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Ameriville.

November 6, 2010

Wow.  I just got back from seeing Ameriville at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda with my roommate, Cynthia (our other roommate, Ryan, works as a techie there so scored us some great tickets!).  I wish I lived closer to Bethesda because man did I have a lot of thoughts I wanted to get down but after different conversation on the drive home and then ten minutes of loving my kitty (left alone for the first time with Layla and Pepper — when we got home he was on a table hiding behind a plant 😦  I feel he was probably there all night poor thing)a lot has disappeared.

….Okay, that was the start of my post last night, but then my needy kitty needed attention so I couldn’t continue writing.  He is currently in my lap, but as I am sitting at a table and not lying in my bed I can also type (I was just looking into names, so far on the list: Wahkeye Moon…throw back to the Whitney that wanted 12 kids circa 1998, Remington , Rory, Ryan , Gunnar/Gunny, Jagger, Charlie, Henry, Niles, Jackson, Dakota, Emerson, Finn, Tad/Tadhg , Morrison, Hendrix, Leroy , Maddox, and Maverick , oh and maybe Piper because I love Piper airplanes).

So, Ameriville.  Amazing.  Purely amazing.  It is playing at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda until…I don’t know because it doesn’t say.  Maybe it finishes tomorrow. But it’s next in NY.  Written, created, and performed by the Universes (a troupe of four who met on the NYC open mic scene).  It is an explosive, poetic, humorous, and thought-provoking exploration of America’s varied complicated response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath.  It is theatre that makes one think.  It confronts one’s beliefs and it checks PC at the door (thank God!)…which made the vast majority of 60+, white people in the crowd a bit uneasy.  I spoke with Steven Sapp (It appears they’re all on equal footing, but there is always a ‘leader’ of the group and he appears theirs) after the performance — well after the 15/20 minutes discussion after the performance (I was the only one to ask a question related to the content of the production — all else asked about the context…about Universes and how they came to the Round House.  About choreography.).

He’s African-American/black with dreads and after I commented on the make-up of the audience he said that is every night and it’s really interesting to see people get uncomfortable during certain scenes (or words — such as the ‘f’ word or ‘n’ word).  I remarked on how wonderful it is that they are using their gifts and talents to spread awareness about what’s really going on in America (yes, it was Katrina, but also everything from healthcare to welfare to religion all across America).  But what I kept to myself was spreading aware is definitely necessary, but more so is action.  What action will a bunch of 70-year-old rich white folks take?  It’s Bethesda so I’m sure a lot of the theatre go-ers would like to believe they’re on the ‘good’ side of the ‘fight’, but it is not rational, not logical, not survial-based to hand over your power and privilege and that is what is necessary if there is every going to be any change.

I don’t have much time for this posting because I have much work due Monday, my morning into afternoon was spent tending to reopened wounds, pouring a lot of time and energy into a situation in which nothing is still the offer, yet…I don’t know.  And late afternoon into evening was spent trying to do work at CUA’s library, but somehow nothing seemed to get done. Weird.  But I do feel the need to write, as certain moments in this play struck such an emotional chord within me, had I not been raised by stoic Irish-Catholics (at least grandma — I don’t think my father actually has emotions…except when watching A League of Their Own.  Then he balls like a little baby) I would have been drenched in tears.

The end of the play is supposed to leave you with some hope.  They said they believe in that hope, but I feel, as writers first and performers second, they knew you have to leave them with hope.  That is how the story must end — even if it is a lie.  You cannot so depress someone coming to you for entertainment then send them on their way without some kind of feel-good ending, no matter how much it is B.S.  This, of course, is me talking from my very…oh I wouldn’t say pessimistic (mainly because I fear I have become pessimistic and that just won’t do), but realistic place.  I am no longer an idealist.  Every ounce of that undergrad naivety has been sucked dry.  But I truly hope I am not pessimistic.

Anyway, the end of the play spoke to the fact that America has been through really difficult times, many times before — and we got through it. And we are stronger because of it. And this is our chance for the birth of a new America. A more just America. The America America was always meant to be — was always within grasp of.

Such beautiful rhetoric, I almost get sucked in. But then I remember Howard Zinn. And maybe Zinn has been the ruin of me, but what I learned from dear old deceased Howard Zinn is that government’s one hellava SOB. Even when you think you won, it’s really government acting for government’s best interests. Some will argue that since a black man (a light-skinned, half black, half white mmmmman) is in the white house things really are different. It’s no longer white men in back rooms screwing us all. The power dynamics have changed. Etc etc. But it’s still Washington. It’s still government. You’ve still got centuries of laws in place (I recently learned about how racism was written into Federal housing law in the 1930s and 40s…I repeat, racism was written into Federal housing law…how that has manifested over the past 70/80 years is horrifying), stigmas, misconceptions, gridlock and B.S.

But, like I keep going back to — there are movements. There are ‘good’ people. I think, maybe, there are a lot of ‘good’ people. They just aren’t empowered; don’t feel very capable of their ability to affect change within their own lives, within their community, within their state, within the country. It’s a difficult thing to take a stand — or to take a step. It’s even more difficult to continue taking steps.

There are grassroots movements all across America. And they may be small in comparison to the enormity of the dysfunction and they may be quite young in comparison….but it is important to remember they are there. This is where I see myself playing a micro role. I keep saying: I want to do macro work. I want to work for social justice. But, the more time that passes, the more I realize the need for social justice in the micro. Empowering the community to take back power. To take back the community. A great example of this is the Peace Alliance’s Youth PROMISE Act in which the communities will get to decide preventative and intervention strategies and alternatives to throwing youth in prisons.

Eventually I would like to be in a power position where I am considered an expert on something other than my own life. I would, one day like to be in a position where I can actually get stuff accomplished in the District. But before that point, I would like to spend time with people, getting stuff accomplished there. You need people on the ground, in the trenches, on the frontlines who actually see what needs to be done and what is being done that isn’t working but you also need the people in the suits in the high up offices. I don’t want to be the middle person, I want to be both. I have a passion for both. So I’ll be a miacro…mia cro haha. I want to work in the miacro area.

Yeah, it’s late and I’m tired (and old because I just referred to 10 PM on a Saturday night as late, but it’s true). And the sleeping kitten on my lap smells like pee. And that stupid Contemporary Human Behavior Theory book is shaking it’s head in massive disappointment at me. No, really, it is.

Here’s the first ten minutes of Ameriville. They wrote the first ten minutes about Katrina and then wrote the other 80 minutes. It’s this high energy/passion the whole 90 minutes. Crazy.

P.S. Happy 12th Quinnie!!!!

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