Even when we do not plan an issue around a specific topic, themes often organically emerge from a collection of unconnected stories. In our December issue, America’s heightened reckoning with racism surfaces again and again.
“Is This the End of the Tiki Bar?” explores the legacy of colonization and its manifestation in a long-popular genre of cocktail lounge. In “You Will Always be Different,” Ted Ishiwari discusses a lifelong grappling with racism along with his father’s ordeal of being uprooted and sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. The new musical, “Paradise Square” explores cultural appropriation in music and dance, suggesting that it can be both a positive and negative force. And in “What Is the American Dream Worth?, Alaudin Ullah and Chay Yew dig deep into the specific challenges of immigrants and their children, and the stereotyping that can hold them back from full participation in society.
But there is hope, too. In “Unapologetic Boldness,” Ayana Contreras specifically focuses on the positive, “full of larger-than-life possibilities, despite oppression,” and Chay Yew, in a part of our conversation about Chicago theater, sees a better future emerging from all the turmoil that the artistic community has undergone the last couple of years. Here is what he had to say when I asked him about it:
I think change is hard. There’s now a new generation of artistic leaders of color, nationally. And when they turn to me, they say, you know, you were one of the first few that started it. And I didn’t realize that.… But the wonderful thing is, Chicago’s always been in the forefront of many things, including change in theaters. So, with what has happened at Victory Gardens and also at Writers Theatre, it’s happening around the country. And I think, addressing some of these concerns is for the betterment of the community, and also for the theater community.
So, for Victory Gardens, it had to occur the way it had to occur. …it blew up and the people finally took the theater back, which was a sweet thing to say about what Victory Gardens has always stood for. It’s for the people.
And I think in terms of this theater [Writers], there was a reckoning about behavior, and they are now rectifying it. Because I’ve never been to the first day of rehearsals where we have a thirty-minute anti-harassment conference, which is actually so specific, compared to everything I’ve done. The good thing is, the Chicago theater community is trying to figure out how to be better. And it’s never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be little bumps on the road. And one thing you can trust about Chicagoans is, they will speak up, when there is something that needs to be addressed.
So, all these changes during the pandemic, maybe it will make for a better theater community when we emerge out of this.
On that note of hope that we can all embrace, we’ll say goodbye to 2021 and see you in 2022. Have a great holiday season.
Look for Newcity’s December 2021 print edition at over 300 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at Newcityshop.com.
IN THIS ISSUE
A conversation with Ayana Contreras
A Beautifully Dangerous Place
The Stockyard Institute surveys its past
Is This the End of the Tiki Bar?
We asked local Pacific Islanders
“You Will Always be Different”
Ted Ishiwari’s Chicago story
And so much more…