‘The bathroom conversations are now open’: Bay Area artists react to call for change in theater

Director Lauren Spencer works during a rehearsal for “Black Butterflies” at American Conservatory Theater. Spencer is among those not surprised by an online posting about the experiences of people of color in theater. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle 2017

If any white people were surprised by the depth and length of “The Living Document of BIPOC Experiences in Bay Area Theater,” local artists of color weren’t.

When actor, activist and teaching artist Lauren Spencer read the document, she thought, “I guess all the bathroom conversations are now open. So many incidents in that document I knew about.” It reminded her of the candid conversations she’s had often with fellow artists of color about racism in the industry, only now, not behind closed doors.

“There was a sense of sunshine, it pouring over the valley,” which “felt like a relief, a little bit,” she says.

People of color in Bay Area theater demand bold steps toward racial justice in online documents

Others felt it could have gone even further.

“I was honestly surprised there wasn’t more stories of racism,” says Baruch Porras-Hernandez, a writer, performer and stand-up comedian. “When I was trying to work as an actor full time, back around the 2006-ish years, I remember there being absolutely no room for these type of conversations. It was looked down upon. Even bringing it up was considered dangerous by most actors of color. You could be labeled ‘difficult’ and have your ability to get work completely disappear.”

San Francisco Mime Troupe member Velina Brown says the online document reveals how people are afraid to speak up. Photo: Nick Otto, Special to The Chronicle

For San Francisco Mime Troupe member Velina Brown, the “Living Document” demonstrates how “people are afraid to say in the moment, ‘This is not OK.’” It suggests that workers get shut down when they try to speak out. She sees the document as the consequence of getting dismissed over and over: “Those feelings don’t go away,” she says.

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Marin Theatre Company’s Artistic director Jasson Minadakis (left) and playwright Thomas Bradshaw (right) watch actor Mark Anderson Philips during rehearsal of “Thomas and Sally.” The director and playwright were criticized for their handling of the play. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle 2017

Some local white theater leaders say this document and others circulating online have influenced their companies’ plans.

Marin Theatre Company was mentioned in the “Living Document” and a June 13 statement from a “Coalition of Black Women Professional Theatre Makers in the Bay Area, California.” Both cited its controversial 2017 world premiere of “Thomas and Sally,” Thomas Bradshaw’s play imagining the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the slave who bore him six children.

The coalition’s statement says Marin Theatre Company failed to follow through on commitments made in 2017: “At that time, they agreed to take accountability for the harmful impacts of their commissioning, development, and production of ‘Thomas and Sally’ by Thomas Bradshaw, and for their responses to gentle and rigorous questioning

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Sway House Members Allegedly Party Again After Pledging To Stop Lockdown Bash, Fans React

KEY POINTS

  • In the video, the influencers can be seen standing on table amid cheers from the crowd
  • After the video went viral, many people took to social media to criticize the boys
  • Sway House member Bryce Hall  is already facing criminal charges for  throwing massive parties during the ongoing coronavirus  pandemic

Members of the Sway House are facing backlash once again for allegedly attending another party amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video circulating on the internet, the Sway House members can be seen having fun at a party while being surrounded by a large group of people who do not appear to be wearing masks. The influencers can be seen standing on a table amid cheers from the crowd. It is not clear when the video was taken. 

After the video went viral, many people took to social media to criticize the boys. Some also said they weren’t surprised by their act.

“Never wish for an influencer to get COVID-19 because knowing them they’ll spread it to innocent people by constantly going outside and not staying home,” one person wrote in Instagram comments.

“Seriously? Do they really have to like come on – learn from your mistakes,” another person wrote.

“They got their electricity taken away and they are partying again,” another person commented.

Among the members seen enjoying the party was TikToker Bryce Hall who is already facing charges for throwing massive parties during the ongoing coronavirus  pandemic.

While announcing criminal charges against Hall and another TikToker, Blake Gray, last month, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer had said, “We allege these hosts have been incredibly irresponsible, with a highly infectious disease spreading and parties banned because of it, and we allege they violated the law.”

“If you have a combined 19 million followers on TikTok in the middle of a public health crisis, you should be modeling great behavior, best practices, for all of us, rather than brazenly violating the law and posting videos about it,” he added.

In a YouTube video uploaded earlier this month, Hall revealed he had quit partying.

“We are quitting partying for a little bit. We actually are quitting partying,” he said in the video. 

“I think people are gonna think we’re sarcastic — this is fully serious. We are quitting partying for a little bit, which means our content’s not gonna consist of a lot of party montages,” he added.

The Sway House members are yet to comment on the video.

bryce hall TikTok star Bryce Hall Photo: Instagram/Bryce Hall

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Oregon Republican Lawmakers React to Arrest of Dem House Speaker’s Aide in Portland Riots

Republicans in the Oregon legislature are accusing Democrats of sanctioning “lawlessness” after the arrest of a top aide to the Democratic Oregon House speaker this month during protests that devolved into riots in downtown Portland.



A photojournalist reacts as riot police fire tear gas in Portland, Ore., September 5, 2020.


© Carlos Barria/Reuters
A photojournalist reacts as riot police fire tear gas in Portland, Ore., September 5, 2020.

Kristina Narayan, who serves as legislative director for Oregon House Speaker Representative Tina Kotek, was arrested late at night on Saturday, September 5 and charged with interfering with a police officer after Portland Police declared a riot.

“Kristina Narayan was arrested for Interfering with a Police Officer after the event became a riot and the crowd was given multiple orders to disperse, which she did not do,” a Portland police department spokesperson said.

Narayan, 29, has worked for Kotek since September, 2016 and has served as the House speaker’s legislative director since May, 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Republican state lawmakers in Oregon criticized their colleagues across the aisle for declining to denounce the ongoing nightly violence wracking Portland, and accused Democratic lawmakers of protecting their staffers and supporters who participate in the riots.

“The Democrat supermajority in Oregon have had instances where their publicly-employed staff have been involved in the violent riots and looting in downtown Portland,” said GOP state Senator Dennis Linthicum, who represents the southeast city of Klamath Falls.

“Knowing this, it becomes obvious why Democrats in Oregon and across the nation have not stood up for law enforcement and condemned the lawlessness in the streets because within these Democrat-controlled cities — they would be alienating their own staff members who are participating in the riots,” Linthicum said.

Republican Oregon Senator Alan Olsen agreed, adding that Democratic lawmakers in the state “despise” the very police protecting them.

“Oregon Democrats are the party of lawlessness because instead of denouncing the violence, they largely have remained silent. The top Democrat leaders are protected by the police but despise and have absolute animosity towards them,” said Olsen, who represents Canby, a city just south of Portland.

“It’s obvious that Oregon Democrats are protecting their own extremist staffers and supporters over innocent Oregonians who are the collateral damage of over 100 days of violence,” Olsen added.

Narayan’s arrest came a week after pro-Trump demonstrator Aaron Danielson was fatally shot in the chest during clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and a caravan of pro-Trump demonstrators who drove through the streets of downtown Portland. Two days later, Portland Police declared a riot after about 200 demonstrators marched to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s residence to demand that he resign as violent demonstrations continue to rock the city.

Kotek’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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