Pretty Woman Review: Do We Really Need Cinderella Retold?
The play Pretty Woman is at Providence Performing Arts Center through Oct 16. And while it’s a pretty production, it’s a pretty awful story.
Pretty Woman (the film)was released in 1990 – four years before I was born – and the narrative has grown completely stale. Perhaps older theater-goers attended because of rose-tinted memories of the early nineties. Perhaps people were there to welcome the first PPAC production post-COVID.
But as a millennial, I couldn’t see past the blatant obscenities of the world on which the story hinges.
Vivian Ward, a down-on-her-luck prostitute who works on Hollywood Boulevard, has a chance encounter with billionaire Edward Lewis who is lost and needs directions to his hotel. They end up hitting it off, and Edward hires her to be his escort for the week he’s in LA to engineer a hostile takeover of a struggling shipping company, fire its employees, and sell off its assets. Eventually, Vivian’s heart of gold, humanity and charm win over Edward, and he decides he’s not going to destroy the company, but instead repurpose it with the current owner to make cruise ships instead.
An upbeat story about billionaires and sex workers post Trump?
First, unregulated sex work is a gritty, violent, miserable reality for an estimated 1-2 million Americans. It is not fun and flirty as the play depicts, especially with the looming threat of human trafficking. Second, gee whiz, thanks for reminding us of our capitalistic dystopia where the livelihoods of thousands depend on one wealthy man’s troubled relationship with his dad. (It was revealed that Edward’s strained relationship with his deceased father caused him to be so heartless in his business dealings.) But wait, because of Vivian, the jobs are saved… to make cruise ships, one of the world’s most prodigious polluters. Wonderful. We’re elated. Not.
Some audience members really enjoyed themselves. Ethical problems aside, the production is breathtaking. Jessica Crouch as Vivian’s friend Kit De Luca and Kyle Taylor Parker as Happy Man both have incredible stage presence. Amma Osei surprises with a spectacular opera number, and Nico DeJesus’ choreography is delightfully stunning. And the towering set evokes all our favorite Hollywood spots like Rodeo Drive and the Beverly Wilshire.
Three decades ago, it was possible to separate a light romantic comedy from the social dilemmas it presents, but today’s zeitgeist demands more from its entertainment. We don’t need another tired Prince Charming story where a rich man saves a poor girl’s life. Give us something to grapple with, something original and something real.
Truth in the Time of Covid: A Lie Agreed Upon at the Gamm
One walks into A Lie Agreed Upon with a premise – reactions to devastating news – and walks out with unanswered questions, both moral and humane, muddled in your brain.
The play, on stage now at The Gamm Theatre, is Gamm Artistic Director Tony Estrella’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 19th-century play, An Enemy of the People. The title borrows from a Friedrich Nietzsche quote “What is the truth but a lie agreed upon?”and centers on a doctor who uncovers poison in the waters of a new spa billed as an economic boon for his small town. Estrella overlays the fear, divisiveness and meanness marking the pandemic for a provocative show that feels far briefer than its two and a half hours.
When Dr. Thomas Stockman receives water testing results, he wants to warn the town and demand new conduit be installed to funnel clean water to the spa. Stockman, played by Sean McConaghy, meets with opposition from almost everyone – his brother the mayor and town businessmen who see lost revenue and staggering infrastructure repair bills, former allies at the newspaper threatened with lost ad revenue and even a wife concerned about the family’s safety and income.
Like Ibsen, Estrella stokes flames of righteousness to the point of conflagration before easing up to allow seeds of doubt and counter-arguments to embed in the audience’s collective mind.
The characters debate everything from whether spa patrons are consumers saving the town or citizens needing protection, whether the press should interpret news because “very few facts can tell their own story,” and how telling the truth brands one an agitator. The phrase “We had no other choice” keeps surfacing.
While quips like “if people want lies, then the truth is their enemy” and “the only consistency is inconsistency” are dangerously close to preaching, “A Lie Agreed Upon” is more than that. It’s easy to imagine wanting to protect people, but the angst of a bedraggled town facing economic uncertainty is equally distressing. What does one do?
That question, of course, is never answered. Gamm likes to scratch the social conscience and send audiences off to ponder potential actions and reactions. But the telling of this story, with the cast Estrella, as director, assembled, leaves deep, even lasting, indentations on the soul.
McConaghy is an explosion of emotion, playing Stockman with unbelievable range – playful with his daughter at the beginning, passionate about righting a wrong and teetering toward mental breakdown after unsuccessfully battling the town. When his wife says, “somebody has to think about us,” he visibly unravels, his wild hair on end and face lined with grief for a gripping transformation.
Other bright spots in the ensemble cast include Jonathan Higginbotham who, as mayor, demonstrates the prowess to appear both evil and innocent simultaneously, Fred Sullivan Jr. as business association leader who paints the character with quirky charm early, then summons rage fueled by fear and ignorance and Nora Eschenheimer as the fresh-faced reporter who breaks the first rule of journalism by taking a side.
A Lie Agreed Upon, on stage through October 24, is topical and touchy, poignant and pointed. It wraps you up in a message, but leaves you to write your own ending. That is the mark of great theatre. For tickets, go to www.gammtheatre.org.
Theatre Review: All That Glitters
By Susan McDonald
Somewhere between the mermaid’s invitation to descend to the bottom of the sea and boos from the audience and cast for a Muppet-like effigy of Esek Hopkins, you realized this outdoor adventure was not a page from history books.
But, it was certainly an adventure.
The Wilbury Theatre Group opened its season with “The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins,” an original activist dance opera cultivated and performed by The Haus of Glitter Dance Company.
After living in Hopkins’ historic Providence home for a year, the company and Wilbury’s team transformed its grounds into a multi-stage set for the cast to expose Hopkins’ connections to the slave trade, superimposing conjured tales of what life might look like here had colonization never happened.
The result was a fabulous fabulation extending beyond the trips Hopkins took to Africa to include the effects of colonization on Native Americans, Laotians and Hispanics. Further, it probed challenges facing women and the LGBTQ+ community. The goal was to push people to address and, eventually, abandon racism.
“We are not going to think our way out of racism,” said one character. “We are going to feel our way out of racism.”
While the objective may seem too all-encompassing, the Haus of Glitter team created an experience that made valuable points without preaching, instead using their beautiful voices to relay native stories and songs, and invigorating choreography to entertain.
During Act One, the audience moved around the grounds of the historic home through six mini stages and seven immigrant stories. Each unfurled like a fairy tale, with prose that was alternately chilling and poetic.
Standing before ribbons and flower garlands blowing on the September breeze, Matt Garza sang in Spanish about a Mexican woman drowning her child in the Rio Grande. His powerful voice rose with words that needed no translation to relay pain. Stories from a West African village were relayed in the audiobook-worthy voice of Assitan Coulibaly, a fairy tale with an unhappy ending.
On another stage, spotlights illuminated the lithe bodies of Trent Lee and Steven Choummalaithong as they offer traditional Native American and Laotian dances juxtaposed artfully with more modern break dancing, and a narrator talking of “the constant grief of colonization.”
“Have you ever seen a person explode? My family has,” the narrator said as Choummalaithong rubbed a haunting sound from a metal bowl. “We didn’t ask to be saved.”
The show took jabs at the White society invading foreign lands, then criminalizing immigrants for not conforming to their rules and branding them savage for resisting the changes.
“We were in pain. We were grieving. Most of all, we were angry,” said a narrator in Act Two, a time when all of those stories blended into vibrant dance and steel pan music on a larger, glittery stage.
Company members employed all of the outdoor space, using a stand of pine trees behind the stage as a screen for an original rap video about decolonization. Another narrator introduced dance numbers with folklore wisdom, such as the Malian expression “Little by little, the bird builds its nest.”
Anger, resentment and even violence has resulted from the oppression and colonization of foreign lands by White Americans like Hopkins, and while the cast inserts terms like “cishetero patriarchy” into “The Historical Fantasy,” this is not a hate-filled show. It’s positive and glows – or glitters – with hope.
Or, as the Latinx expression notes, “Se hace el camino al andar.” “We make the road by walking.”
The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins ran September 9-17 by The Haus of Glitter Dance Company + Performance Lab, The Wilbury Theatre Group, PRONK! Fest, and PVDFest, with support from Partnership for Providence Parks, & The RI Foundation at the former home of Esek Hopkins.
These audiostreamed performances mark the 10th anniversary for the Psych Drama Company, which focuses on the psychologically therapeutic aspects for those involved in making theater reality. Headquartered in Braintree, the theater works with artists around the world, and the original score for Macbeth was a collaboration with composers from the Marin Držić Theater in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Put in your headphones to get the full surround sound effect as you traverse the twisted minds of two of Shakespeare’s most infamous characters. Or listen to the love and loss in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer-prize winning play. The Psych Drama Company has clearly put substantial effort into producing original scores and multilayered soundscapes. Listen in and let us know what you think. Only available through October 25.
Out this September: Looking for some new entertainment? Look no further!
Motif contributor Katarina Dulude rounded up her top picks for entertainment this September, including a few local selections.
September 2: If spooky season can’t come soon enough for you, check out What We Do in the Shadows, which will be returning for its third season on September 2. This horror comedy mockumentary was created by Jemaine Clement and produced by Taika Waititi, who is perhaps best known for directing Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The show is based on the creators’ earlier film of the same name and tells the story of four vampire roommates and their familiar living in modern times in Staten Island. Its third season will be available on September 2 on FX and Hulu. It’s worth taking a bite out of this incredibly hilarious and absurdly fun show.
September 3: The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Loki and follows Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist, who is drawn back into The Ten Rings, a shady organization, to confront the past he left behind. Director Daniel Cretton described the film as both funny and “a cross between a classic kung fu film and a family drama.” The film will receive a 45-day theatrical release.
September 9-17: Looking for a live performance? The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins by Haus of Glitter will be presented outdoors through the Wilbury Theatre Group at the former home of Esek Hopkins. The activist dance opera is described by co-directors Anthony Andrade, Assitan Coulibaly, Steven Choummalaithong, Matt Garza and Trent Lee as “a story of mermaids, revolution and resilience [that] exposes how our BIPOC lineages intersect with Hopkins’ legacy of white supremacy.” Tickets are available here.
September 14: For those who enjoy a good romance, Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You will be released midway through September. The contemporary romance book centers around teens Kiran and Deen. Kiran doesn’t know what to make of her sister’s new quickly moving relationship. Deen is thrilled his brother has found a girlfriend so that the attention can shift off of him for a while. However, when Deen and Kiran come face to face, they agree to keep their past a secret. Four years prior they dated until Deen ghosted Kiran without an explanation. Now, Kiran is determined to find out why and Deen is equally determined to make sure she never finds out.
September 17: Netflix’s hit British dramedy series Sex Education makes its return this September. For those who haven’t seen the series, it begins with Otis, the teenage son of a sex therapist, who discovers that despite his own inexperience, he is adept at giving sex advice to others. With his best friend and crush, he turns this into a business. The series explores the emotional (and sexual) likes of teens in a way that is funny, awkward and incredibly heartfelt. Much of the third series has been kept under wraps, but it’s clear that a new headmistress will be changing things up at the teens’ school, for better or worse.
September 21: Inspired by the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, the book Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao will be released this month. Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, the sci-fi reimaging follows Wu Zetian, who seeks vengeance for her sister’s death at the hands of an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots used to battle mecha aliens. While boys are revered, girls must serve as their concubines and often die from the mental strain. When Zetian gets her vengeance on the boy responsible for her sister’s death and emerges unscathed, it is discovered that she is an Iron Widow, a special type of female pilot, much-feared and much-silenced. She is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in an attempt to tame her, but after getting a taste for power, Zetian will not give it up.
September 30-October 24: Opening their 37th season, A Lie Agreed Upon will be premiering at The Gamm Theatre on the last day of September. This play, written and directed by Tony Estrella, modernizes Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. “Inconvenient truths fight alternative facts, minority rights battle majority rule, and individual conscience clashes with economic interest in this powerful reinvention of Ibsen’s masterpiece.” More information is available here.
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!: King Richard’s Faire brings a forested village to life
Grab your cloaks, wands and, of course, a flagon for ale! King Richard’s Faire is back for its 40th season. Beginning on September 4 and running through October 24, this long-loved renaissance faire gives some of us hope that COVID-times are healing, by transporting back to a time when the plague may have been an even more lethal concern. But let’s ignore that.
King Richard’s Faire is one of the best times you can have, with performances (please, please, please go see The Washing Well Wenches, it’s this writer’s favorite), wonderful food (the Faire offers gluten-free, vegetarian and lactose-free options beyond their traditional giant turkey legs) and shops filled with everything from hammocks to artisans, all set in a stand-alone village-that-time-forgot in the woods of Carver, Massachusetts. This year also features new acts, including the Captain’s Canines, the Unicycling Unicorn, and Boom Boom Shake.
In the same time frame this fall, from September 4 – October 17, the 23-year-old Connecticut Renaissance Faire will whisk you back to the celebrated bygone era. Also featuring cosplayers in-character, fire dancing, LARPing, archery, axe-throwing, vendors and shows, this faire lies in Lebanon, another patch of woods and fields in the middle of nowhere, between Mansfield and Norwich, and not far from Mohegan Sun. The CT Renaissance Faire also explores several themed weekends, with one for pirates, for wizards, for D&D/gamers weekend, romance and time travel (Daleks!?).
Long-time lovers of ren faires know that a visit is one of the best ways to leave our modern world behind and have some fun, be it as a wench, a wizard, a jouster … you name it. Costumes are welcome, and if you don’t have one, one of the shops is sure to be able to help you.
Vaccinations are not required for entry, but unvaccinated guests are encouraged to use a mask.
Visit kingrichardsfaire.net for a site map, event schedules, evolving COVID restrictions and tickets. The Faire takes place at 235 Main St, Carver, Mass, Sep 4 – Oct 24 . Ctfaire.com for more on the Connecticut Faire at 122 Mack Rd, Lebanon, Conn, Sep 4 – Oct 17.
Triumphant Performance!: REVOLVE’s premiere filled the park with jubilance
It was a true pleasure to attend REVOLVE Dance Project’s premiere show. I am always excited to see new shows and art, but this one came with a particular relief. The fact that it was happening at all, that I could arrive at such a beautiful place and see crowds of people gathered together, laughing, embracing, buying frozen lemonade and buzzing in anticipation, felt like a privilege. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt like the isolating experience of 2020 made for a deeper appreciation for simple things like sharing public spaces and witnessing art. REVOLVE Dance Project’s Premiere show was a jubilant celebration of all the things we missed.
The show kicked off with a duet for drums and dance featuring an original composition by Cameron MacIntosh and choreography by Jorge Rullan. The rhythm drew me in quickly and hooked me. There is such a primal connection between drums and dance that it is hard not to move to. You could almost feel the rhythm in your chest. In fact, one of my only complaints about the show was having to sit still the entire time. The energy of the following pieces kept par with this first one, but each brought new instrumentals and new, more intricate choreography. It is always wonderful to see a show that contains a series of interesting individual pieces that also flow and work well together. In some places, it even felt like each piece was built off the previous one. The show was also well balanced between music and choreography, going back and forth between instrumental solos and choreographed numbers. I loved that this gave each of the musicians their own role in the show, as opposed to being overshadowed by the dancers. This made for a great pace to the performance as well.
I was particularly enthralled by the violinist, Josh Knowles. Violin was never an instrument I gave much mind to, but his original piece, Ember, may have changed that. I was swept away by the haunting beauty in this melody and awestruck by all of the variations in sound that can be achieved by one instrument. I commend him on his creative inclusion of some technology in his performance. I noticed that he used some kind of soundboard or foot pedal to create looping and warping techniques. The effect was excitingly unpredictable.
The dance number that followed this solo might have been my favorite number, though it was hard to choose. The piece, choreographed by Alex Lantz features dancers Brenna DiFrancesco and Kailee Felix who danced with a fluidity that perfectly matched the tone of the violin. I love watching a pair of dancers who are so in sync and know how to work off of each other. To acheive all of this in only two weeks is an additional incredible feat. The choreography was wonderfully balanced and told a beautiful story about love between women. It explores the nuances of a queer relationship wonderfully through the medium of dance. This story was felt and understood, more than directly interpreted. I experienced every ounce of love and pain and wonder as I watched the dancers perform. It was truly hard to take my eyes away from this one.
The show ended with a sparkling finale that can best be described as “triumphant.” The piece was introduced by cellist and composer Daniel Hass who shared with us the story behind it. Choreographed by Kurt Douglas, the dance represents the process of challenging oneself to reach your peak in your art form and outlines the struggle of reaching and falling and getting back up stronger. This piece was one of the best examples of storytelling through music and dance that I have seen in a long time. The dancers made great use of the entire stage, performing in rotating pairs and groups, using every ounce of their strength, balance, and emotion. I loved the way the dancers used every level of their unique stage as well, incorporating the structure of the temple in the dance like it was built for this setting. It was the perfect way to end such a unique vibrant performance and leave the audience energized and wanting more.
When I spoke with some of the performers after the show, the overall mood in the room was “gratitude.” Each of them spoke of the different aspects of this opportunity they felt lucky to be a part of, including the chance to continue to dance in what is normally the off season, as well as the collaborative conversations about art that working together allowed for. For Project Director Kirsten Evans, the experience was a dream come true that accomplished everything it was meant to.
REVOLVE seeks to attain nonprofit status and be able to continue with their educational outreach for young dancers. More information about what this includes can be found on their website. The REVOLVE Dance Project is only at the beginning of its journey and has many more exciting things in store. I can’t wait to see where they go next!
Who I AM.: Revolutionizing life in the former home of Esek Hopkins
Anthony “AM.” Andrade’s (they/them) work entails activism and awareness through communal art and creativity. Andrade is co-director of The Haus of Glitter Dance Company & Performance Lab. They also manage The Haus of Glitter Liberation Garden and Record Label as part of a two-year artist “parkist” residency at the Esek Hopkins Homestead and Park where Andrade and their family are “living, healing and reimagining.”
Andrade’s work centers on community through a BIPOC / queer lens. They constantly work to break down walls and re-think how our society, plagued by white supremacy, is shaped. “We center self care and rest around what we do due to the gravity of our work,” Andrade said. “Care is at the center of everything we do. We make sure people are fed, rested and hydrated, and we offer massages and meditations to get everyone in the right frame of mind.”
Andrade’s creative and artistic journey began at age 5 when they started piano lessons. This progressed into hip-hop dance in high school, which ushered in a love for music production.
“I was born an artist. I didn’t really have a choice,” Andrade said. “My great grandfather passed down the tradition of music. He was semi-well-known in the Cape Verde islands. Playing piano definitely brought me to the space of knowing what flow is and of course learning more about music. Hip-hop has been a space for me that I see a lot of things through. Even with pop culture or music from other countries, so many inspirations and ideas are rooted in hip-hop. Styles of expression within it such as Crumping, Tutting, Graffiti, and music production were my only ways to express myself in a space that was comfortable for me, which is pretty backwards for a lot of people.
“Nowadays I’m into the ballroom scene, which is really pretty much the queer hip-hop scene. I’m a sample-based music producer, so Vogue music speaks to me.”
Ballroom, or Ball Culture involves events or “Balls” where primarily BIPOC and Latinx performers living in houses (or groups of people living together in community) compete in categories such as dancing or modeling. Events are fun and energetic, and folks typically go home with performance trophies.
Ballroom encompass many different forms of expression, so I asked Andrade if they prefer one form of expression over another. “I absolutely do not prefer one medium over another. Although I am considered the musician in The Haus of Glitter and am currently writing the album for our next production.”
The production, named The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins, is an activist dance opera that will premiere with PRONK and PVDFest 2021 on September 9. “It’s a performance ritual that centers on one Black woman on the slave ship Sally, which Esek Hopkins commanded. As we’re representing the story as BIPOC artists in this space, which he (a rich white slave owner) built and occupied, the elements take you on a journey as to what it was like for us to physically arrive here. We’re living and healing in and with this space, and shifting the energy of this physical house to queer liberation. It also allows a space for people of color to be seen. It’s empowering for all people, but really centers people of color.”
The Haus of Glitter is in the midst of a two-year residency at the nationally preserved Esek Hopkins house in Providence. They have made the space into a production, fashion and art house and they are re-imagining the homestead and park, transforming the space into a creative work environment that centers queer and feminist BIPOC. When asked what it feels like on a day-to-day basis to live in the same space occupied by someone such as Hopkins as well as the enslaved people he kept, Andrade took a deep breath before explaining:
“The energy here is very heavy. There’s an initiative to remove Esek Hopkins’ name from the local school, which is filled with Black and brown youth, and to remove the Esek Hopkins’ statue, sitting on a 7-foot pedestal paid for by the City. Then there’s the house we live in. It begs the question why, for all the horrible things he did to slaves (and even British soldiers), so bad in fact, that he was fired by George Washington, he is glorified today. He was put in power as commander in chief for a short amount of time and it lives as an example of how a white man in power can pour money into preserving his legacy and put up statues of himself and no one questions it. We are trying to get people to think as a city why this place has been preserved the way it has been. Can we shift it toward community healing? This is what the center of this project is. It feels like the walls are speaking to us and ancestors are speaking through us in this work. I feel the motivation of the lineage of people behind me pushing me.”
Moving into the house has opened up many possibilities and meaningful ventures for The Haus of Glitter Dance Company and their work. Examples of this include the Liberation Garden, which was created at the beginning of COVID. Through the Creative Health Worker Fellowship from the City of Providence Andrade brought together doctors, environmentalists and other experts to figure out how to implement safe outdoor programming for youth in an attempt to see how Earth work and art can find an intersection.
“We study how we got to where we are in Providence, why this particular street has the worst air quality in the city, and learn about ancient planting techniques and herbs used by Indigenous people. This is the same land that was used to feed the Hopkins family, and we can only imagine the enslaved Black people working here. So to do this work because I want to and set up this space for young Black and brown people to harness and shift the energy in the same earth feels really good.”
Andrade also works at AS220 Youth as a program manager, overseeing classes and working with young artists on projects such as Future Worlds. This year, in collaboration with PRONK, they’re creating an installation-immersive runway in the Liberation Garden with large scale lights, murals and paintings. He also began The Haus of Glitter Record Label, which aims to center and uplift queer and BIPOC musicians who are just starting out in their music careers.
“We’re being more paid attention to since we have a white frame around us, living in a nationally preserved historic home. This is also a layer of my Black experience in this white space. It feels like people care more about us now due to our proximity of whiteness. Sometimes it feels good to leave the space and not be surrounded by so many reminders of how someone who looked like me sitting in this seat 200 years would have been experiencing. It’s not only a healing and liberating space, but also equally painful for my Black body to sleep here. It brings a whole new level of meaning to this activist work.”
When asked about the uniqueness of Providence and how they feel about this work happening in this city Andrade explained that their thoughts on this have changed over the past year.
“There are cities like Chicago that put a lot of money into their arts culture. This is also the case in Providence, but what makes it so special here is that we’re so small and tight-knit. I feel more collaboration than competition here.”
Andrade also believes the individuals who make up the city and are in position to make change are pivotal in making a uniquely positive experience for many marginalized groups.
“I’m able to work alongside officials and figures who I’ve always looked up to towars common goals. Providence released a 10-year cultural plan that focuses on artists of different ages, colors, backgrounds, etc… so that people who work in related fields have opportunities to thrive.
“We think a lot about legacy work and how to carry on our traditions. I didn’t have a sense of community with dance until I met the people in my house as well as my mentors and stumbled into a sense of community and carrying of these traditions. ‘Positive brain washing,’ as we call it, involves helping people decolonize individualist thinking.”
The idea of legacy itself, community and collaborative work is most important to Andrade. They don’t aim to leave anything behind personally, but more look to leave a legacy of community.
“I want people to think of ‘We’ when they think of me. Moving away from individualism and stepping into collective thinking is important. I get feedback all the time on my breath practice bringing a sense of tradition, which is something we lack in American culture. The way I step into everything I do, especially with youth and with my house, is bringing a sense of tradition and ritual by doing something over and over again. These rituals help us feel separated from the constant grief of colonization, which each and every one of us suffer from in some way.”
The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins is set to premiere with PRONK and PVDFest 2021on September 9th. Its own legacy will continue as a physical album, graphic novel, coloring book and as a performance ritual in schools and historically preserved places across the country. Anthony also has meditative sound offerings on Spotify through the link in their Instagram bio @am.period. For more info, go to hausofglitter.org or follow them @theglittergoddesses.
Walk it Off: A Pageant for Providence celebrates artists and offers opportunity for reflection
Providence is the star, stage and celebrated guest at the upcoming A Pageant for Providence, a COVID-safe performance-art walking tour taking place downtown. Taibi Magar, an acclaimed director, together with her life and professional partner, Tyler Dobrowsky, who served as associate artistic director at Trinity Repertory Company, created this project to celebrate the Providence community. They project provides space for people to reflect on the past year and offers an opportunity for healing as we move toward discovering what the new normal will be.
Pageant is a direct response to the pandemic. “It’s been a devastating year,” says Magar. “Our industry almost entirely collapsed. But out of this wreckage, we started doing work together, which has been pretty incredible.”
She describes the event. “It’s part ritual, it’s part performance. It’s more like a space for reflection and catharsis, and asking questions about how to be in space with each other again.”
“We have all gone through something,” adds Dobrowsky. “Let’s just have a moment to reflect on what we’ve gone through, to dream about what the future could hold. [Pageant is] very much built for this moment.”
The project, made possible by arts funds and a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, celebrates the creative vision of various artists, including writers, dancers and musicians. The event starts as a series of audio tours, each of which leads participants on a unique walking tour through the city. Participants may choose one of six possible tours, each with its own distinct audio experience that includes songs, stories and historical testimony. All six tours will convene at the Providence Rink in Kennedy Plaza where a short communal ceremony concludes the tour.
A Pageant for Providence takes place August 12-14 in Providence and is free to the public. For more info, visit PageantforProvidence.com.
Meeting of Minds: RI Theater Coalition hosts its first meeting to address sexual impropriety
Leaders of Rhode Island’s theaters and theater community gathered in person and on Zoom for more than two hours on July 26 to address weaknesses in their internal processes and policies that have allowed incidents of sexual harassment and abuse to occur in the community. The meeting included a panel discussion and loose roundtable discussion with the directors, actors, managers, crew and others present.
The local theater scene has seen a number of high profile assault accusations over the last few years, the latest being against Epic Theatre Company’s (and former Motif contributor) Kevin Broccoli. According to a statement shared by the Academy Players of RI, “victims of abuse have lost faith in their ability to report, and policy/procedure varies from place to place, creating an unsafe working environment for many performers, designers and crew members as well as permanent staff.”
The event was organized by the Rhode Island Theater Coalition, a group recently created by members of the theater community. It has no official membership, no formal body and the name was chosen on the spot for the purposes of the meeting. Forty-four people attended online via Zoom, with an additional 28 attending in person. Panelists included presenters from Day One, Tina Christy from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, Colleen Donnelly, an HR professional from Johnson and Wales, and consultant Judith Kay.
“I think this was a moderate first step, but the momentum needs to continue and we need more help from the community on this,” said Terry Shea, one of the organizers of the event (and former Motif contributor). “Complaining on social media is simply not going to cut it.”
The coalition wants to create an online repository for procedures, policies and other documents pertaining to issues of abuse within the theater community. The Not in Our House campaign in the Chicago theater community was highlighted as a model for this repository. Another action item announced was the intent to draft a single code of ethics with a baseline set of principles for all Rhode Island area theaters to sign off on.
“The best procedure doesn’t work if people don’t use it,” Kay told the crowd. She continued, “You can have as many written policies and procedures as the biggest corporations and companies — doesn’t matter how big or small, you can have these policies — if people don’t live by them and breathe by them [they don’t do anything].”
According to 2018 survey data of theater companies provided by Day One, one-third of the respondents said they experienced sexual harassment or abuse in some way, with verbal abuse being the most common type; 80% of respondents said they had at least heard of incidents of sexual harassment or assault and 45% said they witnessed it. Additionally, 81% of incidents of sexual harassment go unreported.
“Victims are the only ones suffering the consequences of sexual harassment,” said Angela Kemp, a presenter from Day One.
Speakers at the event stressed the need for a cultural change within theaters. Codes of ethics and conduct have to be laid down, and everyone must be held accountable to them whether they are ushers, actors, artistic directors or even big-name donors or board members.
Speakers suggested theaters choose a point person, someone who is not the artistic director or in a similar position of power, and have that person deal with sexual abuse allegations or similar complaints. Some theaters expressed the need for mandatory reporting and the need of a good board to be able to lean on, with one attendee stating, “If I hear it, I report and we talk about it.”
Some attendees were more direct. One said, “If my daughter comes home and says something happened, I’m not calling the organization. I’m calling the cops.”
But not all theater members present in the room were comfortable with going to law enforcement, pointing out that in many cases its not their story to tell.
“If someone calls the Commission for Human Rights and says they’ve been sexually harassed physically, we definitely recommend they call the police,” said Christy. She continued, “It’s hard to talk somebody into coming forward when they don’t want to, I understand that’s very difficult and it takes a lot of courage to do that … with the Commission, the victim has to come forward and file the charge. All you can do is support and encourage them.”
No timeline has been formalized yet, but future meetings to further address these issues and the specific needs of the theater community as it navigates these vital issues are in the planning stage.