producitons, Directing, Green Show, Uncategorized on May 21, 2017 at 8:05 AM

JuneteenthblogFor the past few weeks, I’ve been working on co-curating Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Juneteenth celebration, which this year will be held on Monday, June 19th, with Sam White, JaMeeka Holloway and Nemuna Ceesay. Last year I was able to attend Juneteenth as a community member because I was in town to see a weekend of shows. Now, I’m excited to be a part of the actual planning of the event, the curation of the material to be performed, and working as an ally alongside my fearless co-curators.

Juneteenth is a world-wide celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Traditionally, Juneteenth services and events around the world have focused on community and education. I remember last year, a couple poignant moments were Christopher Henry Young’s choreography to “Rise up,” and the repetition of “yesterday was Emmet Till, Emmet Till was yesterday,” by a FAIR participant,  who popped up from the audience unexpectedly. Both were powerful and full of emotion, and ones that have stayed with me for a year now; a sort of emotional education.

This year our theme is “For Us, By Us: celebrating black joy, resilience and resistance,” and our goal is to move away from using this event to educate, but rather celebrate the joy of the black community, the resilience to move forward even in times of trouble, and the welcoming of ally-ship. Our curating team has already put in a ton of work, but I’m already feeling the pressure of time, as we only have a month left to wrap up planning, building the set list, and scheduling rehearsals for our choreography moments. Thankfully, we have also commissioned Christopher Henry Young to choreograph our opening number, and our first rehearsal was this week! Such beautiful work! He’s a joy to work with, and I had a ton of fun participating in learning his choreography. It was a blast, and I felt very welcomed! Planning this event has really challenged me, not allowing myself to hide away in my room when I’m not in rehearsals for Merry Wives of Windsor. I was originally nervous to speak up about wanting to participate in the organizing of Juneteenth, but I’m so glad that I did. My own community while here in Ashland has expanded ten-fold, and I’m feeling engaged and active in a completely different way.

“Self Identification” from Bernardo Mazón

In Administration, Audience Development, Fellowship, Human Resources, Literary, Residency, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 at 5:33 PM

/var/folders/84/dy2qtnz13wddhtx39pw3vr1h0000gn/T/com.apple.iChat/Messages/Transfers/IMG_3700.JPG.jpegMy first sit-down with my supervisor, I tell her, “I want to make a lasting contribution here, what can I do” and she is like, “I know just the thing.” A few more discussions later, and I’m writing a thesis for a research project based on this company’s progression with the equity, diversity, & inclusion movement. I’m setting out to examine how successful the organization has been in terms of hiring and representation onstage/offstage. As I’m crafting this proposal and preparing to share it with jefes here, I step back for a moment and think about the problems I’ll face in collecting data.

Por ejemplo, incomplete records. Sometimes information is archived selectively; we can’t see the whole picture. There’s also tokenism. Quizás we CAN see the whole picture, but there’s no way of knowing if someone was hired based on their merit or for liberal bragging rights. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with the latter, as there is a difference between equity and equality, but the point is that sometimes a step forward is followed by several steps back. It’s common for situations like this to be followed by a long and dreary dryspell of hiring straight, able-bodied white men again—back to the old ways. The greatest obstacle, though, is the following:

Self-identification.

Which is self-explanatory. It’s not enough, no, it’s not right for us to determine a person’s ethnic or gender from their appearance. Furthermore, it’s not like you can do a google search on any given name and see what that person is, because identity is an intimate thing. It ought to be shared, but not necessarily put on display. Therefore, por lo tanto, it’d be unfair (not to mention, crazy wrong) for me to go through a company’s history of hiring and make inferences off their picture. “Are they masculine or are they feminine”, “Their skin is dark, so they’re black”, “Oh, this dude must be Latino, oops, Latinx”, “I can’t see if they’re unable to hear” etc.

Back to my story. Entonces, I have this lump in my throat knowing that my research project is destined for turbulence. When I present my idea to the jefes, I leave out my concerns for fear of sounding too complicated. I neglect my politics in hopes for approval.

Seguramente, the responses are essentially, “Great, except…”. They’re receptive but skeptical. They point out exactly the same ethical difficulties I’d experience, and I’m in quiet awe.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it otra vez: I feel like I’m finally in America. Y eso es porque “self-identification” was not something we knew of in my hometown. Mexican border politics tend to enforce nationalities onto people (and don’t get me started on the Arabic diaspora, for I don’t know enough, but I do feel). The culture I come from doesn’t invite you to decide what you are and how the world ought to see it—let alone celebrate it. And here they are, celebrating it like champions.

Joining the parade, 

Bernardo Mazón
FAIR Literary Resident
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
My pronouns: He/Him/His
American

 

P.S. As a chavalillo, I didn’t like story time at school, because most of the books they chose seemed far-away and unimportant to me. They’d either be about animalitos, fairy tales, or some condescending sh*t talking down to little kids. Every now and then, though, they’d pick books that were about people. And they had a multicultural selection. Pictures of people owning their origins. Those books, those were my favorite thing.

“Processing my Expanding White Awareness Study Group Experience” from Michael Cotey

In Assistantship, Directing, Education, Human Resources, Uncategorized on May 10, 2017 at 6:27 AM

IMG_1480For four weeks now I’ve been attending the Expanding White Awareness Study Group. As part of the curriculum we are given a rather large study packet and then weekly a small group of us who identify as white get together to talk through the things we had read or watched that week. To give you an idea of some of the material, we’ve read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack among many other seminal texts on the subject of whiteness, defining words like “white privilege” and “white supremacy” and “white fragility” along the way. In many ways, this feels like a conversation I’ve avoided having for the past three years. Since going to Northwestern (and certainly in conjunction with a more visible rise in tension, violence, and awareness) the concept of ‘whiteness’ has been something I’ve suddenly had to think about. The fact that there is a group of 6-7 to us sitting around every Tuesday speaking openly about our whiteness would have been unimaginable to me less than five weeks ago, not to mention three years ago. And I have found this conversation difficult because essentially it feels like an “Oz behind the curtain” moment. For instance, when Peggy McIntosh draws attention to the fact that she “can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of [her] race” I begin to understand just how easy it is to take for granted all those things I don’t have to think about. 

My life is not a series of obstacles and roadblocks in the way it is on a daily basis for others. I think my resistance prior to this course about thinking about myself as privileged is equating that to advantaged among other white folks. I like the analogy one of the fellow study group members used: it’s like being an athlete and learning that there are performance enhancing drugs pumping through your body without you knowing it, giving you an unbalanced advantage. I struggle at times to know what to do with that knowledge. On the very basic level it’s helped me start to see my own life through a slightly different lens. I feel it’s helped me value gratefulness and acknowledge my own luck of upbringing and circumstance. I’m sad that this study group is coming to an end, but I’m grateful to have had this experience.

“Shoutout to FAIR Forum” from JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell

In Assistantship, Directing, Education, Program Management, Uncategorized on May 8, 2017 at 7:31 AM

18194607_932674476872515_294608980549356765_nAfter last week’s FAIR forum I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and influence.  Because I do consider myself a leader and an influencer, it lead me to check in with my current inferences and rethink whether or not I have a clear understanding of what those words really mean on an internal and personal level.   

I thought back to the first time my company was ever envisaged and I remembered questions like “Are you ready for leadership?” “Can you handle leadership” and “Are you even actually a leader?” had already begun to take up residence in my mind. I thought about my anxiety, introverted-ness and if wondered if an autist like me had any business running a company.

Even after I “answered the call” I remembered the time’s people said, “JaMeeka, you won’t blow up here.” With good intention, they expressed that I could be doing more with my producing skills and “just wanted to remind” me of how much bigger I could be. But I resolved to stay rooted in my hometown to serve my community; And without personally or formally assuming the responsibility, that also meant being a support system, mentor, and resource for other artists.

Without contrition, I have been blissful in North Carolina ever since.

Our conversation also prompted me to reflect on the things that have always been important to me in leadership, which is watching my people chase their own aspirations and live in their own definitions of success.  It’s never been about me.  A few years ago it came to me that we got to have more of us make moves for anyone else to believe they can too. Some of us will make bigger strides than others. Some will completely diverge from the path. But it’s the constant and consistent evolving that is vital. So I moved forward with a mission to provide safe, exploratory spaces and platforms for other artists to move.  It ain’t always easy. Not everyone has understood my work. In fact, I’ve often times being criticized about my approaches.  There’ve been missteps.  I also know that there’ve been times when I pushed too hard. But that’s part of the process. They learn and I learn.  I realize that as an artistic director the expectations is for me to be out front. But Nah, I’m gonna handle mine and I don’t need attention or notoriety to validate my mark on this field.  I just want my tribe to go and run the race to show folks what we do ’round here!

I am incredibly thankful for FAIR forum and that it always leaves me with things to digest and think on. I have so much love for my cohort and I appreciate Dawn for always keeping it 100 with us.  Stay with me as I continue to reassess my notions on leadership and influence.  The one thing I know stays true for me, is that I have to keep taking steps forward and in taking Dawn’s advice I’m adopting a power pose that I affirm to stand in it for at least 60 seconds daily. I don’t believe I can push anyone if I ain’t pushing myself. So I learn, push, lead, and keep hoping I’m doing it right.

“Shakespeare’s Histories” from Bernardo Mazon

In Fellowship, Literary, Producing, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 5, 2017 at 10:08 PM

Picture1One of my duties here is to assist the dramaturgy team on Henry IV Part 2. When I found out I was going to be working on that, I let out a long, anxious sigh—not because I wasn’t excited by the opportunity, but because I knew it was going to be a hell of an undertaking. Until this point, you could have asked me what I knew about Shakespeare’s Histories, and I would have said virtually para nada. Zip zilch zero. Never seen one, never dared read one. And now I’ve been assigned this play that lands right in the middle of the chronological saga. Hijole. I sighed because I want to do my job well, which means I have a lot of homework to do.

Fast forward to a week ago, I watched Henry IV Part 1. I say this honestly: I could tell it was a stellar show. Without saying anything about the story, I could at least say the production itself was phenomenal. But regardless, that pesky story went right over my head. I understood ni madre of what was going on up there.

As the literary resident, I’ll admit proudly that I have a particularly hard time with Shakespeare. Value judgements aside (though I am a fan, yes), I cannot watch or read a Shakespeare play without the overwhelming struggle and frustration. So any history play, especially one as planted in context, is daunting. On top of the difficulties there already are for this 21st Spanglish speaker, the entangled politics, the jimble jamble of names, and the historical references make it more difficult.

I see, though, that this uphill battle in comprehension isn’t unconquerably steep. Fortunately, the resources here are on another level, and everyone is on my side. Plus I’ve heard my mentors admit themselves that they still have to lean in to get the language. So a few days later I printed the text out and returned to that theater sin verguenza. No shame. I read the text as the play went on, and felt like I was starting to follow. Today, I went again (with my script) for my third viewing of Henry IV Part 1. I’ll confidently say I that I finally get it.

And. It. Is. Sick.

I love this play! The patience paid off, and it doesn’t feel as faraway as it used to. Before I didn’t have a high opinion on stories about kings and queens, let alone medieval England. Now I’m geeking out. I get what people mean when they say it’s captivating like a soap opera. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s totally accessible if you put your mind to it. I’m hungry and eager all to learn all these history plays, porque ya sabes: it’s like the Bard meets telenovelas.

“A birds-eye view of my life here at OSF” from Sam White

In Administration, Fellowship, Paul Nicholson Arts Management, Producing, Uncategorized on May 3, 2017 at 6:24 AM

FAIR Week 4The start of the week was a bit sad for me as I was feeling extremely homesick and a bit worried about the operations of my home theatre. It is truly a challenge being away from my elderly parents, my adorable nephew and my Shakespeare tribe in Detroit. The homesickness was intensified by my birthday which I celebrated this week. My new years are opportunities for me to reflect on where I am and where I want to see myself go, personally and professionally. But, here’s where the sadness of being thousands of miles away from home and in a different time zone waned: I didn’t have to go about my personal and professional reflections alone this year. I was able to tap into the knowledge, experiences and generous spirits of some of the women in leadership here on campus at OSF. One of them in particular called me into her office and called me out on my overzealous workload. She realized from a previous conversation that I am wearing myself thin at my home theatre. I have some help, but not enough, and the cost of being the fundraiser, the grant writer, the project manager, the bookkeeper and a lot of other things in between is costly. She reminded me of the importance of self-care – something I truly haven’t done regularly in the five years I have been building a Shakespeare company in the D. She also reminded me that while it is noble to want to give back to others, I matter in the equation of my life and my needs and wants are important. I had totally forgotten that. There isn’t a ton of time to think about myself when I am planning seasons, raising money and trying to find the resources to keep a dream alive. My conversation with this amazing woman was just what I needed to hear in this new year of life. I am so proud of the work I have done at home and I hope to continue the mission for Shakespeare for all but, I can’t lie, it’s no longer my greatest priority anymore – I am. If I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of my elderly parents, I can’t play with my sweet nephew and I definitely can’t run an organization.

There are many great aspects of my OSF fellowship. The access and information that I have available to me are mind blowing. The caliber of artists, designers and technicians here are next level. I remember walking on top of the Thomas Theatre the other day and looking down, thinking to myself how incredible the magic of repertory theatre is and how lucky I am to be here, and the beauty and complexity of living, breathing art. But the greatest gift of this FAIR experience are the people here who want you to become the best version of yourself – from members of my cohort to the company artists and administrators. Being in Detroit meant that I never had the opportunity to fully assess my life because I was in the throes of what I felt I needed to do to contribute to making my hometown better. I needed to get away to learn how I can better serve it or, better yet, serve myself. I have learned a lot and there is more knowledge and experience to come over the next few months of the 2017 season. But what has been the most impactful is the reminder that I matter, and as much as I love him, Shakespeare does not negate that.

“Familiar Strangers” from Nate John Mark

In Administration, Assistantship, Audience Development, Uncategorized on May 1, 2017 at 6:22 AM

conferenceAs the FAIR Audience Development Assistant much of my work here has been in community outreach. We are working hard to connect and form partnerships especially with communities of color. Most recently we have made have reached out to the Indigenous community by inviting ambassadors and other guests from Oregon Indian Education Association and SOU Native American Studies. What they received from us was an opportunity to see one of our amazing productions, a dinner reception, and a pretty good discount for tickets to “Off the Rails.” We were graciously invited to the OIEA conference at SOU and what I received from them was the ignition of an internal flame. These hungry flames consume my spirit and burn a passionate red and an envious green. I want now more than ever to know where I come from. I want now more than ever to truly know my ancestors and hear their stories. Like many Black people, there are so many lost stories in my ancestry. So much wisdom buried underneath the eternal night in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. And that may not even be totally true. How many of our ancestors were captured right here in North America? How many of our ancestors escaped into the mountains of a small Caribbean Island? I see the similarities within Pan African culture, Latinx culture, and now Indigenous culture and I can’t help but think that we all come from the same sacred womb. Brothers and sisters separated at a young age and made to forget the families they were taken from. The ancient pages of our book are scattered across the earth, hidden conspicuously in caves and cliff walls, in pyramids and ancient stone wonders, we write our story over monuments who’s greatness would baffle its witnesses thousands of years later. My family, my Clan, my tribe is out there somewhere waiting to tell me where my journey began. So to my ancestors, whoever you are, I humbly seek presence and wisdom. I will find you. I will listen.

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