I worry that not everyone gets the pun. For our Role Call feature, a monthly fixture since the fall of 2015, we highlight half a dozen theatre workers in different jobs, positions, vocations—i.e., “roles.” Most iterations include an actor, a director, a playwright, a designer, an administrator, and a freelancer, though we’ve also included composers, teachers, trustees, IT managers, and scenic charge painters. So for the record: not a typo of “roll call” but our own branded column.
We kicked it off four Octobers ago with a roundup of 20 people to watch, and we’ve definitely kept tabs on many of them, including playwright Clare Barron (You Got Older, Dance Nation), Sol Project producer Jacob G. Padrón (recently announced as the next artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre), Kelvin Dinkins Jr. (now general manager of Yale Rep and a TCG board member), Lisa Portes (head of directing at DePaul and also a current TCG board member). We’ve also made a point over the years to highlight as many of the deserving recipients of Theatre Communications Group’s Fox Fellowships and Leadership U[niversity] as possible, while also gathering leads from theatre folks we speak to throughout the year. You can get in on the act by recommending your favorite undersung theatre worker via a Google Form.
This year, to cap a tumultuous political year—which also saw some upheaval in the theatre, some of it painful, all of it necessary—we’re shining a spotlight on a clutch of stage pros working in the U.S. theatre field whose dedication to their art and their craft give us hope for the future of the art form we love. This issue again features 20 profiles of folks you should know about (all listed below), and this time we’re doubling down on the “role” idea, assigning everyone a different single job title (though of course many are multihyphenate shape-shifters). It’s not just the people in this issue who may be under-recognized; in some cases they toil in criminally under-appreciated professions. From marketing director to front-of-house manager, from fundraiser to costume designer, there are dozens of job descriptions as crucial to the theatrical enterprise as the performers and creators whose name is on top of the marquee or the playbill, and they too deserve some of the applause.
Accordingly, we don’t think of this feature as simply highlighting “up and coming” or “emerging” artists. Theatre, no less than film or TV or pop music, can sometimes overvalue youth and novelty (though obviously there are countervailing tendencies toward seniority and conservatism). But it’s also a place where folks who manage to stick around over the years aren’t guaranteed praise, accolades, or thanks, let alone wealth. That’s why we train our spotlight as much on the mid-career folks and veterans, plugging away under the radar, as on tomorrow’s game-changing artists.
One in this last category has graduated to a feature subject. When we included playwright Hansol Jung in our second regular Role Call, in November 2015, she had just been singled out by the Kilroys List for two plays that had yet to be produced, Cardboard Piano and Wolf Play, and she was about to do some heavy commuting between simultaneous separate productions of her play No More Sad Things in Chicago and Idaho. Her ascent since culminates with Wild Goose Dreams, now at New York City’s Public Theater.
What’s next for Jung, or for the 20 theatre workers in this issue, who join the 207 Role Callers we’ve profiled over three years? We hope you’ll follow us as we follow them.
In this issue: