Season Planning During a Time of Change

Season Planning During a Time of Change

The journey to our 2021 Season

by Kristen van Ginhoven, Producing Artistic Director & Talya Kingston, Associate Artistic Director, WAM Theatre

When we started curating WAM’s 2021 Season, we already knew that it wasn’t going to be like any previous season planning process. 

Since WAM operates at the intersection of arts and activism, we tend to read and watch new plays by women identifying artists all year, looking for the ones that speak to our artistry, our community, and our moment. We usually begin this process in early summer in order to announce our next year’s season around the time of our fall production.

The fall of 2020, however, saw WAM embarking on our first ever digital production and looking into an uncertain future, both as an art form and as a country.  

What stories do you tell: while grieving the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans to COVID-19, while existing in the uncertainty and economic challenges of the pandemic, while participating in racial uprisings and countering white supremacy culture, and finally while bearing witness to the inauguration of a new president and historic vice-president after a polarizing election season.

This moment of uncertainty gave us two exciting ideas:

  • What if instead of looking for plays that reflect social changes in our community, we looked for plays that initiated the changes and sparked the conversations that we want to have?
  • What would it look like to create a season that worked in active partnership with our accountability plan (rather than simply being in compliance with it)?

We carried lessons forward from WAM’s 2020 season.  We now know that for a season to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to remain nimble and flexible and able to pivot on a moment’s notice. We also know we need to build in time for our hard-working team to decompress so that we can maintain our mental health in this continually stressful time. 

The season that has emerged is diverse and dynamic. In this liminal moment, we will take time to look back, explore our roots, our ancestors, and our legacy, in order to move forward towards a rebirth, a re-emerging, into a future with room for everyone.  The plays that WAM will present this season deliberately shift our gaze away from white-centric stories and modes of storytelling and invite everyone into conversation about a new future. In that sense, they remind us of the hope and beauty we share.

Perhaps most importantly, at a time when most of the arts communities have lost their income, WAM continues to prioritize the hiring of artists, and particularly BIPOC artists.  We are thrilled to be welcoming playwrights Rachel Lynett, Loy A. Webb, and Kim Senklip Harvey; director Nicole Brewer (who the WAMily might recognize for her Anti-Racist Theatre practices) director Colette Robert; and welcoming back director Estefanía Fadul (Native Gardens, The Oregon Trail).  These are some of the most exciting voices in the American theatre today, and we are humbled to work with them.

We have no idea what 2021 has in store. We do know that 2020 has shown us that we are capable of much more than we ever thought was possible. We know that, no matter what, we will be sharing these stories with you somehow. We look forward to doing so and to hearing what you think and feel after seeing them.