The purpose of this place here where I write is to deal with the day-to-day things that feed me as an Artist-type-person. Which means that besides writing about my shows, other peoples' shows I'm working on, promotions for and processes of these things, I do post things that feed
me as a person, hence, as an artist - usually this means music, cats, other arts, and sometimes humor (ie; those things that make life bearable). Some things, like, say, the Halloween party photos from last entry, make me feel a bit uncomfortable, like I've gotten off the track - but since a large percent of the people who read this are close friends anyway, sometimes I do a little something that's pretty much for just them. Whatever. It's my place.
Politics has always been a fuzzy subject for me to deal with here - it's not the purpose of the space, but it's been more and more informing the work that IS the purpose of the writing here. So as I've moved towards making political theatre work - World Gone Wrong, That's What We're Here For, my version of Foreman's Symphony of Rats, my version of Hamlet, Spell, Everything Must Go - a lot of which probably doesn't seem political to anyone but me and Berit, since we were the ones planning, discussing, and debating them during their creation, and who know what we were trying to say with those shows, and good for us for keeping it subtle - politics has come into this space more and more.
For most of my adult life (say ages 18-30), I've been a fairly (and admitted) wishy-washy bleeding-heart liberal who accepted the Democratic party as the closest thing to my beliefs in the public arena, so I might as well come out and vote for them every four years and not think about it the rest of the time. Whatever. Art was more important - I'd focus on that, first and foremost.
That began changing, for reasons, unknown to me, even before the election of our current President. My shows mainly concerned various states of psychic/emotional/spiritual/sociological confusion and splitting - being torn in multiple directions by the things that make us human. Politics, if apparent, was a symptom of a much greater disease evident in the state of merely being a member of our species.
Then I did a production of Foreman's Miss Universal Happiness in 1999 that posed a question that had begun eating at me - if Art cannot, in fact, change Humanity for the better, as it appears it can't, and you begin to think that the only way to accomplish any real, and potentially, ultimately, positive change is through violent revolution, then isn't it incumbent upon you to give up the Art and start making bombs?
That show ended in violent chaos, the question unanswered, the bomb delivered back to destroy the American Patriot Terrorist by a couple of Beauty Pageant Angels (Mr. and Miss Universal Happiness) and a Christian-Marxist Prostitute. I wound up answering the question for myself this year - NO - in Spell.
Where this came from then, I dunno. I had been very political from ages 15-18, and I have no idea why that happened either. I think it came from joining student groups opposed to nuclear war and realizing the daftness of that whole scene - I mean, who supported nuclear war, right? It seemed, the more I looked into it then, that the whole USA/Soviet nuclear race was a fine bit of misdirection to keep people from finding about about the truly scummy, dirty, illegal and unConstitutional things out government was doing in other places - primarily at that point, Central and South America (this is '83-86, a fine time for traitorous scumbaggery in our Nation's capital). So I joined other groups and worked for several years in protest of those actions - helping bring speakers from Nicaragua and El Salvador up to Massachusetts to speak to schools and colleges and so on (somewhere in Washington, there's a little file with my name on it, I'm sure . . .)
Then, I became disillusioned by looking even further into the matters and discovering that the issues were even more complex and dark, and while my government's actions were heinous, I couldn't in good conscience always give my full support to the alternative. And often, the people I was working with turned out to be morally bankrupt themselves, not really caring about the issues as much as being knee-jerk contrarians simply against the status quo - if it hadn't been the Reagan years and actually some kind of vaguely-leftist time, they would have been reactionary conservatives. It was clear that the enemy of my enemy was not at ALL necessarily my friend.
So, with a fine feeling of "to hell with ALL of youse," I went off to film school at NYU and did pretty much nothing but Art-stuff for many years. Yeah, I got beaten by cops in Tompkins Square in '88, as I wrote about, but I was primarily there as a documentarian for a friend and got in the middle of a bad scene I didn't expect.
In my work, I became purely interested in the way human beings work, or don't, internally - the mind/body problem, the struggle between heart and head, the location or existence of "the spirit," how trustworthy in any way are our perceptions, that sort of thing. And I moved from Film to Theatre, but that's another story, and even less clear to me.
Something started changing in me while working at, and living in the basement of, Nada on Ludlow Street from 1996-2000 (for you young 'uns and non NYC theatre folk, this was a theatre, it was cool and beautiful for a time, we did good work there, I can say no more without bringing up VERY bad feelings and old conflicts). No idea why, but it did. I think maybe it was because I had begun to read more on American History, which fascinates me, and the more and broader I read about the past, the more I could see clearly exactly what was happening in the present, and worse.
A week before we were evicted from that space, Berit and I, still a new couple, watched the 2000 election on the old early-'70s Sony Trinitron I had there, with the rabbit ears. Stayed up most of the night in amazement at the drama of the election, but not entirely concerned about how it went, one way or the other. I had voted for Nader - and I admit it happily. New York was definitely going Gore, and I agreed more with Nader than Gore anyway. One thing had become clear to me by that point in my life, and remains true today, that I wouldn't vote for anyone on the actual Democratic or Republican ticket unless I absolutely HAD to - which DOES happen, as I generally won't sit out from a vote in any category, and some people run unopposed, or on several tickets I don't like. I didn't think the 2000 election would change things all too much.
Well, it has and it hasn't. Frankly, a lot of the evil that's been done the last eight years has ALWAYS been going on, and maybe we can be at least grateful to the current Administration for being so shamelessly horrible that more people at least got distracted from the bread & circuses and realized, "hey, these aren't such good things happening here." Again, I've been reading a lot about the Country these last ten years -- most of the evil here has ALWAYS been here, and these times are not unusual.
At the same time, the stakes have gotten higher. And the last eight years have been . . . well, the last eight years. We are now dealing with actions that have consequences that CAN'T just be "fixed" when they blow up on us. The planet itself is in trouble, and Our Fearless Leaders seem to care more about how to plunder it during the brief time they're here and get away with it, and merely LOOK like they're doing something positive, than actually doing anything.
I am continually amazed at the depths to which These Leaders will sink in pursuit of power and money -- Berit never is, and I don't think any politician could possibly sink low enough to surprise her - I think, if it were discovered tomorrow that the President and Vice-President were sacrificing 15-year-old virgins to appease Yog-Suggoth while sodomizing goats and eating live kittens, she'd shrug and ask, "Well, what do you expect from those people?." But then, her earliest memories of politics - and not positive ones - are of the Reagan era, and mine is of watching Nixon resign and thinking that I was learning that the "Bad Guys" always get caught, even if they're the President.
The stakes got high enough that my own work changed and my precepts about keeping politics out of them went by the wayside. I think I've handled the shift well, myself, continuing to put the cart behind the horse by putting the Art before the coarse.
So, I will vote today, and as you might expect. Hell, no point in being coy about it, of course I'm voting for Obama, much the way I did in '04, for Kerry, and again not on the Democratic ticket but in Row E, under the Working Families Party. At the time of the last election, I debated going for Nader again - I mean the state was going Kerry anyway, definitely, but I decided (and still am conflicted about this) that as unified a front had to be made against the man in the White House as possible, as many single voices. Fat lot of good that did, huh?
There's some less nose-holding this time, and more hope. But as I think I've made clear, I don't really trust ANYONE who's part of the political machines of either the Democrats or Republicans, and Obama has pissed me off on more than a few occasions. I can't just suck it back and put on a smiley face and cheer the man unreservedly, but while I can't completely trust him, I can still have enough hope for and in him to join in, and really feel that I am voting not for a "lesser evil," but for your standard politician who may help some things, good or bad, hinder others, also good or bad, against a MONSTROUS FUCKING EVIL THAT WILL DESTROY THIS COUNTRY. REALLY.
Towards the end of his life, that deep cynic Frank Zappa began a push to register voters at his concerts, and encouraged participation in the Democracy of this land. He felt that Americans had lost touch with what their job was in the process - he partially blamed this on the elimination from most school curriculums of that subject once known as "Civics," which was supposed to teach our kids how the country is supposed to work (he was proud of the fact that, while he had been miserable in school and a mostly-bad student, he had gotten A's in that subject). He began putting statements on his album covers such as, "DON'T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE - THE SYSTEM SOMETIMES WORKS WHETHER YOU BELIEVE IN IT OR NOT," or simply "VOTE!" In that spirit, I join in that message. If I have any hope that's grown over these last eight years, it's that many in this country have begun to pay attention and learn "Civics" on their own, and are no longer being apathetic and claiming they are simply "withdrawing in disgust" (as often as not, a cop-out). I believe in the basics of this experiment that is this country, and I'm pulling for it not to fail.
Four years ago, B & I watched the returns at home, again putting a makeshift antenna on a TV so we'd get reception (we don't normally bother) - which we do, as B says, in times of disaster, like 9/11 or that '04 election.
Berit's up and in the shower, and when's she's out, we're off to vote. Tonight, we'll be with friends in our home theatre, The Brick, where, hopefully, it's all been worked out so we'll have streaming video on the big screen. If not, I'm bringing that 1973 Sony Trinitron, with the old rabbit ears, with me so I can set it up and switch channels around, just like the old days.
And finally, having gone through all that, here's two funny videos to make light of this serious occasion, from Funny or Die:
( Vote Calrissian for President!/Another Word from Portman & Jones )
Calling out with hope at the other end of a tin can on a string here in this world gone wrong, I remain your friend.