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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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Terrible, powerful people continue to be terrible (and powerful.)

Happy Friday everyone! It is a really strong week for programming, and I *gasp* genuinely enjoyed a live stream show that was not archival footage. Hip hip hooray, only took a year! 

The chatter of the week is Karen Olivo’s emotional instagram live announcing that they will not return to Moulin Rouge because of moral and human concerns, spurred by the THR Scott Rudin article that came out last week. Now, there’s been a lot of criticism for this move- people saying that they should stay in the show and work to better the industry from the inside, that Moulin Rouge isn’t produced by Scott Rudin, that Olivo has exited/retired from the industry before etc. etc. 

My thoughts tend to circle back to the powerlessness of actors (and most creatives for that matter…) If you happen to be an actor with leverage, shouldn't you use it? During the pandemic Olivo has had a stable teaching gig at CCM and obviously, not every artist (hell not even most artists) can walk away from top-tier wages to stand up for social justice and equity. Does that mean that Olivo is wrong in doing so? I don’t think so. They took a stance, used their voice to highlight something they deeply believe in, and have drawn a lot of attention for it. Individual actions made within the context of a larger, broken system often don’t have direct impact. But what else can we do? I would argue that the stir this has caused this week alone achieved the desired impact. People are murmuring that an actor protest is brewing (even though the specific demands of such a protest remain ominous and I would point to France’s ongoing situation as an example of how arduous these protests can become.) People are calling for Hugh Jackman to withdraw from The Music Man, the next big-ticket Rudin produced show slated to open. People are pissed at the unions and pissed at the industry at-large for perceived silence. People are pissed. 

I personally have trouble when artists have to miss out, withdraw or not take a job because of the bad actions of terrible (usually) men. The accountability shouldn’t be placed in Olivo’s hands, or Jackman’s hands or any other individual artist. So then, who is responsible? Should all actors who can afford to miss a job or two resign and protest? What about the hundreds of jobs that rely on Rudin programming? Chris Lee mentions in a Vulture article this week how most of the big studios in Hollywood stopped working with Rudin a while ago, yet small indie distributors do. So how do we demand accountability from the Rudins of the world without losing our livelihoods? Our artistry? What kind of leadership or industry-wide coalition is missing? How is the Michael Jackson musical STILL PLANNING ON OPENING? As Lee asks in his article ‘Now that I’ve been given notice, what is my moral obligation here?” 

Lots to digest, but also some reaffirming, lovely art to enjoy. Would love to hear your thoughts. 

What's happening this week.

The Last 5 Years by Out of the Box Theatrics

You guys, it happened. I finally enjoyed a live stream! This production is simply the best of pandemic theatre. It doesn't apologize for being stuck in a single apartment while reinventing and reimagining a piece of canonical American musical theatre. Plus, Nicholas Edwards and Nasia Thomas are bonafide stars. (Enhance your viewing experience by singing along with friends on FB messenger with pizza/ unicorn/ pickle filters.) Through May 9. Watch it here >>
Taxilandia by Modesto Flako Jimenez, Oyo Group, NYTW and The Bushwick Starr

Inspired by Jimenez's years of working as a taxi driver, this piece is a site specific ride for a pod of 3 people through Bushwick. As a (very) recent transplant to the neighborhood, I have been eagerly entering the lotteries for tickets to no avail- but there is Textilandia, a "solo walking experience guided by texts" which I plan on trying out. The producers also plan on modifying the format to cities around the country, but surely they know that the black cab drivers in Belfast beat them to this idea about a decade ago!  Check it out here >>
Literary Ancestry, The Refocus Project: Year One by Roundabout Theater Company

This essay series curated by Dave Harris asks contemporary Black playwrights to reflect and examine a Black playwright that came before them. The goal is to "build a collection of multivocal personal essays that allow us to interrogate our own work with the help of a Black playwright who maybe saw us before we saw ourselves." I don't know about you, but I totally nerd out on any work that places work in direct conversation, while recontextualizing and puncturing deep holes in the notion of "the canon." Read it here >> 
Other Happenings

This Is Who I Am is streaming again at Woolly Mammoth. The piece examines separation and reuniting through an evening of cooking over Zoom. Watch it here >> 

 Bryant Park Corporation announced a summer series of 25 shows, including programming from Lincoln Center, Joe's Pub, Classical Theater of Harlem and Paul Taylor Dance Company. Events are free but ticketed. Read it here >>

➤  The Big Freelancer Report was published last month in the UK and there's been much conversation about the implications, improvements and general well-being of the sector. Still waiting for anything remotely equivalent to happen in The States? Read it here >> 

Edinburg International Festival built three specially designed pavilions and announced in-person and online programming. Read it here >> 

The Pandemic might have made book clubs cool? Read it here >>
Thoughts?
 
Why is it so hard to be a decent person and have power?
➤ In what ways can individual accountability make the industry better?  
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Missed a week? Read all of the previous Salons here!
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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