by Hedy Weiss
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," in which panels of actors, playwrights and directors will focus on "the importance of cultivating, developing and producing work that looks like Chicago."
The first event in the two-part series will be "Playing Race," hosted at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre on Jan. 31 following the 7:30 p.m. performance of "Disconnect." It will address such recent controversies as the one concerning a La Jolla Playhouse production of "Nightingale" in which white actors played Asian characters, and an Oak Park-based Circle Theatre production which gave a Bollywood treatment to "Pippin." The panel will ask: Where do 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 will 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. 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 Feb. 18, 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. It will start at 7:00 PM at Silk Road Rising, in the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 West Washington . Tickets are free and can be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.