'Race and Representation in Chicago Theater' Conversations Begin at Victory Gardens Theater

Victory Gardens Theater, The League of Chicago Theatres, Silk Road Rising and Lifeline Theatre are collaborating on a new conversation series, Race and Representation in Chicago Theater, that will discuss the issues of race and representation in Chicago's theater community. The series, featuring panelists to include actors, playwrights and directors, will focus on the importance of cultivating, developing and producing work that "looks like Chicago," and will frame for both artists and audiences the importance of accurate representations in the work we experience together. Race and Representation in Chicago Theater comprises two events, Playing Race, to be hosted at Victory Gardens on Thursday, January 31 following the 7:30PM performance of Disconnect; and Building a Theatre of Inclusion: Perspectives on Asian American Casting and Producing, to be held at Silk Road Rising on Monday, February 18 at 7:00PM.

"The League is honored to be a part of these important discussions about race and theatre in Chicago. The Chicago Theatre Community is renowned for its collegiality and openness, however, we all acknowledge that we have a long way to go to toward true inclusivity," says Deb Clapp, Executive Director of The League of Chicago Theatre. "These issues cannot be left to work themselves out but must be talked about in an open forum for real change to take place."
Victory Gardens Artistic Director Chay Yew adds, "We are proud of the many significant achievements in Chicago theatre. But one area that needs more investment by every theatre is the practice of cultural inclusion and diversity. Victory Gardens is pleased to join our colleagues in this series of productive dialogues to reflect the true diversity of our city, on our stages."

The first panel discussion in the series, Playing Race addresses recent casting scandals across the country. Alarms went off in a recent La Jolla Playhouse production of Nightingale when white actors played Asian characters. In Chicago, the issue was raised with Oak Park's Circle Theatre's Bollywood treatment of Pippin. The panel will ask where we, as a nationally important theater community, stand on nontraditional casting? Is nontraditional casting a form of minstrelsy, or is it harmless cultural appropriation?

Panelists include E. Faye Butler, Sharen Jensen of The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, Steppenwolf Assistant Artistic Director Erica Daniels, and Kamal Hans of Rasaka.

Playing Race will take place on Thursday, January 31 following the 7:30PM performance of Anupama Chandrasekhar's Disconnect in the Zachek McVay Theatre. Tickets for the entire evening (which will feature pre-show appetizers from local restaurant Tandoor) are $30, but can be purchased for $15 using code "PlayingRace." Tickets are available at victorygardens.org or by calling the box office at 773.871.3000.

On February 18, 2013, Silk Road Rising, the League of Chicago Theatres and Lifeline Theatre will host Building a Theatre of Inclusion: Perspectives on Asian American Casting and Producing, a panel discussion that will address challenges faced by Asian American actors, particularly as regards casting, questions that theatres face in producing plays with Asian American content, as well as broader community concerns with productions that are not perceived as culturally authentic.

Panelists will include: David Henry Hwang, Playwright; Jamil Khoury, Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising; Eliza Shin, Actor; and Chay Yew, Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theatre. The panel will be moderated by Danny Bernardo, actor and resident playwright at Bailiwick Chicago.

Building a Theatre of Inclusion will take place on Monday, February 18 at 7:00 PM at Silk Road Rising, in the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 West Washington Street. Tickets are free and can be reserved by emailing ben@chicagoplays.com .

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