Zoo, Arts & Parks Blog
Salt Lake Acting Company Announces All Female-Directed 49th Season
Theatre folk are often thought to be the cream of the progressive crop, and in many ways that is true. Good theatre challenges norms, questions the status quo, and galvanizes change. Theatre people are in the business of storytelling, and thereby the business of empathy. And yet, even so, the field has primarily been dominated by white men in positions of leadership, whether they be leading the companies, writing the plays, or directing the productions.
Since roughly 2015, the American theatre field at large has seen an impressive turnover of artistic leadership as many founders and long-time leaders are leaving their posts, and while things are improving for women and people of color, we have a long way to go. Data published in a recent American Theatre article reflects that the gender split of artistic leadership has gone from 74% cis men / 23% cis women / 3% transgender or gender non-conforming to 58% cis men / 41% cis women / 1% transgender or gender non-conforming. In terms of race, artistic leadership has gone from 90% white / 10% people of color to 74% white / 26% people of color. These numbers at quick glance look like progress (and they are!), but when you dig a little deeper, you find that the larger the companies get, the less impressive the progress.
Here in Utah, our small (but tasty) piece of the theatrical pie is doing pretty well for itself. Two of our largest professional theatre companies, Pioneer and Salt Lake Acting Company, are run by women; Plan-B Theatre is run by a person of color; Good Company Theatre in Ogden is run by two women of color. (Let’s hear it for Utah!)
Next season at Salt Lake Acting Company (its 49th) brings a line-up of all female directors, of which I am proud to be a part. SLAC has long been known for its progressive programming and overall liberal values, and even so, this particular milestone is a first. Upon its announcement, a male Facebook follower commented something to the effect of, “I guess the men should stay home this season,” which made me ponder the many seasons of many theatres that have had slates of all male directors. I doubt that stopped women from attending.
Having women in the director’s seat matters because the lens through which stories are being told has a profound effect on how the audience receives them. As Rebecca Gilman (playwright and artistic associate at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre) wrote in a recent article for the Chicago Tribune, “…playwrights, directors, designers and actors shape the stories we tell in the theater and the stories we tell become the world we live in. If the stories of one group are hierarchized above those of another, that signals to the world that the rest of us are not nearly as important…”
I am incredibly proud to have spent so much of my career up to this point creating work with Salt Lake Acting Company, where women’s voices and perspectives are integral to every production and the work is all the better for it. Next season’s plays take us on journeys far and wide – from 1890s Norway to present-day East Africa; from a 12-year-old discovering who she is to a pair of middle-aged couples looking to spice up their marriages. The stories are funny and engaging, and while they are each being told by a woman at the helm, make no mistake – men are still invited.
Shannon Musgrave was Associate Artistic Director of Salt Lake Acting Company until April 2019, when she relocated to Pittsburgh. She holds her MA in Arts Management from American University. She loves cooking, plants, yoga, and looks forward to returning to Utah whenever possible to make theatre.
Plan-B premieres ...OF COLOR, a theatrical work of four short plays by local playwrights of color.
… OF COLOR
By Olivia Custodio, Bijan Hosseini, Iris Salazar & Darryl Stamp
…OF COLOR is unlike anything ever undertaken in the history of Utah theatre. It’s the world premiere of four short plays by four Utah playwrights of color – each making their playwriting debut – and includes Utah’s first world premieres by Latina and Persian playwrights.
Playwright Iris Salazar, born in Gomez, Palacios, Durango, Mexico, is the author of “American Pride,” very, very dark comedy about making America great again.
I am not a politician, and I have never been able to articulate or debate politics in any way. I went through a torrent of emotions as I watched Donald Trump attack groups of people and brag about his sexual predatory behavior during his campaign but I naively believed that we would never allow this man to preside over our country.
My disappointment, anger, and sadness were far too large to measure and simply get over as some would suggest. I found myself posting everything anti-Trump that I could post on social media. In the process, I discovered that people who I knew, went to church with and even admired were supportive and defensive of this individual.
As a person of color, I didn’t think I could write a play about white racists, but white people write about people of color all the time, and not always in a good light. So I took what I saw and created “American Pride.” It was a way for me to work through my emotions surrounding our current political state.
As an immigrant female in America, I felt welcomed and empowered when I became an American citizen but now I find myself concerned and can feel powerless. I’d like to believe we haven’t given up, that we have something that still empowers us or that we are working to find something that does. For me, theatre has been just that, whether I am behind the scenes or sitting in the audience watching life played out on the stage.
“American Pride” has been, for me, one way to cope. As playwrights of color, we have all come together and voiced ourselves through these plays. I hope that as you see this production you will cry a little, laugh often, get a glimpse of who we are as people of color, and most importantly, of who you are. This production is just the beginning. Great things will come as Artists of Color continue to unite and do what we are doing with …OF COLOR. I believe theatre is that powerful; we make it that powerful.
Persian/Japanese playwright Bijan Hosseini, author of “The Frailest Thing,” a drama about the difference between wanting to live and not wanting to die.
A mirror is a hell of a thing.
I have no idea what I’m doing. Several people much smarter than me who do have all told me that this is okay.
I [almost] believe them, intellectually.
Emotionally … not so much.
– Not yet anyway.
This experience has been a thing, like a gun to my head, that graciously forced me to do the thing I want to do but haven’t often done – write.
I’ve been led through a process that bled me open and made me look at other processes inside: What’s in my control and what’s not? What do I want to hang on to, and what do I need? What can I let go of, and what can’t I? What do I have to let go of, and how long do I have to be dragged before I finally let go?
I still don’t know.
I don’t have any answers.
– Not yet anyway.
The play, for me, roots this universal existential angst about which one can become mired in intellectualization and puts it into a painful present with very little, if any, control – it puts the gun to the head and forces the reality not of thoughts, but feeling.
African American playwright Darryl Stamp is the author of “Roar.” a dramedy about stand-up comedy.
“Roar” comes from my personal experience as an amateur and professional stand-up comedian. As a two-time winner of Showtime’s Funniest Person in Kansas in the 1980’s, I competed against Ellen DeGeneres, who was named Funniest Person in America. I’ve experienced what it’s like to perform at various open mic nights, to fundraisers with hundreds of people in the audience, to opening for and working with other professional stand-up comedians. I’ve performed at the Santa Monica Improv, Charm City in Baltimore, the Comedy Cellar in New York City and various comedy clubs in Kansas, Missouri, and Louisiana.
The stand-up comedy writing process, the stress associated with entertaining audiences despite what’s going on in your personal life, and the exhilarating feeling you get when you hear audiences laugh is the inspiration for “Roar.”
Most comedic material is the expression of moments that run the gamut of experiences and emotions. Like Richard Pryor ‘s routine about catching himself on fire while freebasing cocaine (“… Save the balls! …”) to Robin Williams “Childbirth” (“… It’s like Winston Churchill and Gandhi had a baby …”), they’re all scripted, worked, amended, rehearsed, performed, and reworked in their earliest stages.
I’ve always believed in writing things down as soon as possible if I’ve experienced something funny or had an epiphany. It’s not unusual for me to get out of bed to write something down that could become material for a stand-up “bit,” or a moment within a moment in a scene in a play.
It’s only natural that the intersection of race, gender, family and culture would be explored in plays about people of color, written by people of color. “Roar” reminds us that the past is inescapable and that hope, forgiveness, and justice for all is needed to heal.
Latina playwright Olivia Custodio is the author of “Drivers License, Please,” a dark comedy about bagels, rental cars and rednecks.
Writing a play is weird. Seriously weird.
As an actor, I usually feel pretty confident when I walk out onto a stage and give a performance. But watching my play onstage?! Welcome to Insecurityville, population: me! It is a very strange thing to write words from your heart and know that people are going to hear them. It’s as though someone else gets to read your diary to a crowd and you have zero power to control how it goes. Personally, I think writing a play is far scarier than being an actor. I still can’t even use the word ‘playwright’ to describe myself.
I was inspired to write “Driver’s License, Please” because of how I was treated by a roomful of men at a car rental agency. The way I had to pretend to know a lot about cars and insurance so that they wouldn’t take advantage of me. The way I had to ignore the fact that the redneck guy next to me was staring at my body the entire time. “Driver’s License, Please” is a metaphor for the state of our union, dramatized to the highest degree, and yet perhaps not too far off.
Writing “Drivers License, Please” has taught me a lot about myself, which isn’t something that I necessarily thought would happen during the process of creating a short play. It has taught me that yes, I do actually know what I’m doing and I have to trust it. I have to be okay with the fact that it will never be perfect and sometimes, as Julie Jensen says, you need to “just write the damn thing!” That other opinions matter, but ultimately I get to tell my story the way I want to. Sure, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but neither was the awkward and crunchy afro that I sported freshman year of college, and hey, I survived that too.
…OF COLOR receives its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre March 28-April 7. Details and tickets at planbtheatre.org.
The Race to Promontory: Get a Wide-Angle View at UMFA
The Race to
Promontory: Get a Wide-Angle View at UMFA
One hundred and
fifty years ago at Promontory Summit, Utah, the final spike was driven, the
transcontinental railroad was complete, and the nation was transformed.
The Race to Promontory: The
Transcontinental Railroad and the American West, a major traveling exhibition now on
view at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA),
offers an extraordinary account of one of the greatest achievements of the
nineteenth century through powerful images that still resonate a century and a
half after their making.
reunites—for the first time in Utah—the famous Golden (The Last Spike), Nevada
Silver, and Arizona spikes that were present at the “Meeting of the
Rails” on May 10, 1869. All three spikes will be on view at the UMFA through
April and then at the Utah State Capitol May 8–12.
these compelling images and historic artifacts, Utahns can explore some of the
historically overlooked narratives around this important history through free
educational programs with renowned historians, artists, and community members
The Race to
by Joslyn Art Museum and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, is a cultural
centerpiece of Spike 150, the state’s
year-long celebration of the anniversary. It’s on view through May 26.
connects Utahns with this shared history in ways that only visual art can. The
transcontinental railroad joined East and West, triggering dramatic economic,
technological, and cultural changes across the nation. Fittingly, this
transformative event was captured by the equally groundbreaking medium of
experience rare works from photography’s earliest days by practitioners who
brought a painter’s eye to this historic moment. The more than 150 photographs
and stereographs by Andrew Joseph Russell (1830–1902) and Alfred A. Hart
(1816–1908) are drawn exclusively from the Union Pacific Historic Collection at
the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
also discover thirty-one works by nineteenth-century Utah photographer Charles
Savage, whose scenes of local landscapes helped boost tourism and settlement.
Savage’s photographs are on loan from J. Willard Marriott Library Special
Collections at the University of Utah.
nineteenth-century photographers focused primarily on the engineering triumphs
of the railroad, the vast resources available for an expanding nation, and the
region’s pictorial beauty. Interpretive materials and an interactive gallery
help visitors think critically about the ways in which these photographers
framed the railroad’s construction for their audiences.
educational programs will examine many narratives only alluded to in the images
on view—including the experiences of Chinese and Irish immigrants who made up
the workforce, members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints who worked alongside
them, and Native Americans, whose lives were forever changed as the railroad
spurred new migration into their ancestral lands.
Join UMFA on Wednesday, March 6 at 7pm for a free lecture, "Promontory Perspectives: A Faculty Conversation":
Perspectives: A Faculty Conversation Wednesday,
March 6 | 7 pm | Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium | FREE
the transcontinental railroad and its completion at Promontory Point are as
dynamic as the moment itself. Join us for an evening of University of Utah
faculty presentations that examine the significance of this historical event
through diverse critical lenses. Featured presenters include Paisley Rekdal,
Utah poet laureate and professor of English; Gregory Smoak, director, American
West Center, and associate professor of history; and Matthew Basso, associate
professor of gender studies and history. Q&A to follow.
for the exhibition was provided by Presenting Sponsor George S. and Dolores
Doré Eccles Foundation, Golden Spike sponsor Zions Bank, Programming and
Lecture Sponsor The Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foundation, and by Union Pacific,
the State of Utah, the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, and Spike 150.
The UMFA is
grateful to the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts
& Parks Program (ZAP) for its year-round support of the Museum. ZAP
funds help make possible the UMFA’s many free programs and twenty-four annual free general admission days.
Photo credits in order:
(American, 19th century), Nevada Silver Spike, 1869, silver, Iris &
B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford Family
Collections, 1998.117; William T. Garrett Foundry (American, active 19th
century), The Last Spike, 1869, gold, alloyed with copper, Iris & B.
Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, gift of David
Hewes, 1998.115; artist unknown (American, 19th century), Arizona Spike,
1869, silver, steel, and gold, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mrs.
Arthur Whitney, 1943, 43.44.4
Alfred A. Hart
(American, 1816–1908), Rounding Cape Horn. Road to Iowa Hill from the River,
in the distance, ca. 1866, albumen stereograph, courtesy Union Pacific
Come Spend AN EVENING WITH TWO AWFUL MEN- a Plan B production about 'our first gay president'
by Elaine Jarvik
“How would you like to write a play about our first gay president?” Plan-B Theatre’s Jerry Rapier asked me in the summer of 2016.
And so I began researching the life of a man I knew little about, one of those presidents who fall somewhere in the vague middle, one of those indistinguishable men with a high collar and a grim mouth. And what I discovered, of course, is that there is
always more to the story.
James Buchanan was the only president to live out his White House tenure as a bachelor. So there were rumors then and there are assumptions today. But the facts are slim: his best friend was Sen. William King of Alabama, who was also a bachelor, and they
lived in the same rooming house in Washington; some said then that King was Buchanan’s “better half;” they were referred to as “Miss Nancy” and “Miss Fancy.”
And, finally, Buchanan once wrote a letter to a friend in which he bemoaned the fact that Sen. King had been appointed minister to France: “I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me,” he wrote. “I have gone a-wooing to several
gentlemen but have not succeeded with any one of them.” And that’s pretty much it: some innuendos and a few letters, which we filter through our 21st century understanding of the way men act and speak.
As I read more about Buchanan, I began to wonder what he would make of other assessments of his life and his administration. Some historians argue his actions and his inaction led America into the Civil War, and his name tops the lists of “worst presidents.”
One of his biographies is titled: “Worst. President. Ever.” (Note to the outraged: these lists were made prior to January 2017.)
"What would it feel like to be called '"the worst" a century and a half after your death?"
This is what fascinated me: what might a man wish he could say to historians and the rest of us if he had a chance to explain himself? What would it feel like to be called “the worst” a century and a half after your death? What would it feel like, as
a 19th century man, to be called “gay”? What would it feel like to be publicly, relentlessly called out on the eternal archive of the Internet?
And so I’ve written AN EVENING WITH TWO AWFUL MEN, an alternative reality in which James Buchanan (Jason Bowcutt), John Wilkes Booth (Aaron Adams) and Harriet Tubman (Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin) appear on “Dead People Live”, a darkly comic reality-show-of-sorts
where the long-dead share with the not-yet-dead what it’s like when your name lives on forever, and your legacy might not be what you want it to be.
Playwright Elaine Jarvik has previously premiered MARRY
CHRISTMAS (which celebrated the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in
Utah), BASED ON A TRUE STORY and RIVER.SWAMP.CAVE.MOUNTAIN. at Plan-B Theatre.
Her latest, AN EVENING WITH TWO
AWFUL MEN, also features Emilie Starr in the cast and premieres at Plan-B
February 21-March 3. Details and tickets at planbtheatre.org
2019 ZAP Tier II Application Now Open
We are very pleased to announce that the application for the 2019 ZAP Tier II cycle is now open!
The application closes March 29, 2019 at 3pm. Information on eligibility, upcoming application workshops, and the application itself can be found on our Tier II Page:
ZAP Tier II Funding Information
WHAT IS ZAP TIER II FUNDING?
ZAP's Tier II category funded over 183 arts and cultural organizations this past year, splitting $2.2M to help them serve our diverse Salt Lake County community. All organizations are nonprofits who provide arts or cultural opportunities to the public
within Salt Lake County.
These are organizations that YOU as taxpayers support to bring experiences to your families and communities, through 1¢ of every $10 of sales tax in the County.
If you know an arts or cultural nonprofit serving Salt Lake County who you don't think is receiving ZAP funding, share this blog post with them, or have thememail ZAP staff. We would love
to speak with them and see if they may be eligible for funding.
Before you submit your application, we strongly encourage you to attend a ZAP Tier II Application workshop, during which ZAP staff will review this year's application and any new or updated questions, and answer any questions you may
Successful applicants often involve their grant writer, the individual who will be reporting on their finances, and a member of their leadership in the workshops.
ZAP Tier II Application workshops will be held:
- Thurs, February 7- 10-12pm
- Fri, February 22- 1-3pm
- Wed, February 27- 10-12pm
The RSVP for the Tier II Application workshops can be found under the "Apply" tab of the ZAP Tier II Funding Information page.