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Welcome to Salon!

Originally inspired by European literary salons (but nowhere near as haughty), this newsletter is part round-up, part amusement, and part conversation-starting. It's our post-show pub conversations, only digital! You're encouraged to respond to this email with any insights, feelings, gripes, or revelations. Grab a drink, imagine you’re draped on a velvet sofa, and let’s ponder about plays!
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Theatre is unwelcoming. Why?

Hi Everybody! I’m still buzzing off of the feedback I received from weeks 1 & 2. So I have to start by saying a very deep thank you for all of the texts, color suggestions (we’re a Radicchio-themed newsletter now) and the far-reaching late-night FaceTime calls about starting theatre revolutions! Keep ‘em coming. 

This week (and frankly, most weeks) I’m thinking about accessibility and audiences. The very first theatres in ancient Greece required attendance for citizens and functioned as giant PSAs (as well as a place to eat full meals, sleep, get wasted and get into fistfights!) By the mid-1800s, theatres in New York would admit anyone who could pay the cheap price of a ticket (usually 25 cents) with no dress code and no reserved seats. “The theatre was one of the few places in town where classes and races and sexes, if they did not exactly mingle, at least shared a common space.” (from James Shapiro’s excellent and easy-to-read Shakespeare in a Divided America) Of course, the highest tiers of a theatre were reserved for Black people and “prostitutes”, or women who came to the theatre without a male “chaperone”. I guess by that metric I have been a prostitute dozens of times over! Spicy. 

Anyway- this history got me thinking about the unwelcoming barriers to performance that exist today. The performance of classism in theatre is far-reaching yet most obvious through prohibitive ticket pricing. Yet classism and exclusion rear their ugly heads through smaller examples like the price of water in theatre lobbies or not having an elevator. Don't even get me started on exclusive programming choices. People (especially Americans) don’t see shows because they don’t feel welcome or consider themselves a “theatre person.” But isn’t being a “theatre person” simply someone who goes to the theatre? I can't count the number of times that I’ve asked my show-going companion what they thought of the play and they respond with some version of “Oh I liked it, but I don’t really know these things...you surely know better than me if this play was “good” or not.” Audiences don’t even feel ownership of their own responses. If seeing a play is unwelcoming and invalidating, there's no hope of sitting back and enjoying a night of storytelling. How do we remedy this disconnect?

What's happening this week.

We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

Jen wrote the best play I read last year (Collective Rage: A play in 5 Betties) and now she has written a novel, We Play Ourselves, which came out this week. My copy arrived today, so I'll let you know all the thoughts once I crack it open. If you read one thing this week let it be this article she wrote about writing the book and working across media. It sparked a lot of thoughts in me about why we create and how unrelated forms of expression inform one another. She's the greatest.
Almanac by Playwrights Horizons

Instead of making disposable Zoom theatre, Playwrights Horizons' pandemic pivot included launching a literary magazine that is billed as "a new kind of literary magazine taking stock of contemporary politics, culture, and playwrighting." You can donate to the theatre to receive a hard copy or it is available online for free here >> 
Und sicher ist mit mir die Welt verschwunden at Maxim Gorki Theatre

Definitely not for the faint of heart, this explosive, relentless, and ferocious post-dramatic theatre from one of Berlin's most in-your-face venues translates exceptionally well on a streaming platform. The feminist, angry, and weird experience is only enhanced by the fact that the 8:30 pm curtain in Germany means I was watching it with my eggs and coffee. It is streamed with English subtitles. Watch it here >>
Other Happenings

➤  David Zinn is one of NYC's most engaged and unusual designers and definitely worth a follow on Instagram @misterdavidzinn. His feed is equally filled with bigging-up collaborator's pandemic projects, theatre politics, and gorgeous nude sketches.

➤ The imitable Pina Bausch's Palermo Palermo is streaming online from Tanztheater Wuppertal. Creative food for the soul. Watch it here >>

➤ A group of femme Black theatremakers formed a new collective called Afrofemononomy which "will explore Black women, art, health, and balance." Read more here >>

➤ The NYTimes has an entire interactive section about Caribbean Carnival throughout the diaspora, including an inspiring photo story about the design and history of carnival costumes. Ashley Southall describes costumes as "a celebration of women's glory in themselves." Hell yes! Read it here >>
Thoughts?
 
➤ When did you feel unwelcome in a theatre space? 
➤ What factors stop you from engaging with more theatre? 
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Missed a week? Read all of the previous Salons here!
Olivia is a freelance director who has worked primarily in Dublin and NYC. She is preoccupied with German theatre aesthetics, creating work across geographical and cultural boundaries, and why football had a pandemic season (and oh so many outbreaks) when theatres remained closed. 
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