Frankly Speaking: What’s Up With That?

Join us for a series of live online discussions between theatre artists about the critical issues facing the arts, culture, and society.

Part of Frank Theatre’s mission is to create work that “explores ideas and issues of social, political and/or cultural concern.” Taking the moniker from Frank’s regular newsletter, “FRANKLY SPEAKING: What’s Up With That?” invites the public to join in an exploration of the kinds of questions that drive and inform the work that Frank typically puts on stage. The public is invited to participate in a Q&A following the discussion on Facebook Live.

FRANKLY SPEAKING will be live monthly. Like Frank’s Facebook page and get notifications when we’re going live! FRANKLY SPEAKING episodes will be available after the live air date on Facebook Live, Vimeo, and the Frank Theatre website.

Please consider supporting this series by making a donation. Your contribution helps make these conversations possible!

Past Episodes

EPISODE ONE: Whiteness in Twin Cities Theatre
With Wendy Knox, Suzy Messerole, Joel Sass, and moderated by Maria Asp
Originally aired on Sept. 9, 2020 on Facebook Live

Local artistic directors discuss the topic of “whiteness” in the theatre, the harm caused by white supremacy in American theatre, and how white leaders of small theatre companies can shift the culture to center BIPOC artists. Joel Sass (Producing Artistic Director of Open Eye Theatre), Suzy Messerole (co-Artistic Director of Exposed Brick Theatre) and Wendy Knox (Artistic Director of Frank Theatre) are moderated by teaching artist and frequent Frank performer Maria Asp. This was intended to be a conversation among white panelists, asking them to address their roles in dismantling white supremacy in theatre, without asking BIPOC to do the work of explaining to/for us. Whiteness is an issue that white people must address and work to resolve without burdening BIPOC.

EPISODE TWO: But That Play is Set Over 100 Years Ago!
With Warren C. Bowles, Ivory Doublette and AJ Friday, and moderated by Signe Harriday
Originally aired on October 7, 2020 on Facebook Live

Performers who appeared in Frank’s recent production of THE CONVERT discuss their experience with the play, set in Zimbabwe under the colonialist government of 1896, and how this history resonates with them and informs their roles as contemporary artists in these current tumultuous times.

EPISODE THREE: Who’s In Your Audience?
With Nora Montanez Patterson, Pedro Bayon, and Theo Langason, and moderated by Sandy Agustin
Originally aired on November 11, 2020 on Facebook Live

BIPOC artists discuss their experiences creating work that is rooted in their community and their experience, as they perform for a largely white audience in the Twin Cities. The typical demographic of most Twin Cities theatre audiences is primarily white, even for theatres that are led by BIPOC artists. There are variances, of course, and theatres that are most deeply rooted in the community they represent show the most variety in their audience composition.

EPISODE FOUR: White Supremacy in Philanthropy
With Aamera Siddiqui, Valerie Oliveiro, and Walken Schweigert, and moderated by Maria Asp
Originally aired on December 9, 2020 on Facebook Live

Panelists discuss the history of white supremacy in philanthropy in this country and its impacts on BIPOC artists and organizations today. The story of philanthropy begins with wealth built through genocide, slavery, and stolen land. Philanthropy is one of the many arms that make up systemic racism, and therefore a very small percentage of foundation dollars are currently invested in communities of color.

EPISODE FIVE: The Impact of COVID-19 on Performers
With Joy Dolo Anfinson, Bradley Greenwald, and Eric Sharp, and moderated by Wendy Knox
Originally aired on January 13, 2021 on Facebook Live

As the pandemic drags on, we’re taking a look at the real-life implications of COVID-19 on the lives of performers in the Twin Cities. The performing arts are often an afterthought in conversations about economic relief, yet, nationally, the industry brings in $804.2 billion dollars (4.3% of the GDP), which is 60 billion more than construction and 227 billion more than transportation and warehousing. In an arts-rich state like Minnesota, the performing arts provide nearly 100,000 jobs and contribute 3.5% to the state’s economy. So what happens when the profession that you have trained for, worked hard at and achieved a degree of success in, is completely shut down by a virus? How are performers surviving?

EPISODE SIX: The Behind-the-Scenes Impact of COVID-19
With Sonya Berlovitz, Joe Stanley, Wu Chen Khoo and Merritt Rodriguez, and moderated by Wendy Knox
Originally aired on February 10, 2021 on Facebook Live

Professionals who have worked in nearly every theatre in town share how they are using the practical skills they typically use to make live theatre help them survive the impact of the pandemic, and hear how they have been affected and how they are surviving this challenging time for the arts.

EPISODE SEVEN: Are you ready to return to the theatre?
With Rachel Austin, Willie Johnson, & Florence Brammer, and moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired on March 10, 2021 on Facebook Live

We’ve just marked a year since Frank produced its last show, THE CONVERT which played at Gremlin Theatre Feb 20-Mar 13, 2020. So now, this intermission from Frank has been a full year. As people are beginning to tentatively look with hope to the fall for the return of theatre, as possibly predicted by Dr. Fauci, we asked some avid theatre enthusiasts what it would take for them to feel comfortable returning to the theatre. What about you? Are you ready to walk into a theatre with a bunch of strangers and see a live show? What holds you back and what encourages you?

EPISODE EIGHT: Abuse of Power in the Theatre
With Molly Diers, Laura Stearns, Elena Giannetti, and Pogi Sumangil, and moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired on April 14, 2021

How does the abuse of power within the theatre affects the lives of the artists who make this theatre community thrive? And what we as a community can do to be part of the needed change?

EPISODE NINE: Decolonizing Musical Theatre
With panelists Sara Ochs and Max Wojtanowicz. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired on May 12, 2021

This episode looks at decolonizing musical theatre, asking the question, “Are there musicals (and plays) that simply shouldn’t be done today because of their racial/social content?”
EPISODE 10: Whiteness in Twin Cities Theatre (Part 2)
With panelists Suzy Messerole, Joel Sass, and Wendy Knox. Moderated by Maria Asp.
Originally aired November 10, 2021
To kick off our second season, we took a look back at whiteness in Twin Cities Theatre to get a glimpse of how we’re doing.

EPISODE 11: Getting Back to Work
With artists Bradley Greenwald, Abbee Warmboe, H Adam Harris, and Wendy Knox.
Originally aired March 9, 2022

After a two-year pause, theatres are gradually getting back to producing shows. However, things are a bit different as we start up again. Rehearsals have new COVID protocols, seating in some theatres is affected, some theatres are double casting/staffing to cover for COVID cases, and some shows have canceled or postponed as COVID sashays into the rehearsal room uninvited.

EPISODE 12: Pay Equity for Costume Designers
With costume designers Sarah Bahr, Amelia Busse Cheever, Andrea Gross, A Emily Heaney and Kathy Kohl. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired April 13, 2022

Costume design, largely made up of women, is frequently compensated at a lower rate than other design areas, which are 85% male. The field is also largely white; jobs in the field typically require another source of support—a second job, a partner with significant income, etc.—further marginalizing those who are already marginalized, BIPOC and/or women.
EPISODE 13: What Needs to Change?
With James Williams, Tree O’Halloran, and MJ Leffler. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired May 11, 2022
Over the past two years, we’ve heard countless times, “Theatre can’t go back to the way it was before.” WSYWAT (We See You White American Theatre) has published a document detailing many changes that need to be made. Some of the proposed changes may not fit our local market, and many of them won’t fit the smaller theatres that populate our community. But what changes DO need to happen?
EPISODE 14: Producing Theatre During COVID
With Peter Simmons, Joel Sass, and Noel Raymond. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired October 12, 2022
What is it like to produce theatre during these times, what challenges do companies face, how they’ve persevered, and more.
EPISODE 15: Accessibility in the Arts
With Matt Guidry, Scott Artley, and Ken Rodgers. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Nov. 22, 2022 on Facebook Live

EPISODE 19: The Relationship Between the Arts and Journalism
With panelists Sheila Regan and Marianne Combs. Moderated by Wendy Knox.
Originally aired on September 13, 2023

There is an age old debate about what the relationship is between arts journalism or criticism, or reviews, and the theatre. Journalists claim they write what they see, and artists claim want “better” coverage.