On the Avenue Q Incident and the Firing of Joe Keefe

Yeah, you read that title correctly! Buckle up, fucknuts, we’re doin’ the whole thing!

So! If you have ever been a professional theatre artist in Chicago, and if you’ve ever been young and dumb and recently graduated, then the odds are that you have worked at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It is one of those suburban regional theatres that mostly produces safe, predictable, and charming musical theatre for overwhelmingly white and affluent audiences.

Lots of well-paying traditional musical theatre – or at least the kind that’s available to younger, non-Equity actors – tends to happen in the Chicago suburbs rather than Chicago proper. But Metropolis is somewhat unusual, because the jobs there both A) pay reasonably well, and B) are entirely non-Equity. To make a slight generalization, I’ve observed that theatres in the city tend to favor more edgy and revolutionary and uncomfortable fare that, for better or for worse, aims to expand the boundaries of what theatre can be. And so if you’re recently graduated from a Chicago school, you’re just starting out and don’t have an agent yet, AND you want to pursue roles that fulfill your musical theatre dreams? Then you’re basically forced to go to the suburbs.

Put a pin in that! We’re gonna circle back to it.

If you’ve been keeping up with the recent Metropolis gossip as I have, there’s probably a few things you already know by now. You know about the Time’s Up Metropolis letter that was sent out last month, written by an anonymous theatre artist who has collected hundreds of stories from former Metropolis cast and crew, detailing incidents of harassment, intimidation, and unsafe working conditions. You know that a few weeks later, Rescripted.org (a publication that, to be fully transparent, I am the assistant editor for) published an open letter from Lauren Berman, a former resident director at Metropolis, giving personal testimony on the theatre’s many deep-seated issues.

And then, of course, you have also probably seen this article in the Daily Herald. And maybe you’ve even seen this article, also in the Daily Herald and written by the same person! If you’re anything like me, the first article made you roll your eyes straight back into your head. And the second article filled you with a white-hot boiling anger that can only be described as apocalyptic!

So you’ll forgive me if this blog post is not the most neutrally delivered, even-handed, journalistically sound thing you’ve ever read. I am angry, and I’m not interested in pretending otherwise! I am also not a journalist, nor have I ever claimed to be. I’m literally just a dude with a mustache, telling you my opinion about an issue that affects my community. And if you don’t like that? I would advise you not to read the rest of this! Go do something that relaxes you! Draw yourself a nice bubble bath, light a scented candle, and soak your cares away. We good? We good.

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