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Posts Tagged ‘Diversity’

“OSF: Automated” from Jen Seleznow

In Assistantship, Automation, Jen Seleznow on February 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Jen Sleznow 1

Though I am writing my first blog entry on my fifth day of living here in Ashland, I already know that when my Assistantship is over, I won’t feel as though I’ve had enough time here at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  I am struck and moved by OSF’s diversity and inclusion mission because, while many organizations claim commitment to diversity, it seems to me that OSF actually walks the walk.  Throughout show introductions, the campus tour, and the season kickoff party, I noticed again and again that the wide range of faces and voices I encountered at our first FAIR meeting is reflected throughout the staff.

Despite the diversity of the company, I have noticed that the common thread which ties the OSF organization together is a shared passion for the work that is produced here. From Artistic Director Bill Rauch’s tears during his season kickoff speech, to the Director’s presentation for Comedy of Errors made by Kent Gash, to my own HOD James Dean’s automation creation genius, it is apparent that the people who work at OSF are extraordinarily ambitious, dedicated, and take pride in the work that is done here.

Jen Seleznow 1a

My passion for theatre technology and desire to learn as I work make me feel right at home here; I have already learned a ton working with Tim “Gizmo” Hannon to install the lift for The Tempest.  I will expand upon this week’s work next week as I build and assemble a smaller lift that will also be used in The Tempest.  I will admit, because everyone in the automation department is SO good, I am a bit intimidated, but I continue to remind myself that I am here to learn and improve my skills while I contribute to each show and the department as a whole. Needless to say, I am thoroughly excited to be here.

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“Diversity Again?” from Amelia Burke-Holt

In Amelia Burke-Holt, Internship, Props on February 3, 2014 at 8:45 PM

Amelia Burke-Holt 1.22

I have two big passions in life. Feminism/queer theory and building cool things for the theater. I’ve been able to study both of them in college, as a theater major and gender, sexuality and women’s studies minor. When arriving at OSF, it was pretty obvious to me I would be learning a lot about theater, but I had no idea how much my social justice brain would be stimulated as well. Going into my first FAIR Forum specifically themed around diversity, I was less than thrilled. Coming from an academic environment where I’m used to discussing diversity at length every day, I was prepared to not learn about anything new. I was pleasantly surprised. Three hours later when I left the meeting to go back to the prop shop, my social justice brain would couldn’t get off the topic. Talking to a fellow FAIR participant the next day we both experienced the need for the conversation to continue, after the meeting had come to a close.

In the discussion, I was familiar with all of the terms we had discussed, however the group brought up points of view I had never considered before. Coming from a feminist and queer theory background, I’ve explored them at length, and through intersectionality, explored other issues such as race through their lenses. What interested me particularly in this FAIR Forum, was hearing people’s experience the other way around; looking at women’s and queer issues through the lens of race. As in many aspects of life, it is important to recognize where you can be a teacher, and when its most important to sit back and listen. The subject of diversity especially demands this, as we all have different, valuable experiences and ways to look at the world.

“It’s the Little Things” from Atesede Makonnen

In Atesede Makonnen, Residency, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency on January 23, 2014 at 6:49 PM

Atesede Makonnen 1.15

My first blog post is about Ashland. It’s a town quiet in ways I expected but vibrant in ways I didn’t see coming. Walking down the main streets, I’m reminded of small New England villages but a quick glance around offers a glimpse of a quickness that’s purely west coast! Shakespearean puns litter the store signs and when I look up (when there’s no fog creeping around) I see a ring of mountains, lovely and near.  A strange place for a Shakespeare festival and yet a strangely perfect one, especially as it continues to bring new plays to its line up. Its isolation lends itself to intense focus on the plays in production, something I’ve noticed in rehearsal.

One thing I’ve noticed is what has been said about diversity is quite true and in unexpected ways. I’m used to being a minority (I went to school in a small town of New Hampshire) but I was surprised by how lacking in some ways Ashland is in being friendly to POC. Trying to find hair oil of all things really brought that home to me. It reminds me of something said at our diversity mixer – on stage, diversity is coming through loud and clear in a new and exciting way. But in the more mundane aspects of life here, Ashland can be a bit behind, population-wise and in the little things, like catering to POC hair needs.

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the town, its people, and Oregon as a whole. I can’t wait to explore more!

“Why Shakespeare?” from Tom Ridgely

In Directing, Phil Killian Directing Fellowship, Tom Ridgely on January 16, 2014 at 8:24 PM

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Any theater artist, producer or spectator must at some point during their evenings spent at the theater ask the question: Why Shakespeare? Why do we come back to these plays again and again? Why do we see them in parks, on film, on, off, off-off (even off-off-off) Broadway and in schools? Why do theaters name themselves after him, dedicate their missions and their budgets to his oeuvre, and how does this draw thousands of people night after night to sit in the dark and listen those words? Is it the language, the characters, the comedy, the tragedy, the cross dressing? What is this mysterious hold that Shakespeare has exerted on the human imagination throughout history and across cultures?

After four centuries you would think we’d have moved on.

These were the questions rattling around in my head as I boarded a westbound plane two weeks ago. These were the questions rattling around in my head as I sat down at the table in the Great Hall to listen to the first read through of The Tempest.

And in Act V came an answer. Throughout the play Prospero has sought revenge on those who have usurped his kingdom, dispatching the fairy Ariel to torment them and administer a charm that will render them insane. Ariel reports back to Propsero:

Ariel: Your charm so strongly works ‘em

​That, if you now beheld them, your affections

Would become tender.

​Prospero: Dost thou think so, spirit?

​Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human

Prospero: And mine shall.

Mine would, sir, were I human.

In this small but pivotal moment – Prospero’s reversal – Shakespeare both demands and defines our humanity. To be human is to behold another and to become tender. He gives Hamlet, the poor prince consumed by a revenge burden, a similar moment in Act V:

Hamlet: But I am very sorry, good Horatio

That to Laertes I forgot myself,

For by the image of my cause I see

The portraiture of his.

In this formulation, to be human is to look at someone else and see yourself. The act of doing so makes us larger, renders our cruelties impotent. Theater at its best, Shakespeare’s theater, fosters tolerance and empathy, teaches us humanity. Theater challenges the outer limits of that empathy – shows us the humanity that is in everyone – not just a small group of people who look and think like us. This is why theater, especially theater dedicated to Shakespeare, must be committed to diversity in the broadest, most expansive sense of the word. This is why I’m thrilled to be spending four months at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. And this is why Shakespeare will never lose his relevance or resonance – our affections can always become more tender.

-TR

“Lucky” from Ciara Ayala

In Assistantship, Ciara Ayala, Stage Management on January 15, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Ciara Ayala 1.15a

So I’ve been up here in Oregon for about a week, and it is everything I wanted it to be and more. I wasn’t nervous, I was excited, which is not a foreign emotion for this girl 🙂 The past 4 years I’ve been saying “I’m so excited for the rest of my life!” day in and day out. There were moments when you wouldn’t hear those words for months at a time…but let’s be real, sophomore year is no easy feat. Now that chapter of my life is over, I am so incredibly grateful for the education I have earned. I owe so much to those who made me feel confident and comfortable going into one of the largest regional theatres in the nation.

I wanted to tell everyone the second I got here how absolutely overjoyed I was. Now that I’ve been here a week, I am still just as elated with every step I take. I have wanted to work with this theatre company since I was a freshman in college. With my first application, I was accepted with a job immediately following graduation. As if that wasn’t enough, I was put to work on COMEDY OF ERRORS set in the Harlem Renaissance (awesome, right?!). This is already such a fun, enriching project. Most are aware that a strong mission of OSF is cultural diversity and inclusion. Well, I couldn’t be happier. As I’ve gone from one experience to the next, I’ve realized how blissfully unaware I’ve been to race, or gender, my entire life. I truly never see the difference in someone until it’s addressed by themselves or another. We are all human, we are all capable. It’s beautiful to see such an array of body types, ethnicities, and equal representation of genders in the theatre. I’m so thankful to be in an industry that is constantly (at least attempting) to push the envelope. Not to mention how proud I am to be a part of a season that is primarily female playwrights!…aside from Billy Shakes… Well, enough of that for now. In short, I am absurdly lucky.

I will leave you with a Naomi Wallace quote relayed to the company via Artistic Director Bill Rauch:

“When we cross boundaries, when we violate our own skin to know the heartbreak or hope or resistance of another, what we come closer to, surprisingly, is ourselves. Because through imaginative empathy, we revive our own humanity. So, to put it simply, we must be where we are not, because if we look down we will see that we are already there, here, among those that we are encouraged to believe are strangers. Who suddenly are no longer strangers.”

Happy 2014, y’all

Mission from Antonio David Lyons

In Antonio David Lyons, Fellowship, Producing on October 16, 2013 at 9:21 AM

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OSF’s mission statement reads:

“Inspired by Shakespeare’s work and the cultural richness of the United States, we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory.”

I had to revisit this prime directive in order to begin to put into context the multiple realities that exist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The overriding question for me being:  How does this work? What are the systems and philosophies that are in place to even make that mission possible? What sort of organizational ethos has to be structured in order to contain a space that allows for collective humanity to be revealed or to examine the cultural richness of the United States?

I began to believe that the secret lay in a word I’d been hearing a lot, “Company”. Initially it sounded as if the term was being used to just refer to the company of actors (100+). However, as I continued to listen and engage I began to understand that it included all of  the 500+ members that make the festival possible. As I settled into my day-to-day I began to substitute company for community and use the two terms interchangeably. I began to see how this company, community or family is able to create opportunity for change and growth in each other and the patrons that return to OSF year after year.

As the 2013 Producing Fellow in FAIR, I have the opportunity to exist within and outside of processes. To sit in senior level meetings as the leadership grapples with festival logistics, culture change and artistic direction. To get an understanding of how strong leadership, supported by a committed team, can implement institutional change. While the leadership at OSF isn’t perfect it is focused and responsive to the needs of its various members and stakeholders. In examining the management style of Artistic Director, Bill Rauch, I can’t help but wonder how and what point he bridged the gap between the commercial and activism. In my interactions with him I can clearly see the humanizing qualities that are essential to the pedagogy of the educator and transformer. I see a policy of inclusion used by community developers that invites everyone’s voice to be heard during decision-making. I see cultural sensitivity in discussions about what a play is saying, how it will be received, who will speak its text and direct its vision. I see a master facilitator who steps in and out of the fray allowing others the room to live and work through difficult spaces without dictating the direction the dialogue or outcome must flow.

It seems that the company used a combination of institutional knowledge, internal discussions and assistance from outside sources to educate/sensitize the community about issues of race, gender, class and privilege in order to ensure the company’s growth and to honor the organization’s mission.

“When you know better, you do better”

“Why Am I Important To You?” from Frank Guzman

In Assistantship, Audience Development, Frank Guzman on July 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM


Frank Guzman 7.10

I’m supposed to look at you
And invite you to come see
What I work toward.
The bosses want you to buy tickets,

And I want you to buy tickets.

I want to give you an invitation
To the party
To watch your face light up,
When you see what I see.
Except that I won’t see you.

Because I don’t know you.
I’ve never met you,
And yet,
I am you.

So why am I important to you?
Why should you step through
The door
That I help to hold open
When you have 99 problems
And a theater ticket ain’t one?
Changes are coming
Obstacles loom

And you can’t stop,
Not even for a second

Because time is money.
I want both.
I want your time and your money
But I also want more,
Something deeper,
Something in your soul.

As the outside world fades away …Can I tell you a story?
I put my face on you
Because it’s the way that I know how to craft
To craft my persuasive essay.
I know your different iterations.
You are:
My cousin, my neighbor, the stranger
I met at a meeting.
But I can only speak from experience.
I can only tell you that a kid
Needs heroes and dreams,
And sword fights and love stories
And true life tales of our
Forebears who fought the status quo.
All I can do,
Is invite you, me,
To have a seat by my side
And watch

“Faith in Texas” from Cynthia Booker

In Assistantship, Cynthia Booker on July 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM

I have less than a month left in Ashland. Although, many complain and have legitimate concerns about this hot weather, it makes me happy. This warm humid air is home to me. It reminds me of Texas. Texas has been receiving a bunch of bad publicity recently. I’ve heard many people passing that were hating on Texas. My home. Just because there are a handful of highly publicized bad seeds/actions doesn’t mean that all Texans are awful closed-minded fools. As a state that can be separated into 5 different climate zones; is considered a part of the southwest, Midwest, and South; and is one of the few states in the United States that has a white minority and one of the most complex diversity systems in the southern US region: I feel offended that people can try to even stereotype all Texans into one giant lump.

Take Wendy Davis for example. People are pointing at that event and try to showcase how awful Texans are, but what they are not pointing out is the fact that a Texan outside of the republican WASP standard was fighting for her fellow Texan women. There are Texans who deeply care about basic human rights. All this negative publicity and uproar in my home state makes me ashamed at the same time as proud. How can I be proud? I’m proud because in every case (whether people view it as positive or negative) Texans are showcased by fighting for the community they believe in. If you want to stereotype Texans, please stereotype them as an active people: people who care about their community and will do more than speculate or dismiss the world around them. Without conflict, there is no progress. I’m hoping to see much progress within the Texas government as these debates/conflicts further/reveal. Please don’t think that this is approval for people actions that are generated by hate or bigotry (which is found in every single government around the globe – not just the state of Texas), but rather an acknowledgement of people fighting for what they believe in. Cynthia Booker 7.3

Audience Development from Frank Guzman

In Assistantship, Audience Development, Frank Guzman on June 26, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Frank Guzman 6.26

In my own experience, the rhetoric about Latinos often centers on negative stories concerning institutionalized racism, the need for better education and more opportunities. At OSF, the discussion about internal, company diversity is ongoing but my work within the Audience Development department has a decidedly positive spin to it. The work that we do is intended to show new audiences of color the value of the plays that OSF puts on. It doesn’t end there; we at Audience Development also contribute to scholarship funds for people of color and we are dedicated sponsors of community events with a cultural focus. The difference that I appreciate is the sense that we are not fighting a losing battle. Yes, we are facing an interesting challenge by marketing to groups that are not historically proven supporters of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival but by doing so we are embracing the need to change the perception of American communities. Oregon is not homogenous and as demographics continue to shift the need for a more diverse marketing strategy will persist. OSF productions offer a community building block, a shared point of interest for people with wildly different backgrounds, and I am happy that I get to be a part of the team that makes that possible.

It Started witn a Bang! from Regina Morones

In Audience Development, Internship, Regina Morones on June 19, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Regina Morones 6.19

My first day as a FAIR intern kicked off at the weekly FAIR Forum. It kind of felt like the first day at school—a mixture of excitement and anticipation to meet other fellow participants. I had a great time getting to know everyone over a delicious breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, biscuits and even chocolate cake! I found out later that this is not the usual weekly FAIR Forum. It was a special FAIR Forum to say goodbye to several of the directing fellows and interns that were leaving in the next couple of days.

Although it was great meeting them, I wish I had more time to hang out and get to know them better before they leave. Overall, the highlight of the day for me was meeting Carmen Morgan, OSF’s diversity and inclusion consultant, who talked to the group about her work with OSF building internal diversity and inclusive capacity as well as the many obstacles faced by people of color in the theatre industry. This really hit home for me because as a women of color pursuing acting in theatre as a career I have faced racism on many different levels. In order for change to happen we have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and initiate these conversations that expose the racial inequalities and biases prevalent among the theatre community.

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