The University of Mississippi brought me in Friday night to give a keynote to 300 students from community colleges in the region. We talked about what allyship and advocacy can look like in the #metoo era as they enter the workforce. This is the first time I did something like this to non-artists and such a large audience. The school had a cancellation at the last minute and hence I got the call that morning and was panicked about doing a good job.
I let the audience know as soon as I hit the stage how this was a first for me and how nervous I was. I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. I shared my personal story and research about sexual harassment in the arts and how artists are fighting back by creating processes of accountability. My goal was to limit myself talking because I really wanted to see how some ideas I presented can be applied to their lives. We had a great and thoughtful discussion.
The average student in the room was about 21 years old, entering their junior year and from rural areas of the region with interests in medicine, education, and social work.
My biggest takeaway was how many of these students were passionate about what models of shared leadership and power look like. They were super shy at first and then this topic got them to light up the room. Many shared they were already exploring shared leadership in their student groups, and thought it was weird that this is considered a "radical" way of working. The idea that this generation thinks hierarchy is so "old school" makes me ecstatic. Our culture has to stop dismissing millenials and GEN Z, as they are our greatest resource in moving our culture forward.
I was also surprised that many vocal supporters of this idea were some young white men from different areas of the room speaking up about how important this was to them. They were ready and able to share and even give up power and had an awareness of how these old models of power and leadership are what excludes so many, keep people from speaking up if they see someone excluded or treated unfairly and yet this is what is constantly modeled to them as excellence to work towards. These kids weren't "snowflakes" I don't know what political alignment they were but their awareness and passion about this at such a young age gives me hope.
So I left them with the models of collective action, alliance building and how this generation can build new systems to create healthy workplaces and generate success where everyone can feel supported and safe to do their work.
I am really interested in doing more of this kind of work as well as building the exact tools and information a young person needs when they are faced with harassment as they are entering the workforce. The statistics on what they will face are startling. In reality, our culture conditions youth to think this is the norm and to let these things roll off their backs in order to move up the ladder to achievement.
I'd like to thank Jen McGrath from The Orpheum Theatre for recommending me to Amy Bernstein at The University of Mississippi. It always amazes me how others see our capabilities when we don't. This was a first for me. I really loved feeling the impact in the room have so and much to learn from this generation.
If you are interested in having me come to your school or organization, please contact me. It's of value to me at this moment to offer this locally to explore further what works and what doesn't so I can do more of this professionally.
#keynotespeaker#metoo#artsleadership#saferworkplace# lionheartliveartsandyouththeatre #memphis #olemiss#notinourhouse
Lionheart Live Arts and Youth Theatre announces Reimagined Youth and Family Programming Session for APAP|NYC 2020: Acclaimed Performing Artists Offer Programs through Lens of Social Justice
I am really proud of this event I put together for APAP2020. There is so much incredible work in the theatre field right now. Unfortunately, because the arts field often works in silos, many youth programmers are unaware of these artists. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new conversation.
From the press release:
In an effort to foster the relationships between artists and presenters in the field of Youth and Family Programming, Lionheart Live Arts & Youth Theatre will host a session Reimagining Youth and Family Programming through the Lens of Social Justice as part of APAP|NYC (January 10-14, 2020), the world’s leading global performing arts gathering, marketplace and members conference. January 13th from 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the New York Hilton Midtown in Concourse C. To register for the conference, visit apapnyc.org.
"It’s time to open pathways for more artists to be seen in the youth and family programming sector,” says Marks. “Our field has had a year of incredible work that is not on the radar of presenters due to the lack of critical writing in the field about work for young audiences and the limited opportunities and budgets to see new American work. Our goal for this session is to amplify these great artists and to create more platforms for presenters and artists to meet one another. This is just the beginning and we look forward to more in 2021.”
The session will feature six nationally acclaimed artists who are creating groundbreaking, tour-ready work for young audiences through the lens of social justice. They will share strategies to ensure program success and embolden performing arts presenters to advocate for intersectional work focused on social justice, as well as to help dismantle barriers that prevent artists from entering the youth and family touring marketplace.
The artists/panelists are:
Kaneza Schaal is an artist working in theatre, opera and dance. Her work has shown and around the world, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music and The Kennedy Center. Schaal is the co-creator of CARTOGRAPHY, a collaboration with artist and writer Christopher Myers, an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, who will also speak on the panel. The production draws on Schaal and Myers’ work with refugee youth in the United States and internationally. CARTOGRAPHY will premiere at The New Victory Theater January 8-19, 2020.
Okwui Okpokwasili is an interdisciplinary artist and choreographer and a 2018 recipient of the Macarthur “Genius” Grant. Her new work for young audiences, Adaku’s Revolt premiered at the 2019 Tilt Festival and tells the story of a young black girl who summons her inner strength to revolt against imposed beauty standards and wear her hair naturally.
Beatrice Thomas is an interdisciplinary artist, drag queen, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour, and national advocate for queer family programming.
Caroline Reck is founder of Glass Half Full Theatre, an environmental activist, puppeteer, and creator of national touring Theater for Young Audiences work, including Cenicienta, a bilingual feminist retelling of Cinderella which will premiere at The Kennedy Center for their 2020-2021 family theatre season. Cenicienta showcases at APAP|NYC 2020 on Sunday, January 12 at 9:20 a.m. at Theater 4 at Theater Row.
Emily Marks (host) is a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist, director of Lionheart Live Arts and Youth Theatre, a social practice artist and creative producer working at the intersection of socially engaged art and performance.
The Kennedy Center was so kind to feature our work in their newsletter this month. I am truly grateful for the experience of this fellowship and look forward to the future.
Inside Arts and APAP was so kind to ask me to write a piece about my experience in the Arts Leadership Fellows Program and the launch of Lionheart. I briefly discuss the field I want to work in collaboration with others to build. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I am humbled to be in such great company with Tiffany Rea Fisher, Andre Perry, and Molly Clark
Here is the Piece :
It's transformative to be in a room with colleagues who share the same concerns, frustrations and dreams about the field. I work in TYA, ( Theatre For Young Audiences) which is very siloed, and live in the south which also distances me. In LFP, I realized every single fellow, whether they were an agent, presenter or artist was there because we all wanted to do better in how we operate, intersect with one another and reimagine a field that actually reflects the diverse communities we live in for the next generation. We all had the same questions: How can we authentically get more voices to the table, more artists supported and new ideas to make our work sustainable? How do we actively dismantle the systems of white supremacy that are hurting artists and our field? Not once did I hear: "It's just the way it is" All I witnessed was a room full of people ready to engage in personal accountability by rolling up their sleeves and begin to do this much-needed work to move the field forward.
For my research project, I studied the grassroots strategies of artists' coalitions who are re-evaluating systemic field-wide conventions that complicate the delineation of healthy boundaries and prevent safer and inclusive spaces in our work. Since the start of the #notinourhouse movement in Chicago, artists and cultural workers are organizing to collectively create community-wide standards to put into practice in cultural spaces around the world. Yes, this growth is in response to #metoo, but it's not about taking the bad guys down. The goal is to create a shared language and build tools for individuals, especially artists who are not classified as employees to advocate for themselves and provide resources to prevent something from going wrong so we can eradicate the mindset of "I just thought this is how things go" and "I didn't say anything because I didn't want to lose future work". It's been invigorating to meet organizers from across the country that are putting new systems into action.
This program has certainly been a catalyst to take my work and my leadership on a different path. I think knowledge-hoarding and working in silos is oppressive because it has the potential to keep so many people away from our field and eventually causes your org to get stuck in the same systems. As our company begins to launch in Memphis, I am in the process of evaluating ways that we can document and share our process in the work that we do creatively and on the administration side. We want to invest in our city’s local artists and model to the young people and audience we serve that there are many pathways and people that go into making our work. What would happen if we insert a budget into every program of a show, so our audience can see the labor and cost that goes into developing a new piece? Can we have a few open rehearsals during the development process where anyone is invited to watch us as we sketch out ideas in our devising process? Could we host failure Fridays where we talk about all the grants we didn’t get, the ideas that didn’t work and what we wish we did in the future? Would this radical sharing model help local artists explore new creative and entrepreneurial strategies they can apply to their own practice? I don’t know if this will help the community understand our work on a deeper level, but my experience in this program has given me the insight to know it’s worth a try.
I was invited to speak at APAP’s PLENARY “Rethinking The Performing Arts Field” as the culmination of my 2 years in their Arts Leadership Fellows Program in partnership with The University of Southern California. It’s been an honor to be in a program with colleagues I deeply admire. To begin this program two years ago with workshops at USC with the brilliant Liz Lerman and Marc Bamuti Joseph and end with the opportunity to be on this national platform has been truly impactful personally and professionally.
Here is a snippet from what I said at our " The Inextricable Tensions Between Capitalism and Equity in The Performing Arts" section.
For years I have gone to family and youth programming workshops, theatre festivals, conferences, and summits - and I have heard the same thing: That the work of American artists, especially LGBT, artists of color and women theatre-makers is just not there. It’s not up to par. It won’t sell.
I hear so often: “How can we program them or put them in our showcase if they don’t apply”? - but it costs money to apply. $200
“How will I know about these artists if they don’t show up to showcase?” - but it might be $500 for the registration, $150/night for hotel, plus $400 for airfare, and a whole week to be away from your day job.
As a result, I see a system of heavily subsidized European companies led by white men fill artist rosters of agencies, pack the programs of these showcases and then end up in seasons across the country. This I am told is the standard of excellence that I must fit into as an artist. Don’t the young people in my community deserve to see themselves reflected upon the stages we program? Don't the artists who reflect my community deserve the opportunity to have their work in the national marketplace too?
And just to step back for a second. We are all here in this room at the APAP conference because we have enough capital to be part of this conversation. How we do we respect those who are not represented here in this room, at this conference?
I made so many new friends after this plenary and have been in reflection about the experience.
I have been thinking about this quote from the Policy Link Equity Manifesto "embrace complexity as a cause for collaboration"
The reason our field is so imbalanced is that our culture shames those who speak up or point out the obvious. The first topic many are afraid to address is money. I am starting to embrace when I enter spaces for the new year that I am just going to accept that I might be perceived as "extra". It amazes me that so many senior arts leaders and curators are uncomfortable with these conversations but I realize the reason why and how many of my generation are challenging a system that exclusively benefits a select group of people. Discomfort exists within these conversations because a seismic shift has been happening in our field. Just the act of this emerging generation of arts leaders showing up and asking the questions is causing a change and everyone must embrace that discomfort is inevitable.
To be an artist AND a curator is to question, and when we don't question, we are not doing our job. Every time we speak about money in a transparent manner, the conversation gets out in the open and our colleagues become conscious about why some voices are not in the room, not programmed on stages, not hired on leadership teams and why some get to curate and others don't. The complexity of the conversation is not a cause to be fearful or defensive but to bring us together to explore collaborative ways to get new work out into the world, more voices in the curatorial process and diverse perspectives running institutions. We can't accomplish any of this without talking about capitalism.
Final statement from Policylink's manifesto:
This is equity: just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.
This has been a transformative experience. THANK YOU, APAP for giving me a platform and doing what needs to be done. To all my LFP colleagues: THANK you for EVERYTHING.
Incubating New Work in The Memphis Theatre Community: An Interview with Julia Hinson of Lone Tree Live
Julia Hinson currently serves as the Artist Director of LoneTree Live, a theatre company newly based in Memphis that strives to push the boundaries of performance through the creative exploration of the voice and body as well as investigating the innovative use of technology.
Julia is armed with an impressive list of theatre credentials and has been working nonstop since her return to Memphis. At the root of her creative practice is a drive to produce and cultivate new work. This weekend, LoneTree Live launches the city’s first official scratch night as a platform for local artists to showcase original work and engage audiences in a night of Sci Fi themed fun. Julia and I sat down last week to discuss why Scratch Night’s matter and our mutual love of Memphis.
This interview took place on October 10, 2018
EMILY MARKS: What is a scratch night? Is this the first one in Memphis?
JULIA HINSON The word scratch implies that you're kind of scratching at something bigger. So it's an opportunity for local writers, directors and actors to experiment with the form of theatre and have a stage on which to do that. To my knowledge, this is the first new work night that is using the Scratch Night name. New work is starting to pop up more in the community. Voices of The South Hosted a Fringe Fest last year and Emerald Theatre hosted a short play fest a few weeks ago. You could even argue that Playhouse on the Square with their stage readings, although it's not local work. Many big cities all over the country are doing these, especially if they have a Fringe Festival because they usually function as a trial run before artists get to their venue in the Fringe.
EM: How did you get interested in the idea of producing a scratch night ?
JH: I lived in London for two years where there's a culture of pub theatres, which are rentable venues. Most of them host a Scratch Night and they're always full. People are beating down the doors to have their work showcased. It’s evolved into a pipeline of how your work gets picked up or developed further, either opening a door to more funding or a bigger theatre to produce your piece. My interest is in doing new work. I'm rarely interested in something that's already scripted. When I got back here, there seemed to be a gap in Memphis which motivated me to put this together.
EM:What was the process to get this organized? Why start with a Sci Fi theme?
JH: Well, this began somewhat selfishly on my part. I have a love for science fiction and started to chat with my friends and other theatre people in town about writing. I approached people who maybe had done some writing for the stage, people who I knew were writers but hadn't written for the stage before, and approached them with the topic in particular. So I curated it out of my own desire to see something science fiction on stage. I also wanted to give people opportunities in areas where they don't normally get opportunities. So I have actors that are writing, actors that are directing. I've got a couple of people who've never acted that are in it. So it's kind of all of us are having an opportunity to scratch at something bigger or something different that we've not done before.
EM: I have noticed since I've moved back to town that the culture of theatre here is always a finished product. Were the artists involved hesitant about not having something perfectly produced?
JH: I think everyone was eager and just excited to have an opportunity to show their stuff and to write. The other thing I did with the science fiction prompt, I said to treat it like a genre like comedy, so it's quite broad. I didn't try to put any restrictions on that, and some interesting things came out of that which you will see at the show. We also did just a very short communal writing process with all of the writers and directors involved to get everyone comfortable with the process. We all met in a room and chatted about what we were writing and read together as well as gave each other feedback. We only met two or three times but it was still helpful. I think if I do this again, I might really try to engage the writers in more discussion and more collaboration in giving feedback. what's great about putting something in front of an audience is you learn so much just from how the audience reads in the room while the work is going on.
EM: I also look at this as an audience development tool. How could we use this as a catalyst to build and bring people to the table? There are companies that do two or three shows a year and their audience goes away. It’s so hard to keep momentum when you have to work project to project. This seems to be a way to engage your audience through your process and keep them connected. What are you and the artists involved thinking about when you think of audience?
JH: In general, I’d like to push boundaries of what we can do physically as performers with our voice, with our body. What we can do technically with all the technology that there is in the world and then also what we can do to break boundaries between the audience and the performer. So there's lots of different ways that's happening. Ours is a thrust with a very small audience on the stage at Evergreen which I'm sure has been done before but not since I've been here. I definitely want to bring my audience closer to me. I think actors can engage in more cinematic, more new ounce detailed acting when that's the case. Personally, I'm just sort of tired of sitting in a regular proscenium audience. It just is hierarchical and I am bored with it. My hope is for the audience to to feel valued in some way for their input on the work presented or that they feel included in a process as work develops.
EM: Can you explain your connection to the city? Why did you decide to move back here from London?
JH: Well, I think first and foremost, part of my heart is here, I just can't help it. I've got roots here and I love it here. It's like a sibling. I love it and I hate it here all in the same breath. It's a pretty dark place, but it's also magical. Memphis is a city filled with incredible people and incredible talent, so that keeps me here. I have always been interested in rooting myself in a community. I guess it was the way I was raised. You go to a place , you meet all the people that are doing the things and you rise up that way. My mom bootstrapped her restaurant business. Watching that growing up shaped me artistically. It shows you how to take something from a germ of an idea to grow into a thing. Being here is partially financial too, it’s very easy to make work here for a reasonable amount of money. I couldn't do these things in another city that I'm doing it here, especially due to the support from other organizations and artists in town. I am thankful.
EM: In an ideal world for you as an artist and as a member of the city, how would you like to grow as an artist and how would you like to see the city grow creatively?
JH : Well, I certainly would love to see a more more diverse audience. I’d like theater to be more accessible to audiences that aren't accustomed to go into a theater. And by that I don't mean by just making it cheap. I’d like to see this by making the topics interesting and again, more and more community oriented, more organic. I think economically I would just love to see us just foster new work that is coming from this place. Not necessarily work to create it. I would love to see us support artists and organizations that make a commitment to use the people here to create a story about Memphis or at least that comes from people that are here. Because again, there is a lot of talent and interesting voices in this city that need to be heard.
Sci Fi Scratch Night, presented by LoneTree Live
Plays October 19th and 20th at 8pm and 21st at 2pm
At Evergreen Theatre - 1705 Poplar Ave, Memphis
Tickets are $15 for Adults and $10 for Students and are available here: bit.ly/scifiscratch or at the door
Recommended for 14 years+
Free alcoholic beverage with every ticket (for those over 21)
For more information visit lonetreelive.com
Tea at Kensingmore by Jeff Possen, directed by Meredith Serna
Omnivorous by Jeff Possen, directed by Alice Berry
The Archive by Renee Davis Brame, directed by Julia Hinson
Connection by Chris Tracy, directed by Julia Baltz
Our Home on High by Aaron Brame, directed by Julia Hinson
Specimen 47 by Lyric Peters, directed by Alice Berry
Time Travel Bullies by Will Loden, directed by Aliza Moran
Zoe Deluge by Julia Hinson, directed by Julia Hinson
Gnegg’s Time-Space Paradox, adapted and Directed by Gabe Beutel-Gunn
Featuring: Julia Baltz, Alice Berry, Gabe Beutel Gunn, Rae Boller, Renee Davis Brame, Emily Dison, David Hammon, Julia Hinson, Will Loden, John McFerrin, Marlissa Stalling, Kristin Tripe, and April Vincent