2021 has been such a year. Struggles are everywhere but so are people and organizations working to make things better. Each year on Giving Tuesday, Theater in Asylum looks back at all the organizations we’ve amplified throughout the year in our Cold Readings series. One organization we have continually returned to as we read our way through The Golden Collection is the National Black Theatre (NBT).
NBT’s mission is:
This Giving Tuesday, we ask you to consider supporting the National Black Theatre and/or any of the organizations we have highlighted this year. Below, see a loosely-categorized list of heroes who are doing the urgent, necessary, good work of making our world more just.
Thank you so much. Please take care of yourselves and each other.
Peace, power, and love to you,
Paul, Katie, Kathryn, and Hilarie
Making and Spreading Art
Empowering People and Advocating for a Better World
Providing Aid to People in Immediate Need
2020 was a year full of difficulty and loss, but also urgently-needed work and reflection. As a nation we impeached a president, witnessed and worked for an Uprising for Black Lives, elected a new president, hunkered down in unprecedented isolation, and lost far too many to a horrible virus. 2020 was so much.
As we eagerly approach 2021, we are thrilled and honored to announce Theater in Asylum’s plans for 2021. We reach to next year with hope, and as live theater becomes safe again, we plan to:
If you are in a position to donate, we humbly ask for your support of Theater in Asylum’s 2021 Season. We are so grateful for all that’s been made possible these past 10 years, and we look ahead to 2021 with eagerness and hope.
More Cold Readings, with more partnerships and special events
Since 2015, Theater in Asylum has gathered friends to read and discuss great plays once a month. As the pandemic sent us into our homes, we moved these gatherings online and began holding them weekly. Wednesday nights have become a cherished place not only for play reading but for processing these wild times. We plan to continue weekly readings online until it’s safe to gather in person again, and invite more guest facilitators to bring new plays and new ideas to the group.
The Debates 2021
The Debates 2021 will be our fourth iteration of The Debates. This year we turn to New York City’s Democratic primaries and the conversation over what we want our city to be. New Yorkers will soon elect a new mayor, comptroller, and many city council members.
We believe everyone should understand their electoral power, and we know theater is a potent tool to elucidate that power. As in past years, we’ll host a slew of events including watch parties, political analysis meetings, and finally, an original play about the election. We want not only to get out the vote, but also to empower the voter to engage in the electoral process with understanding and confidence. With our unique blend of mimicry, abstraction, and earnest curiosity, we seek to illuminate the candidates, the issues, and ourselves.
Nearly ten years ago, activists gathered in lower Manhattan to peacefully occupy Zuccotti Park and to declare opposition to an economic system clearly inadequate for the majority of Americans, the 99%. Occupy Wall Street galvanized people around the world and inspired hundreds of activist occupations, big and small, united in a call to radically rethink the economic order.
Playwright Andy Boyd hones in on Prescott, Arizona to follow five Occupiers in their efforts to change their town and the world. They broadly agree that the one percent is too powerful, but agreement breaks down as they search for specifics. Reaching consensus on what a better world looks like—and how to get there—is frequently frustrating and rarely glamorous. Never easy, but urgently necessary. On the 10th anniversary of the rallying cry heard round the world, we are thrilled to produce the prescient and hopeful play: Occupy Prescott.
We’re planning to host another cabaret, sharing our platform with artists in our community to workshop their new work. We will also continue to revise our mission statement and our company’s inner workings, as well as participating in anti-racism trainings through the League of Independent Theater.
We have big plans for 2021. If you are able, we would so appreciate your help in funding our next season. Thank you for your time, your support, and your love. We wish you and yours safety, good health, and a bright new year.
Thank you, thank you, thank you,
Paul, Katie, Kathryn, and Hilarie
Theater in Asylum
When we first saw Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me at New York Theatre Workshop, we were floored. The piece is searing and soaring, a call to arms and a calling in. This (mostly) one-woman play looks at the US Constitution and notes who's left out of it. It's a wonderful piece and we hope you will join us to watch and discuss it.
Anyone who has been to our Cold Readings will recognize the format, but we'll meet on Wednesday, October 28 (just days before the election!) at 7pm for introductions and to hear some background on the play from our facilitators. Then we'll all push play at the same time on the Amazon stream**, and finally gather again for a discussion when the stream is over. The evening should conclude around 10pm.
See you there!
Peace, power, and love to you,
Paul Bedard, Katie Palmer, Kathryn Appleton, and Hilarie Spangler
Theater in Asylum is committed to financial accessibility. If you do not have access to an Amazon Prime account, please do not let this stop you from joining us. Please reach out to us and we help you figure something out to watch the play.
By Paul Bedard
Learn more about our 10 year commemoration here
Early in 2015, while preparing to apply to be a Drama League Directing Fellow, I was devouring scripts and trying to come up with brilliant production ideas to include in my application. Daunted by the amount of reading and the often-dispiriting notion of having brilliant ideas alone, some friends and I began meeting to read and discuss plays together. This was in the basement of the indoor kids playground where I worked at the time, and the casual gathering quickly grew into one of Theater in Asylum’s most successful and enduring programs.
Six years and 90 plays later, the Cold Reading series remains one of my favorite things. For those who have never been, we gather with no preparation to read and then discuss a play. For years, Katie or I facilitated each Cold Reading, but about a year ago we started commissioning guest facilitators, which opened up the curation of plays and has been so wonderful. This year our playwrights Gethsemane Herron-Coward and Willie Johnson, playwright and director Ran Xia, and actors Kara Hankard, Jonas Cohen, and Manuela Sosa all facilitated. Our Community Engagement Manager Hilarie Spangler has also been facilitating. We’ve assembled quite the team to pick plays and run readings!
Looking back on all the plays we’ve read, however, some interesting trends emerge. The two eras we’ve read from the most are the 1990s and the 1930s. After the United States, the country whose plays we’ve read the most is Germany, followed by the UK. Our most repeated playwrights are Bertolt Brecht and Caryl Churchill. The oldest plays we read are by Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, who lived from 935-1001. The newest plays we’ve read are from this year, written in quarantine by dozens of playwrights, commissioned by the Play at Home series.
When New York went into quarantine earlier this year, we shifted our monthly in-person gatherings to weekly online gatherings. Our community grew both in number and geographical reach, with people outside of New York newly able to participate. We now regularly have readers from multiple states, countries, and even continents. The discussions have also grown. While we nearly always discuss questions like, “What stood out?” and “What challenges would arise in producing this today?”, the pandemic, the uprising for Black lives, and the upcoming election have brought tremendous urgency to the issues of societal responsibility, equity, representation, power, and protest. These have supercharged our discussions recently and brought necessary lenses to work new and old.
Looking ahead, we’ll reach our 100th Cold Reading this December and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful. Cold Readings began as a place to share an overwhelming stack of plays to read for an application (which succeeded, by the way), but has since grown to something so much more valuable. I cherish my Wednesday nights and look forward to the plays, the completely unprepared performances, and the thrilling discussions with friends.
Theater in Asylum (TIA) is a New York-based theater company founded in 2010 to challenge and empower our community. TIA joyfully pursues a rigorous research and an ensemble-driven approach to theater-making. We create performances to investigate our past, interpret our present, and imagine our future. We prize space to process, space to question—asylum—for ourselves and our community.