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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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Lessons from French Occupations?

Hi guys! This week was heavy for reasons unrelated to theatre, and this is coming out a day late because of personal loss and two flat tires… so if anyone has a great puppy video (or just a puppy) send it my way!

Anyway- there’s an incredibly interesting situation unfolding in France’s theatres. Students and arts workers have occupied over 30 theatres, opera houses, and various venues across the country in the hopes of pushing the government to reopen cultural venues. Now, I love a good occupation/protest as much as the next white liberal millennial, but, sadly, because of my fellow states-men-and-women, the words "reopening protest" immediately conjure images of assault rifle clad "patriots" and signs complaining about not being able to get a haircut. So I'm understandably wary. Not to mention the French protester's frequent use of the word "liberty" which has unfortunately become a charged word. 

Upon further reading, I learned that the French protesters all went and got tested for Covid before occupying buildings together, remained distanced from each other once inside, and allow the theatres to hold rehearsals onstage. I smell the undervalued work of brilliantly organized stage managers... Their demands include some safe reopening measures and common-sense financial support for freelancers. There is a decent amount of momentum as protesters met with the Cultural Minister (what a revolutionary concept- actual representation in government for the arts sector!) last week.

After writing this, I came across Jesse Green's excellent article highlighting many of the same points, which is a bit unfair considering he is a professional NYTimes journalist and I am, well... on my second beer and mostly ranting. However, Jesse notes that "What the French protests challenge us to consider is that the arts are neither an indulgence nor a distraction; they are fundamental not just to the economy but also to the moral health of a country." This brings up two conversations I want to dive into a bit more. 

Conversation #1: The States lacks a central organization or group of leaders we can bring our issues to. The numerous unions, The Broadway League (don’t get me started), producers, and artists all have their own interests ultimately distilling industry-wide issues. Who would this governing body be and what would it look like? Is it a cabinet position in the Biden admin which #beanartshero is advocating for? A Federal Theatre Project? Something else entirely?

Conversation #2: The States treats the Arts as a luxury whereas, in Europe, theatre is treated as an elemental part of life. The interviews with several French artists make it clear that they are not trying to convince the public of their legitimacy. How much more energy would American artists be able to give to industry issues if we didn’t have to constantly legitimize our careers as “real” work? Or if we didn't need to throw economic figures at people to prove a contribution?  

I hope you read Jesse's NYTimes article and as always, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

What's happening this week.

"It has been a sort of a nightmare": how major theatres abroad fared in the pandemic in The Guardian

This article rocks! Through interviews with the likes of Ivo Van Hove and Thomas Ostermeier, it puts the different theatre structures of Europe and The States in direct conversation with each other. Scroll down to Kajsa Giertz's interview where she emphasizes how "theatre is a part of democracy" and start to drool when the AD of the Odéon-Théâtre explains how French freelancers receive government salary during the weeks they are out of work. Read it here >>
Interview with Clint Ramos in Town & Country

It is no secret that designers are actually the best dramaturgs of us all. One of the most sought-after costume and set designers in NYC gives a silly, motivated, and visually informative interview. Clint inspires through his gorgeous art but also through his social justice spirit. Read it here >>
Emerald Fennell & Olivia Wilde by Directors on Directors

We love a powerful female director moment, and these two women continue to lift the art form through humor, grit, and generosity. Besides wanting to desperately be friends with both of them, it is nice to hear them genuinely gush over each other's work. Watch it here >>
Other Happenings

Violence against Asian Americans is at an all-time high with the horrific attacks in Atlanta this week. I'm in no way an expert but if you're looking for ways to be an ally and support the community, here are some resources to donate, support and learn >>

➤  Outdoor theatre abounds this summer including The Public Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park production of Merry Wives of Windsor adapted by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Saheem Ali. Do I smell, hope? Read it here >>

➤ "Joy Every Day " welcomes us into the most eccentric characters' New York City apartments through stunning visuals and quirky quotes, including a few theatre designers' places. Look at it here >>

Over 2000 members of Actor's Equity signed an open letter to union leadership because they "feel way farther behind than any other industry when it comes to putting in place practical protocols that would get us back to work" Read it here >>

A show I highlighted last week,  Afterwardness at Park Avenue Armory has been postponed as company members tested positive for Covid. Total bummer. Read it here >>
Thoughts?
 
How do American arts workers reframe our work as part of our democracy, rather than a luxury? 
Other than occupation and protests, what actions should our sector be taking to advocate for the industry in this pandemic time?
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Olivia is a freelance director who works in Dublin, NYC, and LA. She is preoccupied with German theatre aesthetics, dismantling problematic funding structures, 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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