GRoW @ The Wallis: A Creative Arts Magazine

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A CREATIVE ARTS MAGAZINE

SPRING 2021


Arts learning and creative engagement are central to our mission at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. We are proud to offer an array of programming under the umbrella GRoW @ The Wallis. We believe everyone has a birthright to grow in and through the arts. This publication is intended to share the stories emerging from our work and that of our partners during this historic pandemic. Amidst all the challenges, this period has led us to better work. The themes that seem to emerge time and again are community and connection. While the engagement with artists and art-making will always be at the core of what we do, a desire for a real connection with others is the larger frame that holds our work. While live interaction on Zoom has been a lifeline, we believe there is still a place for the written word and the value of reflection. We hope this publication will contribute to a sense of community and connection. We welcome your suggestions. Our hope is to continue this on a periodic basis. Until then, we hope you and your family can stay healthy and safe. Mark Slavkin Director of Education GRoW @ The Wallis


Photos © Shutterstock

CREATIVITY “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” - OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, AUTHOR

“Creativity is an act of defiance.” - TWYLA THARP, DANCER/CHOREOGRAPHER

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EDITOR’S NOTE Photo © Rodin Ekenroth

IN THIS ISSUE IN CONVERSATION WITH 6 Elaine Hall Artistic Director, The Miracle Project 10

Kendell Byrd Production Coordinator, DreamWorks

The GRoW @ The Wallis Creative Arts Magazine celebrates creativity, personal growth, and life long learning in the arts. In this our first issue you will find inspiring conversations

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Mark Slavkin Director of Education, GRoW @ The Wallis

with pioneering leaders working in theatre, animation, arts education and activism. It was a joy talking with each of these artists as they shared their

FEATURE 16 White Allies: This Is What Your BIPOC Peers Need You To Know About Addressing Racism In The Theatre Industry. By Tiana Randall-Quant

personal stories with me, revealing their love for the arts and

CREATIVITY SPOTLIGHT 24 Debra Pasquerette Manager of Community Engagement, GRoW @ The Wallis

links to helpful resources on distance learning strategies, and

their commitment to advocacy and innovation - you can find the full audio versions of these conversations on the links provided. This issue also includes a feature article on addressing racism in the theatre industry, a creative spotlight on visual arts, and ground-breaking global arts initiatives. Madeleine Dahm Editor, Artist in Residence GRoW @ The Wallis Check out the full length audio interviews with Elaine Hall, Kendell Byrd and Mark Slavkin at: http://thewallisgrowblog.org


Going Global UNITED NATIONS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 17 goals to transform our world, a call to action!

www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment UNESCO - GLOBAL CALL AGAINST RACISM

Through projects like The Slave Route, UNESCO is fighting racism and discrimination. Through education and the Global Citizenship Education program, UNESCO works to ensure that schools promote inclusiveness, solidarity, and gender equality.

www.en.unesco.org/news/global-call-against-racism

THE SCIENCE OF CREATIVITY

Use these empirically backed tips to capture your next big idea.

www.apa.org/gradpsych/2009/01/creativity WHAT DOES A GLOBAL CLASSROOM LOOK LIKE?

Integrating global competencies into the classroom.

www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/whatdoes-global-arts-classroom-look

DESIGN THINKING IN STEM

ARTISTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org/partnership/?p=35246

www.artistsandclimatechange.com/organizations/

Preparing young people for a future of complex challenges such as globalization, digitalization, or climate change requires high-quality STEM education.

Photos © Shutterstock

EDITOR’S PICKS

World-wide organizations dedicated to exploring the intersection of arts & climate change, and building earth connections.

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Elaine Hall IN CONVERSATION WITH

Artistic Director of The Miracle Project

Photos © Caroline White

COULD YOU INTRODUCE THE MIRACLE PROJECT FOR READERS WHO MAY NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH WHAT YOU DO AS AN ORGANIZATION? The Miracle Project is a fully inclusive neurodiverse theater and film program for children, teens and young adults of all abilities. Through shared experiences with peers we create original musicals, we practice shared social skills, life skills and build friendships/relationships using the arts as our medium.


Photos © Evan Guston

Actors from The Miracle Project

YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN RESIDENCE AT GRoW @ The Wallis, HOW DID THAT RESIDENCY COME ABOUT? The Wallis is our artistic home. Mark Slavkin is my hero, he is one of my mentors, I knew him from another organization, so when I learned that he was going to be leading the educational department of The Wallis I reached out to him. Prior to that there was an article in the L.A. Times about The Wallis and about how open they were to serving communities of all abilities, from children all the way up to seniors. I learned that there was also a quiet room built in the main theater so that people who might distract whether from having a cough, or having autism, were able to get the same experience as someone who could sit in the regular audience. In the back of my brain was ah, that would be my dream to be at The Wallis. I have to say some of my advisors said, “Elaine that’s a wonderful dream but it’s never gonna happen.”

That was in 2015 and we’ve been there ever since. Many individuals with autism spend their time going to therapy programs and into therapy buildings, while our students get to go to The Wallis - some of the greatest performers of our time will come to our classes so we’re really grateful. YOU HAVE BEEN A TIRELESS ADVOCATE FOR PEOPLE WITH AUTISM HOW DID YOU COME TO HAVE THIS AS SUCH A FOCUS IN YOUR LIFE? I’d worked in arts education and in TV and film as an acting coach for many years, then I adopted a little boy from an orphanage in Russia, this was 25 years ago, and we didn’t have the kind of billboards that we have now about autism then, so I didn’t know he had autism. All I knew was that he spun around in circles, and stared at his hand for hours at a time, and would bang things. I wanted to connect with my son like any mother does. Being an arts educator, the way that I knew how to connect was through creativity. When he spun in circles I would spin with him - and when he would bang things I took out our pots and pans

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IN CONVERSATION WITH ELAINE HALL

and we turned it into an orchestra of drums. Traditional therapists really thought I was ridiculous, they were saying that I was “enabling his autism.” All I knew is that when I joined him in his world we bonded and we played, and we laughed, and we fell on the floor and connected. I found some professionals on the east coast, Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Barry Prizant, who encouraged me to follow my son’s lead, to follow his needs and to see everything he did as purposeful, necessary, and communicative. For example, my son liked to hang things and stack things, and he could stack chair upon chair, and I mean make these incredible sculptures with chairs, the traditional therapist would say “you know that’s inappropriate for a chair“ - but you as a theatre director, you would say “that’s a great set design or sculpture.” So I started training my theater friends, the people who think outside the box. I created a whole methodology and trained other people how to understand autism from the inside out, and that became what I now teach all over the world. It’s called Inclusion From Within, Seven Keys to Unlock Autism - and it’s not about changing the person who has autism, it’s about allowing them to be themselves in an environment that supports their highest good.

YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED TO THE UNITED NATIONS SEVERAL TIMES. COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE AND WHY YOU THINK GLOBAL INITIATIVES AND CONVERSATIONS ARE SO IMPORTANT? World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was developed by Jacqueline Aidenbaum and Juan Carlos Brandt. They had learned of a colleague at the United Nations who had a child on the spectrum and there was nothing, zero in the U.N to speak about - as if it didn’t even exist. So they took it upon themselves to create WAAD. I was invited to present a film called Autism The Musical that was made about me, my son and my program The Miracle Project. I also led a parent group with 18 people that had all worked at the United Nations for many many years and none of them had ever told another person that they had a child on the spectrum, that’s extraordinary. I got invited back again a number of times - one year, my memoir Now I See The Moon was the selected reading - it’s the story of my son and really how the arts changed his life, my life, and has become a movement in the world. DO YOU SEE A SHIFT IN INTERNATIONAL POLICIES AND ATTITUDES? AND WHAT IS NEEDED

RIGHT NOW TO SUPPORT AUTISM AWARENESS? I do feel that what’s been done at the United Nations has been groundbreaking and changed the way autism is spoken about. I mean there were horrendous things that were happening, kids were put in cages and lived in shacks behind their parents houses. In China they said they didn’t have an autistic population. I think things like WAAD, where the whole world is lit up blue on April 2nd, means it is not something to be afraid of, not something to hide. But really people need to be listened to and also acknowledged. Now the main speakers and presenters are also those on the spectrum, the keynotes are people sharing their truth, who they are, and what they need, and people are listening; Actors from The Miracle Project and the show, 185 Wilshire: A Love Story are listening. You know it’s a new world when Hollywood has hit TV shows like Netflix’ Atypical, and I’ve just been brought on as an advisor and on-set advocate to consult on a new Amazon series, Forget Normal, produced by Jason Katims. DUE TO DISTANCE LEARNING YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO REACH STUDENTS BEYOND YOUR IMMEDIATE COMMUNITY HERE IN L.A. - WHAT IS THAT LIKE?


Photos © Evan Guston

“I call myself an accidental advocate, it was really by default. Nobody would listen to me, so I kept banging on doors.” It has definitely been a blessing within the curse. Two weeks after we closed our last class, which we thought would be for about a month, we pivoted all of our classes online. When we announced that we’d be holding classes online we started getting people all over the country coming through Zoom. Then we got hired by an organization in Seattle that reaches students all over the world. We started offering our improv for interaction classes and it’s now

Actors from The Miracle Project’s show, 185 Wilshire: A Love Story

reaching students globally. We have classes at nine o’clock in the morning so that students can access the classes. The musical we created was called The Influencer, it was picked up by Broadway On Demand. We are the first neuro-diverse production written by, created by and starring individuals of all abilities. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED IN SOME FORM OF ADVOCACY WORK? I call myself an accidental advocate, it was really by default. Nobody would listen to me, so I kept banging on doors. No one would listen to my son, so we just kept sharing his voice. Whatever your heart is saying to you - I kind of have this belief that we come to the planet with a desire and a purpose embedded in our heart, and when we listen to that it will lead us to where it is that we need to go, and when we listen to that, life will present itself with possibility. I’ve always been in the arts, the arts saved me as a child, it was a place where I could create and be in my own world, without anyone knowing what I was doing. The Miracle

Project became that place for me. I was able to put everything, my whole life’s experience into one purpose. Autism isn’t my purpose, autism is the means for me to be able to express my life’s purpose which is about letting everybody’s voice be heard - bringing out the best in every human being. I’m privileged to be in the autism world, it’s a privilege. I say I qualify as neurodiverse myself and that I’m highly sensitive, and for our friends on the spectrum perhaps we’re the canaries in the coal mine. The world is too loud, too toxic, too much going on, and we may recoil from it when other people try to make sense out of it. In terms of advocacy, it’s more about what is in your heart, what is your soul telling you that you can be part of, need to be part of, and then to hear it and listen to it, and follow that. To listen to the full audio interview with Elaine Hall, please visit: thewallisgrowblog.org For more information on The Miracle Project, please visit: www.themiracleproject.org

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Photo © WOCinTech

Kendell Byrd IN CONVERSATION WITH

Production Coordinator DreamWorks

YOU INITIALLY STUDIED COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING AT COLLEGE, BUT YOU WERE AND ARE ALSO HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THEATER, HOW DID YOU COME TO HAVE BOTH THOSE PASSIONS? I was born in Hyde Park which is South Side Chicago. I’ve always had a love for both the creative arts as well as STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In kindergarten my dad and I participated in local Chicago science fairs, where we were experimenting with colored lights on plants, and I was doing this at five and six year old. My dad was an engineer and my mom studied english and creative writing, so I pretty much just got their merger - I did science experiments in engineering even when I was a toddler and then my mom had me auditioning for different Chicago drama group musicals and shows - and also growing up in our house watching musical theater, that’s really where I fell in love with the creative arts. By the time I hit high school I decided I wanted to explore my affinity for STEM and tech, and I got into a boarding school called the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. I was able to live on campus and study intensely in these STEM fields however, hilariously my favorite course there was modern theater. WAS THERE A PARTICULAR DIRECTION YOU TOOK WITH YOUR STUDIES IN STEM, OR A PARTICULAR AREA THAT YOU WERE INTERESTED IN PURSUING? In senior year I was able to do a research project in advancing the


communication for the disabled, which was inspired by my Principal who had ALS (a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord). I was doing experiments with the Head of the Engineering and Robotics, and we were able to figure out and try different methods to enable people to communicate using their vocal box or arms - it was thrilling to see how technology, math and science could advance the human condition and help people improve the quality of people’s lives. Ultimately my goal going into college was to continue this STEM side as well as get more into the creative side. I went to Swarthmore College, which is a small liberal arts college on the east coast right outside of Philadelphia. I came in wanting to study engineering, with a possible interest in computer science, but later switched my major to Computer Science. Prior to college I had been part of an entrepreneurship program and start up incubator called 1871. There I was able to begin working with people who were creating different start ups, and it was really cool to see how they coded and created websites and were able to start companies. WHAT KIND OF THEATRE DID YOU DO WHILST YOU WERE AT SWARTHMORE COLLEGE? I ended up auditioning for a sketch comedy improv. group, and to be able to do sketch comedy and improv. all four years of college really just solidified the community that I made at Swarthmore, they are some of my closest friends today. I

“It was telling black people’s stories, people who were in tech - so black kids and other people of color around the world could see people in the tech industry defying the odds.” had the most wonderful time doing Shakespeare, at first I was very scared and unsure about Shakespeare because I was not familiar with the language, or the text, or the verse. But doing my first Shakespeare play really instilled my love of classical works. Now, being out here in L.A., I’ve had acting opportunities through Independent Shakespeare Company and being a part of the Wallis Studio Ensemble. Working on DreamWorks Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, as an Animation Coordinator, means I oversee directly the acting of all of the characters, the movement, the lip syncing. My job allows me to apply my tech side and my performing arts/actor side as well. LETS TALK ABOUT YOUR MOVE TO LOS ANGELES. YOU INITIALLY CAME OUT HERE TO WORK FOR BUZZFEED, THE INTERNET, MEDIA AND NEWS COMPANY. I went to BuzzFeed as a Software Engineer, I interviewed at BuzzFeed in New York, their headquarters and most of their tech is actually in New York. During my interview they asked what would interest me in working for them. Something I want to get into long-term is the merger of tech and content creation - telling stories of people of color and this

kind of intersection, being able to be creative and produce stories on digital platforms or animated platforms. So after hearing that, they actually offered me their L.A. office, because that’s where their content hub and video hub was. I was literally like one of ten engineers working in BuzzFeed L.A. WHAT PROJECTS WERE YOU ASSIGNED AT BUZZFEED? I joined their production tools team, which is pretty much what it sounds like: creating tools for the video creation in the production pipeline, so we were able to work with a variety of producers and we were creating tools to make the production pipeline more efficient and effective - it was cool to be in the office where most of the videos were getting made, and you’re sitting next to producers, and people are filming constantly so you can really feel the creative energy. But for me, I wanted to be in that space, I actually would rather be the one holding the camera and or producing. I ended up being able to start doing that during the latter half of my time at BuzzFeed, because I was able to make more friends with producers - get more connections and then express my interest in producing. By the end of my time at BuzzFeed I was able to work with one of the senior

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IN CONVERSATION WITH KENDELL BYRD

“You know to be able to tell diverse stories as effectively and efficiently as possible, having that diversity reflected in a workplace is key and paramount, and DreamWorks does that very well.” producers there and produced two narrative stories. One of them was about the story of Anthony May, who went from the foster care system in Compton to becoming a software engineer at Google. I pitched it to BuzzFeed and they loved it, so I was able to produce that shoot with one of the senior producers. It was one of the most amazing experiences. My favorite part of the shoot was Anthony saying ‘thank you’, for seeing value in his story. To be able to go out into the world and find people’s stories to put on digital platforms, especially for me it connected so much because it was tech and it was someone black. It was telling black people’s stories, people who were in tech - so other black kids and other people of color around the world could see people in the tech industry defying the odds. Growing up I didn’t see any black women studying computer science, or black women doing engineering - it’s great that we have movies like Hidden Figures that allow young

people to see themselves. I really want to contribute to that. HOW DID THE MOVE TO DREAMWORKS COME ABOUT? BuzzFeed has a Introduction to Production but it runs in cycles and at that time it was being reworked, so it was not open to anyone. I was actually a really big DreamWorks fan but I didn’t know anyone there at the time. So I just hopped on LinkedIn one day and just started looking up people who worked at DreamWorks who were production coordinator’s. The first guy I reached out to was the nicest person in the world, and not only did he reply back but he said “why don’t you come up to campus and have lunch so we could just have a chat” - that’s incredible, that’s the kind of connection you want. DreamWorks campus exceeded my expectations, it’s one of the most beautiful studios and campuses in L.A. and it was wonderful just hearing about his job working in DreamWorks Features. I ended up just continuing to keep in contact with him throughout the months afterwards, I sent him updated resumes constantly and he was amazing and kept on referring me. Then DreamWorks called me and they were like: “Hi, do you want to work for us starting like next week?” and I’m like “okay” - And that’s how sometimes it works in animation. Truly sometimes it does come out of the blue and out of nowhere. But it is also really perseverance and looking at the long picture, and knowing that eventually it’s gonna happen. My kind of mantra is to act like it’s impossible to fail.

WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW AT DREAMWORKS, AND WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING THERE? I work on Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, (season two is out on Netflix now) - I am the Animation Coordinator for that show. Overall DreamWorks is just a fantastic company to be at, DreamWorks has some of the best culture compared to most animation studios. YOU WERE TALKING EARLIER ABOUT THE NEED FOR REPRESENTATION AND DIVERSITY, DO YOU THINK IDEAS ARE SHIFTING WITHIN THE WORLD OF ANIMATION? Yes, particularly at DreamWorks, you know to be able to tell diverse stories as effectively and efficiently as possible, having that diversity reflected in a workplace is key and paramount, and DreamWorks does that very well. The first production team I was on was literally majority queer, and half person of color. Actually on Jurassic for example our production team is majority people of color. Such diversity of thought and race and orientations in the workplace has allowed us to be able to tell these diverse stories at DreamWorks. I think one thing that most animation companies can work on is that there is a lot of diversity at production levels, but still most animation executive producers are white. DreamWorks is getting better, there’s been more female EP’s over the past years, especially through DreamWorks TV, but definitely there’s always room for improvement. I’ve been particularly proud of shows like Shira and the Princesses of Power


which is a perfect example of queer representation in animation. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WHEN WE’RE ALL ABLE TO RETURN TO MEETING IN PERSON, ONCE THE PANDEMIC IS MORE UNDER CONTROL? At the very top of the list is doing live theater. That’s what I’ve missed the absolute most. Yeah being with the Wallis Studio Ensemble, all together in the same space, to perform on a stage and be present with your fellow collaborators. Live theater is the ultimate practice of empathy. To listen to the full length audio interview with Kendell Byrd please visit thewallisgrowblog.org Kendell Byrd outside DreamWorks.

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Photos © Shutterstock

CREATIVITY

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” - MAYA ANGELOU, POET/AUTHOR

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creative.” - CHARLES MINGUS, MUSICIAN/COMPOSER


EDITOR’S PICKS

Distance Learning Check out the Editors picks for exploring strategies that support online instruction and how to adapt your teaching practice for the digital world. NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: ADAPTING YOUR PRACTICE

www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/covid/adapt-your-practice NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: ENGAGING STUDENTS REMOTELY

www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/howinnovative-educators-are-engaging-students-online

RACIAL EQUITY IN DISTANCE LEARNING

www.mneep.org/toolkit/distance_learning/ REMOTE LEARNING ARTS EDUCATORS TOOL KIT

www.arteducators.org/learn-tools/remote-learning-toolkit TEACH THROUGH: REMOTE TEACHING STRATEGIES THAT WORK IN THE CLASSROOM

www.teachthought.com/technology/remote-teachingstrategies-that-work-in-the-classroom/

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White Allies: This is What Your BIPOC Peers Need You to Know About Addressing Racism in the Theatre Industry BY TIANA RANDALL-QUANT

Photo © Timmie Escobedo

FEATURE


FIRST.

You are not doing enough. Take a minute and interrogate how the above statement made you feel. Do you suddenly feel attacked? On the defensive? Do you feel compelled to correct me, to insist that you are absolutely not a racist in any way? Are you now listing in your head all of the accomplishments you’ve racked up over your career proving that you are, in fact, doing enough to end racism in the theatre industry? If so, I would like to interrogate this instinct and guide you towards a healthier avenue of thinking. If you have a laundry list of things you’ve done for diversity and inclusion: good. But the fact remains that more work needs to be done across the board to make our industry safe and equitable for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) artists. Across our Los Angeles community of theaters, there is a recognition that injustice and discrimination is a huge problem in our community. A commitment has been made to work towards real systemic change. It is no longer acceptable to be simply not racist. To be honest, it never was. You must also be anti-racist.

SECOND.

Stop being afraid of the words “white supremacy.” As a white person, you may view the racism we are addressing in the theatre industry as something perpetuated by “other” white people. You may see white supremacy as

something completely and totally separate from your identity as a white person. If so, I have news for you. It isn’t good news or bad news, it is simply news and I am simply the messenger: You are perpetuating racism, whether it be in your meetings, your office, or your rehearsal spaces, in your classrooms, as audience members, and largely as silent bystanders. The country in which we live, it’s very bones and tissue, are made from white supremacy, which means that our beloved industry is as well. The call is coming from inside the house. There are some of you who call yourselves allies but refuse to acknowledge the reality of racism in the everyday lives of your BIPOC peers, and your effort instead goes into policing those who are trying to have an honest conversation. Your intentions may be well meaning, an honest attempt to preserve what you think is peace.Your intentions do not deliver you from critique or accountability. Regardless of your intentions to not be racist, “white supremacy” still has a chokehold systemically and socially on these creative institutions. Our careers, our creative work, our working relationships, have for a long time been shaped by white fragility. BIPOC artists have always been plagued in these spaces by an unspoken expectation to put the comfort of their white peers before their own. This expectation is so pervasive that many don’t realize just how much it negatively affects our creative and personal lives. Progress absolutely cannot be made while there are still people who bristle and crumble at the word “white supremacy”. This inability to sit with one’s own complicity in a white supremacist system, this fragility, is still a major problem in spaces that claim to want to solve racism.

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This extract from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letters From Birmingham Jail articulates this issue perfectly:

For those of you who still condemn those of us who are ‘too radical’, he’s talking directly about you.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Right now there are many spaces being created that are dedicated to making equity and inclusion the cultural norm in our industry. The purpose of these spaces is to actuate a cultural shift. This work requires having difficult conversations about race, white supremacy, and power. In many of these spaces, however, there has been a disturbing trend of white people coming to these conversations without a true understanding of how racism, misogyny, ableism, and other forms of marginalization manifest both systemically and culturally in our lives.

This letter was written in 1963. It’s 2021 now.

This lack of understanding disrupts the work that needs to be done. It puts BIPOC theatremakers and administrators in the position of correcting and educating white people who claim to be allies. This correction is usually met with various defense tactics like avoidance (“We’re not talking about race right now”) - gaslighting (“that is not what I said, you misunderstood me”) - and tone-policing (“Your aggressive language is divisive”); these create an unsafe and toxic environment for the BIPOC people in the room. This defense is motivated by the same thing that you, the white reader, may have felt when reading the beginning of this article: a lack of understanding your own privilege. Which brings us to our next point.

You need to do your homework. You may be thinking, “I’ve been white my whole life, I know what the deal is. I know how not to be racist.” But if you are an ally who has been


existing as just a not racist white person instead of an anti-racist white person, then the probability is high that you haven’t evaluated your own relationship with white privilege or evaluated how whiteness itself is structured by racism. Being anti-racist is a journey of learning and self-evaluation that we all must undertake. Rapper Nipsey Hussle, in reference to community development, once said: “The marathon continues.” The process of dismantling racism is a marathon. Some of you have stopped running when the finish line is nowhere in sight. Some of you expect us to bring the finish line to you. Both of these expectations are harmful on a professional and personal level. As allies, it is up to white people to eliminate those expectations and evaluate where they came from in the first place. This is part of the commitment to being anti-racist. The marathon is hard, and it won’t be finished in our lifetime, probably. But there are resources out there meant to steer you through this journey and help you be antiracist in every aspect of your life. As allies, you have to take yourself back to school. This work is not extra-curricular. It’s general education. Without this education, white people are actively and unknowingly harming the BIPOC people in their lives. The job of the ally is not to make space at the table, nor to assimilate the marginalized into a system that was built to exclude them. The job of the ally is to help build a new table. Without this education, you don’t have the basic tools needed to do your part as an ally. Tiana is a member of the Wallis Studio Ensemble. Tiana Randall-Quant is a born and raised Angeleno trying to change the narrative that “L.A is not a theatre town”. Her goal is to create theatre that is mindful, intimate, and that gives a glimpse into a world full of love and healing. She can currently be found making fun comedy and gaming content with The 354 Squad on Youtube.

RESOURCES THE RESOURCES LISTED HERE IS BUT A SAMPLE OF THE EXPANSIVE CANON OF ANTI-RACIST WORK, BUT IT IS A GREAT PLACE TO START: WEBSITES Jane Elliot’s Commitment to Combat Racism janeelliott.com/commitment Concord Academy’s 10 + Tools for Better AntiRacism Conversations concordacademy.org/tools-for-betterantiracism-conversations Fanshen Cox’s Why We Need to Know the Story of Whiteness on Blavity blavity.com/why-we-need-to-know-the-storyofwhiteness?category1=opinion L.A. theatre maker Michaela Bulkley’s nonexhaustive list of resources for ‘creating a more equitable and anti-racist creative environment’ michaelabulkley.com/resources BOOKS Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race Carol Anderson’s White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness RECOMMENDED Martin Luther King’s Letters from Birmingham Jail, which unpacks how the well-meaning ‘white liberal’ can still be a threat to any civil rights movement, and is available for free online africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/ Letter_ Birmingham.html

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Mark Slavkin IN CONVERSATION WITH

Director of Education, GRoW @ The Wallis


HOW HAS THE WALLIS APPROACHED MEETING THE NEEDS OF ITS COMMUNITY DURING A TIME WHEN PEOPLE ARE NOT ABLE TO VISIT PERFORMING ARTS CENTERS IN PERSON? We were really on a roll and firing on all cylinders with amazing productions and presentations that we do in music, dance, theater, and film; all of our education activities, and we had just had a stage reading with Al Pacino - I had just hosted the NPR radio program From The Top featuring some amazing young classical musicians, and then COVID 19 hit, and at the time of course none of us understood the magnitude - and then essentially we are moving out of our buildings and having our stages and our classrooms go dark. For me the the easiest part in a way was moving our educational classes from in-person to Zoom. At The Wallis we are blessed with the dedicated education wing, with three classrooms and a beautiful courtyard. We host programs for learners of all ages from youth through older adults, and Zoom was both a curse and a blessing. Initially I struggled with it because I wanted to compare the Zoom experience to the in-person experience and of course it’s not the same, and it’s not almost fair to compare. My attitude evolved and now I am very grateful that not just Zoom but other technologies exist that allow us to stay connected. FOR THOSE WHO MAY NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH GRoW @ The Wallis, COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT ITS OVERALL MISSION. During the original planning phase, the leadership of The Wallis announced that the entire organization would focus on children’s theater and provide a theater school for young people. In

“We long to be back in the building as soon as possible but the human to human connection in some ways has defined our mission in a more focused way.” 2015 when I arrived, which was the middle of our second season, the broader mission had evolved to be more than children’s theater into the whole range of performing arts for audiences of all ages. But the legacy of the theater school meant that there would be a dedicated physical space for education activities, and that opportunity really attracted me.

those things are nice, but at the core it’s about human connection.

With three spaces, and seven days in a week, and 24 hours in a day, how could we bring that to life and how could we make a difference in Los Angeles. We’re still very passionate about theater but not limited to a theater school. Our programs serve people of all ages.

As you know with the Wallis Studio Ensemble, there are challenges creating a theatrical type work on screen. Our friends at The Miracle Project, the program for youth with autism, were in the middle of rehearsals for a new musical to be performed at The Wallis when the pandemic began. That presented challenges of helping people learn their part, record their own voice or movement piece, (to be edited together). I’m so proud of what’s come out artistically, but to me the most important underlying value has been the human to human connection, the community, the safe space, the opportunity to look forward to being with peers. It has left me with a sense that we’re continuing to make a positive difference in the world. We long to be back in the building as soon as possible but the human to human connection in some ways has defined our mission in a more focused way.

YOU WERE TALKING EARLIER ABOUT MOVING TO REMOTE LEARNING, CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE SPECIFIC AND CREATIVE WAYS THAT YOU HAVE ADAPTED TO DISTANCE LEARNING AND OUTREACH? We host a class on Tuesday mornings called Dancing Through Parkinson’s, for adults with Parkinson’s disease led by our colleagues at Invertigo Dance Theater. We really love welcoming people into our space, but since these are older adults with important medical challenges to begin with we knew they wouldn’t be able to come into the building in person. Invertigo Dance Theater facilitates those classes on Zoom it’s not quite the same as being in person, you don’t have dance mirrors, you don’t have a sound system - but what we learned is

Whether it’s Dancing Through Parkinson’s, the programming we do for youth with autism, or the programming that we do for older adults etc... connection has been so vital, and has really been a lifeline at a time of such sad and difficult isolation.

WHAT ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO IN YOUR SCHOOLS PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM? We really focused on the idea of customization, rather than tell

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IN CONVERSATION WITH MARK SLAVKIN

Mark with Domonique Brown, Elaine Hall, Coby Bird, The Miracle Project.

“What’s interesting about it to me is that growing up here in L.A. I enjoyed the arts just as a regular student. I got to be in the band and played clarinet in middle school and high school.” above:

Mark with Domonique Brown, Elaine Hall, Coby Bird, The Miracle Project. below:Mark with dancer, director and choreographer Debbie Allen.


“My first passion in life which came through my family, was being involved in politics, government and public service, so it’s only really by accident that I ended up in the arts.” schools “here’s what we’re offering, do you want it or not?” We’ve worked with amazing teachers from elementary, middle and high school, in Beverly Hills but also across Los Angeles. For example a theater teacher at Oscar de la Hoya in Boyle Heights was teaching their students about the musical Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim and so we brought an actor artist who had been part of the original company to Zoom with those kids, and talk about his whole journey in that show. So you can imagine how much they valued that. YOU HAVE BEEN A LEADER IN ARTS EDUCATION FOR DECADES NOW, WHAT KEEPS YOU SO PASSIONATE ABOUT ARTS EDUCATION AFTER SO MANY YEARS? What’s interesting about it to me is that growing up here in L.A. I enjoyed the arts just as a regular student. I got to be in the band and played clarinet in middle school and high school but I never defined myself as the arts person, and never aspired to be any sort of artist or art educator. My first passion in life which came through my family was being involved in politics, government and public service, so it’s only really by accident that I ended up in the arts. I had the privilege of being at the Getty Trust during the time the Getty was being constructed and then after the opening, that was my turning point. I was always pro art but it was by no means a defining passion until the Getty, which for me was like going to graduate school in arts education.

They invested a lot in me and had me travel around the country to meet with amazing people, read all kinds of important research and books in the field, and so that really sparked this passion for me. I became convinced that the arts when done well, and done within schools, could be a place to give students a greater sense of agency. I think so much of schooling is frightening for kids when they feel they don’t know that right answer, and if they raise their hand and it’s the wrong date, the wrong name etc... I’ve been blessed with great opportunities here at The Wallis, but before this at The Music Center to see amazing artists and educators in action, and to witness first hand how students respond, how students rise to the occasion, how students create something meaningful and powerful and relevant - for me that’s the reward. WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WHEN THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO COME INTO THE BUILDING - WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT? My short answer is everything, just being around people and knowing that we’re on the other side, that we survived the pandemic - I don’t mean just we as human beings lived through it, but that The Wallis as a nonprofit survived, which we cannot take for granted. As you know it is such a hard time for so many organizations, so to know that we survived, that we will persist, that our doors are open

and people are coming back in I think will just be a very emotional experience for all of us. I mean even just thinking about it, we did a partnership in I want to say April or May last year with Emma Rice in the U.K. and a musical called Romantics Anonymous that was going to be the next show up when COVID 19 hit. That cast and creative team were one day away from getting on an airplane to Los Angeles when our Artistic Director called them to say, in effect you can’t come because we are closing our doors. Within a fairly short time they mounted a fully staged version at a theater in London and streamed it online and we collaborated so that our Wallis patrons could buy tickets and watch. They started by panning the empty theater in the U.K. and showing the technical team in the theater: stage manager, sound, lighting directors, all the stagehands, everybody getting ready to run the show, and I just got emotional looking at that - that was a real theater about to go live on stage with all the bells and whistles, you know that makes theater magic. I felt moved by watching that online, imagine how we’ll feel the first time the lights come down in our theaters for a show. Or the first time people walk into our classrooms, yeah I can’t wait for that, and I feel we’re close, I mean not any minute now but I feel like the world is turning a corner - the vaccines are rolling out, I think we’re getting there, we don’t know when yet but I’m hoping soon. I can’t wait to be back and doing what we do, creating a special place for people to grow in and through the arts. To listen to the full length audio interview with Mark Slavkin please visit thewallisgrowblog.org

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CREATIVITY SPOTLIGHT


Debra Pasquerette Visual Artist

“I have always had a love of photography but it’s just been in the last year I’ve discovered how much I love collage, assemblage, art journaling and mixed media painting. I have had no formal training but find the world of color, shape and texture so inviting in these turbulent times. Lost in paper, glue, paint and ink, I find total relaxation. It’s all intuitive and I really never know what medium, or what I will create when I sit down at my desk. What I do know is that it brings me complete joy.”

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Cover photos © Jenn Logan

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics to address. Please email education@thewallis.org

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Check out the full length audio interviews with Elaine Hall, Kendell Byrd and Mark Slavkin at: http://thewallisgrowblog.org