Every other week, the editors of American Theatre curate a free-ranging discussion about the lively arts in our Offscript podcast.
Things get real on this week’s episode. Editors Rob Weinert-Kendt and Diep Tran welcome Time Out New York theatre/dance critic Helen Shaw onto the podcast. We discuss the much-debated HowlRound article “A Collective Call Against Critical Bias,” and what the article got right and wrong about bias in criticism.
Our guest for this week is Josh Hecht, the artistic director of Profile Theatre in Portland, Ore. Rob spoke to him during the recent TCG about why the theatre programs the work of one playwright each season (though 2018 will be a dual Lisa Kron and Anna Deavere Smith season). Excerpts from the conversation are below:
What Profile is programming these days:
“We are in the middle of a three-year diversity and inclusion initiative, where we’re only programming women writers and writers of color for three years. And part of what we have been exploring is how to integrate that into an organic narrative of our company. It’s surprised me the number of people who’ve said, ‘Well, with the new mission….’ And I would say, ‘Well, the mission hasn’t changed, we’ve just refocused the lens on how we’re interpreting the mission.’ So how to make it seem not like a shift but the next step in our story is something that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about recently.”
How to take it beyond just play production:
“We’ve been thinking about how a playwright at the center of our season might also include a curatorial capacity. One of the ways that I’ve been engaging with [2017 playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes] is to say to her, ‘How do you identify your community and how might we organize our community engagement efforts in a year-long way through that lens? Or who are the up-and-coming writers are you really excited about and that I’m really excited about? And can we program some development of that sort of next generation of writers?’ In that regard, there is something that feels akin to Portland’s maker artisan sensibility.”
Helen recommends the musical Spoon River by Mike Ross and Albert Schultz. It makes death delightful and is currently running at the Signature Theatre in New York City through July 29. It’s presented by Soulpepper, a Canadian theatre company, so you don’t even need to travel north for some international flair.
Diep recommends the new Netflix series “Glow,” written by two playwrights, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. It’s funny and feminist, with a lot of well-choreographed fights. And there’s also a shout-out to the Bluebarn Theatre in Nebraska.
Rob recommends this New York Times article about the art and craft of performing onstage with a disability, with shout-outs to actors Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan.