Aug 22

A Letter to the Boston Theatre Community from One of Our Own: E.J. Speaks His Truth to Power

Preface: Boston prides itself as an epicenter of progression and equality. In specific, its theatre community enjoys patting itself on the back for having open-minded discussions on justice matters. The reality for those of us identifying as minorities is this: Boston loves to talk but it is slow to act. Whether we be people of color, women, disabled/differently abled, plus sized, a senior citizen, or on the LGBTQIA+ gender spectrum, we feel left behind and/or ignored. Niche groups exist but we don’t want to exist as a niche. We want equal consideration for the opportunities our white, cis, hetero, fully abled, svelte, frequently male colleagues take for granted. We demand representation in the stories about us.

Below is a letter from E.J., an artist in our community. Please read his words and reflect upon how they effect our community. It is my hope that this letter is the first in a series of posts that confront Boston’s slow reaction to the activism it claims to embody.

Boston Theatre Community, it’s time to make your feet walk the walk you’re so good at talking about. None of us are free until we are all free.

Best regards,
Kitty, The Queen Geek

End Preface


Photo by Kippy G.

My name is Elbert Joseph, known as E.J.  I am Black/Caribbean American, deaf/Hard of Hearing and a gay male.

My name is Elbert Joseph, I was raised in Boston and lived most of my life here. My dream is to be an actor because I want to transform lives and inspire the world through my craft.

My name is Elbert Joseph, I have cultures in me, Because of experiences and battles; I have learned to be strong. I live in cultures where I have to pick between a community and the chance to fit in. I have been fighting; lost and unhappy. I don’t have an identity for me. Who is Elbert Joseph? I won’t know until I find a heart –  a home – a community in Boston theatres.

I am constantly called to break down barriers. Just when I think I have broken down the last wall, I am pushed three steps back. Why is that? Is it because of my demeanor or my attitude?

Is it because I need more training or my need to further my network? If so, who are the teachers, and where are the opportunities for deaf/hard of hearing actors?

I have been acting for almost 23 years. I have my own fires to fan, and my own battles to fight. Now, I am writing this letter; baring my heart and soul. At some point I have to say, “Enough is enough!” However, this doesn’t mean I have given up.

Ever since I can remember, the career advice I have been given was that I should work at the grocery store, on a computer, or as a Deaf Interpreter. That was the highest that people would strive for me. How do they know? Why was the bar set so low? Don’t they see how unhappy I am?

Where is the support from the Boston theatre community to engage and encourage the diversity of artists? How can those with disabilities grow their crafts and skills in professional performances, both backstage and onstage? Yes, the accessibility is getting there, but we are not there yet – fully, equally. How does the Boston theatre community celebrate inclusion? Why are we constantly an afterthought or pushed aside? Discussion of equality is not enough. We deserve action.

Last summer, I talked with panelists at the StageSource conference about casting approaches. I spoke about how the process of casting is elitist and a breeding ground for audism. I touched on how theatre, supposedly, is about immersing oneself in the visions, feelings, tastes and smells of the world the show is portraying. Being able to hear is not a prerequisite to being a skilled actor or a good fit for a role. Are casting and ‘hearing’ directors willing to change their perspective regarding casting and their understanding of what makes an actor “qualified?” Where is the forward momentum? Where is the action plan? Where are the changes we discussed at length? So far, the answer I have received is “no.”

Even after the Elliot Norton Awards and other conversations in the theatre community, I continue to hear the call for diversity, yet I don’t feel as if the message is coming across. Diversity should not be limited to the color of the actors’ skin (edited to add: or gender). The concept of diversity means inclusion for all. Inclusion is diversity. The call for diversity should not be hollow. What more will it take for our allies to act? That’s what I would like to know.

I truly believe diversity, inclusion and equal accessibility makes the theatre a welcoming place for all. It is our social responsibility to be supportive of equal access and when the theatre community celebrates diversity and accessibility, it creates a culture of inclusion and support.

My name is Elbert Joseph, known as E.J., I am Black/Caribbean American, I am deaf/Hard of hearing and I am a gay male. I wonder what is it that the Boston theatre community sees when they look at me.  I am hurt, full of frustration, angry, saddened and disappointed that this community has let me down.

I have been a strong advocate for myself but self-advocating is not enough. I have been on my own to improve my articulation and diction, for the sole purpose of equalizing myself to my hearing peers. I combat hearing privilege in theatre community, working twice as hard for my skill and talent to be seen and appreciated. The disabled community needs the help of its allies.

I have broken down walls of oppression and opened the doors for future actors who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. I have a passion for this community and I will be tenacious and continue to break down barriers that keep out the less privileged. When is it my turn to have the privileges from this community that I have supported and worked so hard to help succeed?

Thank you,
EJ

 

Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

TCG has a list of things you can do to help.

#blacklivesmatter #translivesmatter #brownlivesmatter #yellowlivesmatter #lgbtqialivesmatter #immigrantlivesmatter #muslimlivesmatter #disabledlivesmatter #theatreartsmatter

Aug 08

“Chess”: When the World is Not Your Oyster

Photo credit: Julie Henion

Presented by The MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players
Book by Richard Nelson
Music by Benny Andersson and Bjӧrn Ulvaeus
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Emma Brown
Music Direction by Elena Sokoloski

August 4 – August 13, 2017
Kresge Little Theater
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02139
Chess Facebook Event

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) Chess is a grim Cold War fable told around an international obsession with the titular board game. Director Emma Brown and the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players bring to life the ‘80’s show with a heavy dose of whimsy, suffusing the production with neon-colored nostalgia. Despite some song reshuffling, lyric changes, and obvious fun had by the cast, there’s little they can do to fix a rushed romance and peculiar pacing, creating a hurky-jerky but intriguing roller coaster of a musical. Continue reading

Jul 29

These Violent Delights: “Romeo & Juliet”

Presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Allegra Libonati

July 19 – August 6, 2017
Boston Common
Boston, MA
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on Facebook

Romeo and Juliet is like an old jalopy: if you want it to run, you need to know where to kick it, when to kick it, and how hard to kick it. Unfortunately, I really don’t think that director Allegra Libonati has the formula down (and not for lack of trying). Continue reading

Jul 25

Listen! : “American Moor”

Keith Hamilton Cobb is jacked.

By Keith Hamilton Cobb
Presented by the Office of War Information (Bureau of Theatre)
Directed by Kim Weild
Presented at the Boston Center for the Arts

July 19th – August 12th
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston
Office of War Information on Facebook

Review by Danielle Rosvally

A note to the cast and crew of American Moor, and the associates of the Office of War Information (Bureau of Theatre), the Queen Geek came down with a summer flu virus that has kept her away from her posting duties. I offer you my heartfelt apologies. Please know that Mrs. Rosvally is in no way to blame for the tardiness of this review.  -KD

(Boston, MA) I am, to be completely honest, still in a state of shocked awe at what I witnessed during Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor last night.  Normally, my job as a critic is to give an honest opinion of the things I see onstage: the acting, the direction, the design… sometimes the writing…. Continue reading

Jul 20

Governor Charlie Baker Slashes FY17 Massachusetts Cultural Council Budget

Despite recent promises to the Massachusetts arts community, Gov. Charlie Baker has issued a budget veto that would decimate funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences again. You can contact him HERE to express your anger and disappointment.

The following links detail his hypocrisy:
Mass Cultural Council: http://www.massculturalcouncil.org/news/Governor_Veto_FY17.asp and http://www.massculturalcouncil.org/news/advocacy.asp (more MCC articles and releases)
Mass Creative: https://www.votervoice.net/MAARTS/campaigns/53655/respond

The good news is that  State Senator Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Representative Cory Atkins of Concord have our backs. You can thank Senator Hinds HERE, and Representative Atkins HERE.

Jul 17

“Waiting for Waiting for Godot”

Photo by Tim Gurczak; costumes and puppy by Chelsea Kerl; the corgi isn’t part of it but she should be.

Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Written by Dave Hanson
Directed by Paula Plum

July 14 – 29, 2017
Club Cafe
209 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA
Hub on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warnings: bathroom use without washing hands

(Boston, MAWaiting for Waiting for Godot (WfWfG) is Beckett fanfiction through the lense of a Durang play. It’s confusing, absurd, and ultimately very funny. Hub Theatre Co of Boston does a fine job with Dave Hanson’s script. Continue reading

Jul 03

Please, Make the Music Stop: THE MUSIC MAN

Photo by Paul Lyden.

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Music by Meredith Willson
Direction by Bob Richard
Music direction by Milton Granger
Choreography by Diane Laurenson

June 6 – June 18, 2017
North Shore Music Theatre
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) Sometimes, a play gets to an awkward age where it needs to be taken out of circulation for a while so it can age properly and can come back as a nostalgic piece. The Music Man, which was performed recently  at the North Shore Music Theatre, is one of those plays. In the age of Trump, this play’s racist and rape-culture overtones hit too close to home to be enjoyable. Continue reading

Jun 26

Give Me What I Deserve ‘Cause It’s My Right: FIDELIO

Photo credit: www.MattConti.com; impatient for reform, the prisoner ensemble takes some sun.

Presented by NEMPAC Opera Project
Opera by Ludwig van Beethoven
Libretto by Joseph von Sonnleithner
Artistic and stage direction by Rebecca Miller
Music direction and conducting by Dr. Tiffany Chang

June 22-25, 2017
Faneuil Hall
The Great Hall
Boston, MA
NEMPAC on Facebook

Sung in German with supertitles, dialogue in German for performer acting and audience comprehension compatibility.

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Beethoven nails the human condition with his only opera. Fidelio is about the lengths we go to for those we love. Yet, Beethoven reminds us, it is unwise to underestimate the insecurities of the vengeful. NEMPAC’s production was a challenging joy. Continue reading

Jun 23

Making it up as you go: “Summer Thursdays: ImprovBoston”

Presented by ImprovBoston in partnership with the Museum of Science

Thursdays June 22, July 27 and August 24
Charles Hayden Planetarium
Museum of Science
1 Science Park
Boston, MA 02114
Museum of Science on Facebook
ImprovBoston on Facebook

Review by Danielle Fenton-Rosvally

(Boston, MA) This summer, the Museum of Science will feature (in addition to their everyday offerings) a series of adult entertainments.  Thursday nights under the dome of the Charles Hayden Planetarium, grown ups of Boston will be treated to live music, pub quizzes, movie screenings, and improvised comedy.  Last night was the first Thursday that ImprovBoston was featured at Hayden planetarium, doing their thing with live comedy improv (with a science twist, of course). Continue reading

Jun 21

Heaven Has Thin Walls: “Los Meadows”

Robert Cope and Gale Argentine in Boston Public Works’ production. (Courtesy Paul Fox/Boston Public Works)

Presented by Boston Public Works Theater Company
Written by Laura Neubauer
Directed by Olivia D’Ambrosio

June 16 – July 1, 2017
Blackbox, South End / BCA Plaza Theatres
Boston, MA
BPWT on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning for drug use, and sharp, loud noises.

(Boston, MA) Some adults who identify as homeless choose to be there. This doesn’t account for all of them, merely some of the population. These people who do choose to live on the streets, or off the grid are still people. They deserve compassion, and respect. Boston forgets that. People forget that. Los Meadows helps us remember our shared humanity. Continue reading