...but it’s not over yet. By Kathleen Choe (actor/singer/writer)
Some say the world will end in fire, Some in ice. - Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
Frankly, I don’t know how the world will end, and begging Mr. Frost’s pardon think it’s rather morbid to harp on it.
Granted, he’s speaking more of human nature in this poem than the ending of the world. I suppose that’s why the first two lines of Fire and Ice are always the first to pop into my head when events like last week--the week from hell--happen. Those lines, and also these:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains: round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away. - Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
FringeNYC is about to be upon us again! Let me introduce you to "The Devil."
By Maya Contreras (Playwright/Performer)
This year I have another play in FringeNYC. I love Fringe because it produces affordable independent theatre - which is incredibly important in a town where the average Broadway ticket is well over $250. FringeNYC is $18 and you have over 200 shows to choose from.
FringeNYC gives a stage (well, 16 of them) to tell our stories that might not quite fit in the mainstream of Broadway, but are still compelling and necessary.
My offering this year is Let The Devil Take The Hindmost. Set in 1969 Washington DC, Vera, an African American math teacher and her husband Pablo, a Latino Art History Professor, attempt to make sense of a violent decade, their rocky marriage, and what the future holds for their politically active daughter.
I started outlining the play Nov. 22, 2014 and began the second act June 13, 2015. Why do I remember those two dates? Tamir Rice's murder and the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina took place retrospectively on those two dates. Like many in this country I was overwhelmed with grief that a child playing on a swing set with a toy gun, and nine unarmed church goers were all murdered in cold blood. All victims of systemic and institutionalized racism in a culture that has stoked the flames of division and hate for far too long.
Last week was rough. Real rough. Charles Blow called it "A Week from Hell" in The New York Times, asserting "This is not a level of stress and strain that a civil society can long endure." Social Media has naturally been a sounding board for all the best and worst aspects of these tragedies in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. All week on various feeds I watched post after post scroll by from my fellow privileged, white, liberal friends asking what they can do to help support their friends of color during this time. I saw my friends of color screaming about how this continued and disproportionate violence towards the black community must end. I saw many posts explaining why #blacklivesmatter is more important than #alllivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter, and why the latter two completely miss the point. I saw meme after meme after meme, but the most poignant, in my opinion, was this one:
This quote, attributed to Ta-Nahisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, speaks volumes about what is actually happening in our society. We, the white privileged and educated, are only now beginning to see the horrible fruits of the seeds we have systematically sown into the soil of this country. To me, this is the whole point because it speaks to one of my favorite adages: knowledge is power. Our digital lives make the sharing of information instantaneous - of course, this is a double-edged sword. Millions of people have cameras on them at all times, able to snap photos and videos of the most inane absurdities or the most violent atrocities. In these cases, videos of the most extreme ends of the systemic racism that haunts our legal system have sparked outrage, protests, and debates.
And while it should not have taken the pressures of social media to bring these problems to light, in the very least something has. We can see lovely, fictional representations of a colorblind world, but as we are only beginning to see in Staten Island, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, we do not live in that world. I posted a song from Ragtime in response to the violence, but it's important to note here that social media posts, while useful to facilitate awareness and discussion, don't fix the problem. We must use our minds and bodies and votes to bring about change, not just our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Though, I suppose, those are places to start nonetheless. I found a similar meme to the one above shared by blogger Adrienne Marie Brown on Instagram:
This seemed to me like a good message to live on. Yes, these crimes are hard to watch. Yes, the reality of the segregation that still plagues this country and its consequences are hard to acknowledge. But if we "hold each other tight," it just might get better. #blacklivesmatter
Remember when Kate McKinnon and Darrell Hammond were brilliant? Oh wait. That's all the time. By Jennifer Anderson (Actor/Singer/Anxiously awaiting the Ghostbusters reboot)
July 4th has come and gone, and you might be saying to yourself "what will I do with all this excess patriotism that I've got pent up inside me?!?" Well, luckily for all of us, it's an election year. Come November, we'll all be putting that American spirit to use in the best way possible by voting for our 45th president.
In honor of that fact, and in honor of America itself, I present this #TBT from April of 2015. Enjoy, citizens.
1776, Hamilton, and the American Experiment By Sam Perwin
It's a really good time to be both an American History buff and a musical theater nerd. The runaway success of a little musical called Hamilton has re-introduced the idea to an entire new generation that our founding fathers weren't perfect, all-knowing demi-gods, but rather complex, flawed men who did the best they could to create a country under impossible circumstances. Of course, the original broadway musical to dramatize the proceedings of the continental congress (a hefty feat in and of itself) was 1776, which also won the Tony for best musical back in 1969. In it, we get to see the frustration of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin as they struggle to convince the rest of the colonies to vote unanimously to declare independence from Britain. Fortunately, we all know how it turns out. We also get to see these men bicker, fume, drink, swear, complain about not getting to have sex with their wives, protect their own interests, and, in short, behave like humans. It's a fascinating portrait, if not always a dramatically compelling one. 1776, as much as I love it, suffers from a glut of book scenes, many of which do nothing but complain about how nothing is happening.
Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, waiting for the egg...
When myth meets reality, and neither one offers protection, it is time for a rewrite.
By Alexis Haynie (Writer, Actor, Scholar)
My mother has mainly existed as a myth in my memory. Immortal and without flaw. A life too big to be confined by death. Strong. Driven. Living with sickle cell disease but never suffering from it, of course. She married my father. She separated from my father. She bought her own house and her own car. But even more important than being independent and battling a chronic illness—she birthed two daughters. Because every great myth needs a miraculous birth. The doctors, not to be mistaken for the daytime talk show hosts, warned her against childbirth. She didn’t listen.
She grew two humans in a body that was self-destructing because she knew her mission was to deliver the tiny humans into the world—even if it meant dying in the process. She knew she would never live to witness the trajectory of their lives and the fulfillment of their personal missions. Her death would come before her existence could concretize in their memories. But that would be enough. The myth would be enough.
The annual viewing of Saved By The Bell's classic Fourth of July episode is filled with friends, fashion, fights and fireworks. That's the Fourth. By Owen Panettieri (playwright, lyricist)
When it comes to the Fourth of July, I like an annual fireworks display set to the tune of Katy Perry's "Firework" as much as the next guy. What I really can't do without on the anniversary of our nation's birth, however, are the following 3 things - 1) Watching some Wimbledon on ESPN, 2) Watching some Twilight Zone on SyFy, and - most importantly - 3) Watching some Saved By The Bell on the Netflix. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that amazing SBTB episode set at Malibu Sands beach club and featuring the Staff vs Member Games, the Miss Liberty pageant, and the Fireworks Ball that led to Zack's and Stacey's explosive first kiss! I'm honoring this occasion by revisiting something I wrote about this episode several years ago, but have updated with an 2016 Election year twist. Let us now reflect on what the 4th of July can mean to us by examining the differing viewpoints expressed by the contestants participating in the 1991 Malibu Sands Miss Liberty Pageant. I'm sure most everyone can get behind at least one of these four philosophies.
THE CAPITALIST Speaker: Lisa Turtle Dressed as: Patriotic Background Dancer from a 90's rap video 2016 Campaign Slogan: "Make American Great Again!" Speech: The 4th of July means Freedom, Liberty and 50% off sales at all major department stores! July 4th Philosophy: Show your love of country by buying our way out of a stalled economy. Commentary: It's hard not to give in to those Holiday sales. And stimulating the economy really is your patriotic duty, so it's best not to feel bad about all the clothes you bought yourself this weekend that you maybe didn't need. ...right? Sure it is!
THE HISTORICAL TRUTHER Speaker: Jessie Spano Dressed as: The Statue of Liberty 2016 Campaign Slogan: "A Future To Believe In!" Speech: The 4th of July means America. Our Country... Well, actually it's not our country it belonged to the Indians who inhabited - [Microphone abruptly cut off] July 4th Philosophy: We cannot truly embrace the good in ourselves without acknowledging the bad. Commentary: It's a bit of a buzzkill. And she says "Indians" instead of "Native Americans," so the usually politically correct Jessie makes a stumble here. It probably costs her precious points with the judges.
Do re mi fa so la... By Alisha Giampola (Writer/Performer)
I spend most of my workday singing silly songs with children who have only recently grasped the concept of object permanence. A little bit like Maria Von Trapp, but without the long-term responsibility or the Nazis. These kids are toddlers, and as such, are at their absolute height of self-centeredness. If they are holding something, it is theirs, as surely as if it was growing out of their body. It might surprise you to know that if you were to ask me, "Alisha, can a child who is still learning how to talk in complete sentences understand and exercise consent?" I would think for a moment, and then say, "Yeah, totally!"
Children at the age I'm describing are at the perfect moment in their life to begin learning that other people's bodies belong to them, and them alone. Just yesterday, I was playing maracas with a small group of these little humans, and one boy started banging his maraca on the leg of a little girl next to him. I watched, not interrupting my rendition of the song You Are My Sunshine. The little girl seemed to not be bothered, and then to be bothered, and finally began to actively push the little boy's maracas away from her leg. He kept reaching to tap her on the leg and she kept pushing him away until I finally said, "Hm, Ignatius (NOT HIS REAL NAME), it doesn't seem as if Pandora (NOT HER REAL NAME EITHER) wants you to play your maracas on her body." Ignatius stopped and looked at Pandora, and then at me. "See? She's pushing your hand away, which makes me feel like she doesn't like what you're doing." Ignatius picked his maracas back up and started tapping the ground with them instead, and we all moved on with the second verse of You Are My Sunshine.
From my experience, adults often seem skeptical that lessons like this will actually sink in and influence their child's behavior long term. But let me tell you, they really actually do. Not all the time, of course. Like anything you tell a two year old, you have to repeat it quite a lot. And you have to respect the rule yourself. One thing I see adults do with children all the time that stresses me out is that they make them hug or kiss people even when it's pretty clear that the child does not want to do this. Grownups, please don't make your kids hug and kiss people, even if you yourself like those people. Even if you have the best of intentions. It's okay to suggest it, or even encourage a child to give a hug or a kiss to a friend or an aunt or a grandpa, but if they don't want to, you shouldn't make them. It's so hard to tell children, especially girls, that they should seek consent from their adult relationships if we haven't respected their bodily autonomy up until that point. It's a weird message.