Developing Charged Content

The following is a general advisory for participants in the Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists. Art often delves into difficult – even taboo – subjects; this advisory is intended to help guide how to do so carefully and productively in our specific environment.

In any creation environment, there is a tension between available resources and the creative imagination. When navigating this tension, it is helpful to keep some things in mind:

  • Performers consent to participate in readings and performances.
  • Performers can also withdraw this consent when unexpectedly asked to read/interpret/perform material that they find counter to their values, traumatizing, or offensive.
  • Other people viewing, guiding, and/or co-creating may also not want to engage with or experience certain material.

In an extended works development process, where specific sensitive content is known and advertised upfront, personnel can be hired who knowingly and willingly opt in to this content. This is less practical in accelerated development environments with multiple creative teams, given the breadth and depth of the human imagination, and the impossible demands of having performers on call for every imaginable type of content.

If you want/plan to write about any of the following (or any other hot button issue), please first discuss the specifics with your collaborator and then contact the RSO team before proceeding:

  • hate speech
  • racial epithets
  • suicide
  • self-harm (including eating disorders)
  • child abuse
  • domestic violence
  • sexual violence / sexual assault
  • miscarriages and reproductive health
  • particularly foul language

If we are made aware of hot-button content in advance, we can advise you on potential concerns and any special casting constraints that might need to be addressed. (Some of these may pertain not to the workshop process, but how to ensure responsible performance that reflects your wishes later on.)

If in doubt, please ask first – and, if you’re thinking about asking the question, please put a content warning on your piece.

Drama that burns and music that sates.