There was so much energy when I went into The Den Theatre, which I will rightfully chalk up to Haven Theatre Company’s infectious vibe. Upon entering, patrons were greeted with ear plugs before being thrust into a cloud of fog, as though attending a rock show. Curious, yet anxious, the crowd seemed spunky and exhibited a healthy amount of excitement in simply just being present. Unique and bold, “We’re Gonna Die” is the latest Haven Theatre Company production, and it’s engaging from the word “Go”.
“We’re Gonna Die” features a live band, riveting storytelling and even some stand up comedy as the cast share true to life experiences in order to connect with the audience on a subject that not many choose to talk about – death. Its message is direct. Despite our darkest hours and personal tragedies, we are not alone.
When the show begins, Spencer Meeks who plays the guitar, gives us a brief history of the play and how it is part of a 12-part series. With his eyeliner meticulously applied, Meeks promptly kicks off the evening with a loud beat.
Soon after, the main singer played by Isa Arciniegas emerges. She talks about her Uncle John and the experiences she shared with him when she was younger. The band breaks out into a song and it is quickly apparent that Isa is a natural entertainer. Arciniegas’ energy is contagious as she runs back and forth on the stage. She proceeds to tell the audience a couple more stories and concludes with a moving song about the death of her father.
Soon, everything comes together. Many people are uncomfortable with death, and to be fair, death is sad. We miss the people we lost and are swiftly enveloped with so many different emotions, first asking ourselves how something so tragic could happen to questioning the fairness in death. As Arciniegas continues to sing, she profoundly exclaims, "We're all going to die!"
In Young Jean Lee's “We’re Gonna Die” it is somehow made okay to be comfortable with death, a point made while jamming along with the show’s kick ass drummer played by Sarah Giovannetti. "We're all going to die!" is repeated over and over as confetti pours out from the ceiling along with balloons everywhere. Simply put, the play is a true celebration of life and a reminder that we all should live each day to the fullest since - we are all going to die.
The talented cast and team for "We’re Gonna Die" includes: Isa Arciniegas (singers), Sarah Giovannetti (band), Jordan Harris (band), Elle Walker (band), Spencer Meeks (band) and Kamille Dawkins (singer u/s). The production team for We’re Gonna Die includes: Josh Sobel (director), Abhi Shrestha (assistant director), Julie Leghorn (stage manager), Krista Mickelson (production manager), Spencer Meeks (music director), Claire Chrzan (light designer), Izumi Inaba (costume designer), Mike Mroch (scenic designer), and Jon Martinez (choreographer).
Well-directed by Josh Shobel, “We’re Gonna Die” is an interesting play that sheds light on a scary subject. It is a play that really gave me a chance to reflect, as I am sure would be true with the rest of its audience. All in all, I left smiling and excited that I went to the newly renovated Den Theatre (1335 North Milwaukee) to see this very original and thought-provoking play. I recommend checking it out while you can as it will be performed through June 4th. Tickets are priced at $18 and can be purchased at www.haventheatrechicago.com.
Brown Paper Box Co. is thrilled to announce their upcoming cabaret event, Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret, hosted by company member, Kristi Szczepanek*. This is the first occasion that the company has announced their season in full, and they are excited to do so. This cabaret will feature performers, some of which are members of Brown Paper Box Co. and some that are not! Kristi Szczepanek* first worked with the company as the female understudy in NOW. HERE. THIS. in the summer of 2016.
In the past couple of months, curator and host, Kristi has been thinking about what it takes for us to keep ourselves positive and focused on the present moment in the face of adversity. She says: “The current political climate is the most obvious source, but we are all living rich lives that are much more than politics. How do we balance all of this and keep ourselves sane in the process?” Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret will feature songs and stories of people trying to do just that on two nights in April at Mary’s Attic.
This event will feature Shalita Cake, Diego Colón, Kamille Dawkins, M. William Panek*, Deanalís Resto, Anna Schutz*, Matt Sergot*, Nick Shoda*, Brittany Stock, & Travis Austin Wright, with musical direction by Ken Jones.
Additional information can be found on BrownPaperBox.org and tickets are on sale now.
*Denotes Brown Paper Box Co. members
About Brown Paper Box Co.
Brown Paper Box Co. creates challenging and inspiring theatre that focuses on the text. By employing a smart, simple aesthetic in intimate spaces, we connect audiences directly to the heart of the story. For more information, please visit www.BrownPaperBox.org.
Who: Brown Paper Box Co.
What: Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret
Where: Mary’s Attic at 5400 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640
Regular Run: April 7 - April 8, 2017 at 7:30PM
It’s time for some facts, and not the fake news facts. During the Chicago theatre season of 2015-2016, 25% of shows produced had female authorship. Only 36% of plays were directed by women. Someone reading might think that 36% isn’t all that bad and maybe it’s a step in the right direction. Well, let's put these numbers in perspective.
This was a study undertaken by Kay Kron and Mariah Schultz as part of Kron’s Master Thesis at DePaul University. These stats were part of the study that were included full Jeff eligible season of Equity and Non-Equity theaters nominated for a Jeff Award in any category during Chicago’s 2015-2016 season. What does that even mean? Glad you asked.
That means, 52 theatres, over 250 plays, which resulted in over 4,500 data points. Now, let's put those earlier numbers into perspective. That 36% means that about 90 women directed plays. 62 out of those 250 plays produced had female authorship. Here’s a few more numbers for you: 43% of actors hired were female. 89% of costume designers were female. Stats like these are the reason, as well as the current political climate, that people are speaking up.
Dani Bryant decided to channel these numbers, as well as the spotlight that gender equality is currently under, into the fantastic show that is Gender Breakdown. Now, before I go any further I want to say that I am a 31-year-old white male. I am the demographic. I have never experienced discrimination of any kind.
Gender Breakdown is 10 female identified performers telling their stories of the misogyny, segregation, and overall disrespect they have experienced throughout their careers. These women bare their soles on stage trying to shed a light on what it’s really like. Not only are these women sharing their stories, but a compilation of over 200 Chicago theater artists is played throughout the show sharing stories about how they have had to deal with the misogyny and typecasting within the Chicago theater system.
Brianna Buckley, Jazmin Corona, Kamille Dawkins, Rula Gardnier, Kate Hawbaker-Krohn, Priya Mohanty, Siobhan Marguerite Reddy-Best, Carolyn Sinon, Aimy Tien, and Mia Vivens each command the stage with powerful performances retelling their own experiences that they have had. Each performance shows that they are not just a woman, but much more. They are dancers, intellectuals, mothers, daughters, performers. Strong women who don’t need to be told who are what they are because they already know who and what they are.
One such segment of the show that stuck with me was the retelling of casting ads. They play it as if it’s a game show where the “host” will read REAL casting calls. Then the women play along to see if they meet the “criteria.” When I say criteria, I mean the actual outlandish bullshit that some producer, casting director, or even director scribbles down for how they see the female role. Such “criteria” ranges from: seeking a middle age woman (which apparently means 26-32), a cute, but dorky girl, must be willing to perform nude, skinny (as in 105 lbs), and any other type of superficial surface level adjective or phrase one can think of.
While being a woman within the theatre, or entertainment community overall, is hard because men are running the show, it can be equally hard when you’re a minority within the minority. Priya Mohanty, who has here MBA from Duke in case you were wondering, spoke how she is often typecast since she is from India. Or that Kamille Dawkins might be better served playing the black servant instead of the lead because it’s a part that fits her better.
While sitting through each performance I can remember laughing during many of the sets. For instance, the casting call bit that was mentioned earlier was played with a humoristic approach. I can remember several times where my laughter turned into a sudden realization that I was laughing at the degradation these women, all women for that matter, have faced. That realization soon turned into an uncomfortable feeling. That uncomfortable feeling though was welcomed because it helped bring on empathy. I can never be able to relate to any of these women’s stories (31-year-old white male remember), but the power to get the audience to empathize with these performers is the accomplishment. To understand where their rage, sadness, optimism is coming from is the mark of something wonderful.
There is no doubt that there needs to be a massive overhaul within the entertainment industry as whole. Productions like Gender Breakdown helps show the general public what really is going on, which can then hopefully enact change within the system itself. Gender Breakdown is just one step down the long road to progress, but it’s the right step.
Collaboraction Theatre Company’s Gender Breakdown is being performed at the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park through March 19th. For more information click here.
*Now extended through April 1st
According to a recent study, only 25% of the plays produced in Chicago's 2015-16 theater season had female authors. Only 36% were directed by women. A deeper dive into the numbers suggests larger theaters cast fewer ratios of women than smaller non-equity companies, a sobering reality for female actors thinking about job advancement.
Disappointing stats like these and how the recent presidential election put misogyny and gender equity squarely in the media spotlight spurred 10 female identified performers and an all-female identified production and design team to devise Gender Breakdown.
A compilation of true, absurd, uncomfortable and gut-punching stories culled from more than 200 Chicago theater artists, Collaboraction Theatre Company's first world premiere of 2017 is a response to the lack of gender equity on and offstage.
Vivid tales of violence, miseducation, segregation, and the ongoing disrespect and marginalization of women - even in Chicago's acclaimed theater industry - pull back the curtain on real issues of misogyny, gender politics and racism within the theater industry and beyond.
Ultimately, via deeply personal stories from training, auditions, and the rehearsal room, Gender Breakdown theatricalizes the question "How is this possible, that in 2017, females are still marginalized in our community?"
Gender Breakdown is created by Dani Bryant and directed by Erica Vannon - the lead artists behind Spanx You Very Much, an exploration of female body empowerment through a 45-woman dance explosion, and the break-out hit from Collaboraction's 15th and Final SKETCHBOOK Festival in 2016.
Previews are Thursday through Saturday, February 16-18 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, February 19 at 3 p.m., and Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. Preview tickets are only $5.
Performances run through March 19: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. No show Thursday, February 23.
Industry Town Halls are Monday, February 27 and March 13 at 7:30 p.m. On February 27, researcher Kay Kron will lead a post-show panel discussion with Deb Clapp, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theatres; Lori Myers, Not in Our House; Laura T. Fischer, Not in Our House; and Kimberly Senior, Collaboraction Founder and Director. The March 13 post-show panel features Kay Kron, Willa Taylor of the Goodman Theatre and more guests TBA.
Gender Breakdown is presented in The Vault at Collaboraction Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. Single tickets to performances are $20-30; $10-$15 for students, educators and industry.
For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633.
More about Gender Breakdown
Gender Breakdown is a compilation of true, absurd, uncomfortable and gut-punching stories about gender inequity culled from more than 200 Chicago theater artists, many gathered at Off Menu potlock dinners at Collaboraction.
"Female identified artists continue to fight for equal representation, equal pay, three-dimensional characters and rehearsal environments that are free from micro-aggressions and commodification," said creator Dani Bryant. "Gender Breakdown harnesses the same artistic vision and raw electricity of Spanx You Very Much to explore how, even in an oftentimes liberal-leaning business, inequities based on gender pervade the theater."
Dani Bryant (creator) is a devised method playwright and process facilitator who specializes in using social practice as an artistic entry point - letting collaborative discussion shape each project. In addition to creating over 20 pieces of devised theater, she holds great passion for leading facilitated community conversations about gender parity, mental health, arts education and food and body politics. Originally from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, she attended The University of North Carolina School of the Arts and received her BFA from the Hartt School of Theater. She is currently pursuing her Master's and certification in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Drama Therapy. She is the founder of Knife & Fork, co-creator of For Fork's Sake Live and Cabaret Vagabond and is an Artistic Ensemble Member at Adventure Stage Chicago.
Erica Vannon (director) is a director, producer and collaborative artist. She is the founder of Lost Geneva Project, a project based theater company committed to telling women's stories, and a co-founder for Knife & Fork, a food and social practice theater company. For the past three years, Vannon has directed for Shimer College. She served as a co-artistic director for Blank Line Collective, a collaborative, movement-based theater company from 2007-2010. She has worked with Collaboraction, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Chicago Fringe Festival, Rhino Fest, and 20% Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts with a concentration in Directing from the University of North Texas and a Graduate Laban Certificate of Movement Analysis (GL-CMA) from Columbia College Chicago.
Gender Breakdown stars Brianna Buckley, Jazmin Corona, Kamille Dawkins, Rula Gardenier, Kate Hawbaker-Krohn, Priya Mohanty, Siobhan Marguerite Reddy-Best, Carolyn Sinon, Aimy Tien and Mia Vivens.
The all-female design and production team includes Sarah JHP Watkins (set designer), Carley Walker (lighting designer), Katherine Pavlovna Goldberg (costume designer), Karli Blalock (sound designer), Sarah Moeller (producer), Kelly Butler (production manager), Caitlin Body (stage manager), Brittany T. Jasper (assistant stage manager) and Becca Venable (technical director).
Breaking down the numbers
Statistics cited in Gender Breakdown and in this press release shed light on hiring parity across theater professions during Chicago's 2015-16 theater season. The research was undertaken by Kay Kron and Mariah Schultz as a part of Kron's Master Thesis at DePaul University. The study includes the full Jeff eligible season for Equity and Non-Equity theaters nominated for a Jeff Award in any category during Chicago's 2015-16 theater season. (Musicals were not included, because their generally larger cast sizes would have made them overly influential on the overall percentages.) In total, the study encompassed 52 theatres, collects statistics on over 250 plays, resulting in over 4,500 data points.
Gender Breakdown Lounge
The Gender Breakdown Lounge is a performance arts venue for an eclectic range of arts programming to complement Collaboraction's Gender Breakdown.
After every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night performance, starting at 9:30 p.m., there will be additional performances in Collaboraction's Salon space featuring female-identified artists, including theater, story telling, music, comedy, dance, opera and more.
Following is the Gender Breakdown Lounge line-up (at press time, check collaboraction.org for updates):
Friday, February 24
Music with MICHA
Poetry with Kay Kron
Saturday, February 25
Womanscape pre-show reception at 7 p.m.
featuring poetry by Arica Hilton
Saints & Sinners at 9:30 p.m.
Curated by Sandra Delgado, featuring Sandra Delgado, Minita Gandhi, Sadieh Rifai, DeAnna Brooks, Ilana Faust, Nancy Garcia, Rose McInerney and Theo Allyn
Thursday, March 3
The Things We Were Learned
Featuring Michelle Leatherby, Paige Maney and Olivia Perry
Friday, March 4
Beautifully Broken by Ashley J. Hicks
Spoken word with Khloe Janel
Saturday, March 5
Any of my Enemies by Molly Brennan
Thursday, March 9
Token by Kaye Winks
Phone Calls with John Kasich by Eileen Tull
Friday, March 10
Hair Crownicles by Medina Perine
Stand-up with Edith Lule
Saturday, March 11
Music with Layla Frankel
Thursday, March 16
Music with Soft Ledges
Dance with Ms. Miscellanea
Friday, March 17
Baby Crow Productions presents 13 & Not Pregnant by Joy Donze,
directed by Mia Capotorto Sommese
Saturday, March 18
Baby Crow Productions presents 13 & Not Pregnant by Joy Donze,
directed by Mia Capotorto Sommese
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