Season 2016: The Body Politic

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 7:59 PM

By Artistic Director Tara Mallen

2016 brings with it the presidential election. As we designed our season this absolutely remained in the forefront of our minds. This election–this is the mainstage show for all Americans this year and that had to inform our selection. It seems to me that the American media long ago came to the conclusion that issues and substance are an audience 'turn-off'. Candidates are chosen based on their media personality rather than what they are actually saying. Everyone is talking about this generalized list of “important” issues–without actually saying anything meaningful at all. The right wing is slowly waging war on women’s rights yet our politicians are only offering simplistic platitudes without anyone addressing how we can actually affect change for the betterment of all.

In a direct response to this, we landed on three courageous plays that explore women who actually do take action to get what they need. They differ wildly in their political agendas–from the oh, so subtle to the overt–and I am beyond certain they will instigate imperative conversations about body image as reflected through American media about equality, about inclusion, and most of all, about self-determination as it is written across these women’s bodies.

Each of these projects will be helmed by female directors who play  key roles as part of Rivendell’s ensemble. Two have been integral members for many years and have been instrumental in shaping our mission and our programming: Megan Carney (The Walls; American Wee-Pie; Women At War), and Rachel Walshe (These Shining Lives and past Director of New Plays at Rivendell). Our newest ensemble member, Hallie Gordon (Eat Your Heart Out) brings with her 14 years of experience as Artistic and Educational Director of Steppenwolf for Young Adults at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Her deep understanding of collaboration combined with her penchant for landing on projects that can be seen as both controversial and challenging brings a fresh and vital perspective to our company.

Lastly, this season we are launching our very first outreach program focused on getting the voices of girls ages 8-12 girls into the mix: Strong Girls Make Stuff at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble will begin in late January of 2016. Working in partnership with Stomp and Shout Chicago, the  “Strong Girls” will work for five weeks building an original mini-piece of theatre in conversation with Danielle Pinnock's Body/Courage. This workshop will be an affordable, high-quality arts enrichment program lead by professionals in the industry and will culminate in a showing for parents and friends.

Though this might sound grandiose, my personal hope is that through these productions and programs as we navigate this important election year, Rivendell can serve as–even in a small way–a catalyst. And that through inspired dialogues we can encourage our patrons–instead of offering lip service–to actually take action toward making our communities…and our country…better for all. 

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