What To Do About Trump? Laugh or Cry? 7 Fringe Shows Have an Answer

Donald Trump (Harry S. Murphy) and Barrack Obama (Joshua Wolf Coleman) in Ray Richmond's play Transition.

Donald Trump has been ridiculed for years. He is practically a caricature onto himself – like the most extreme example of the Ugly American come to life. We have seen President Obama's takedown of Trump at the White House Correspondents dinner, and Alec Baldwin's broad version of him on SNL – but since November 8, 2016, many of us haven't been laughing anymore.

Several shows at this year's Hollywood Fringe Festival were written as a cathartic release for artists who felt frustrated and depressed when Trump surprised us all and won.

Each show has different ways of satirizing the Trump phenomenon, and a few of them, like Too Many Hitlers or: The Decoy Decameron, were written long before the election – but all of them mock the powerful.

While they might differ on underlying themes or tone, the creators of each show say getting laughs is more important than making political statements. These are not grim thought pieces.

Satire uses ridicule and exaggeration to poke fun at our leaders, thus (hopefully) robbing them of some of their power. But when Trump is already so ridiculous and outlandish, won't even the most cartoonish and exaggerated version of him pale in comparison to the real one? And if anyone is laughing, so what? Ridicule hasn't exactly stopped him before.

Rick Cipes, who wrote and stars in Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical, believes that an artist can comment on an already absurd Trump administration by being even more absurd.

"In Zombie Clown Trump, Sean Spicer is now played by a Sesame Street Puppet named Sean Sphincter, Melania Trump is now "Barbania" Trump and played by a Barbie doll, and Trump himself isn't only a clown, but a zombie clown who has triggered a world wide zombie apocalypse," he says.

Seeing an excerpt from the show at the Fringe Cabaret, I find the character more menacing than funny, and don't want to get too close to him. But clowns have always scared the shit out of me, even before Pennywise from It and Trump came along.

Cipes is a former journalist, and years ago he wrote an article called Trump du Soleil predicting that Trump's fifteen minutes of fame were nearly up – but as he says, seeing as how they aren't up quite yet...he still believes a combination of different forces, including ridicule and laughter, can help bring the man down.

He felt powerless after the election, but writing the show helped Cipes realize that the world won't end because of one creepy clown. The song that plays as the audience exits his show echoes includes this thought.

Transition by first-time playwright Ray Richmond approaches Trump differently than Zombie Clown Trump, but it is no less of an attack on him. President Barrack Obama and Donald Trump met in the White House 36 hours after the election and details about what happened during that meeting are still sketchy.

Transition imagines this encounter between two men who are polar opposites; Trump, loud and possessing an oversized ego, versus Obama, erudite and professorial. The media, with a bizarre sense of relief, reported at the time that the meeting had gone well (Obama has given hints in recent interviews that this was not the case.)

That post-meeting sense of relief didn't last long, not in reality or in this play. "Trump is only influenced by what shiny object is front of him and then 30 minutes later, it's something else." Richmond says. "Obama's optimism that he could influence Trump is lost when he realizes this guy really is a piece of shit, he really is an idiot."

Richmond, who like Cipes, has a background in journalism, wrote the original script in a two-week frenzy after the election. He says he didn't want just another takedown of the boorish image of Trump, or some kind of Saturday Night Live spin-off.

"We really wanted him to be taken seriously on some level," Richmond says, so Harry S. Murphy, who plays Trumps, dialed down his performance since the original run at the Lounge Theatre earlier this year. It was little too over the top before, Richmond says, and what we see now is scarier, even grim, but there are certainly comic flourishes.

"Trump is ignorant, but he's not stupid. He understands combat, verbal combat, and he understands winning. We think it's scarier if you take some of what he's saying and it makes sense and is intelligent," Richmond says.

Transition does an excellent of building tension – before deflating it with a well-timed joke, only to build it up again. One can only wonder how much this awkward encounter resembles what really happened in that room.

Richmond is not interested in, as he says, being Switzerland – taking some middle ground or balanced approach. For him, this is no time to be in the middle since he considers the election of Trump the scariest thing to happen to this country in years, rivaled only by cataclysmic events like 9/11.

"No, I really don't believe satire can really begin to change people's minds and hearts, I wish it could," he says. "Unfortunately, satire is constructed and almost exclusively supported by intelligent people. Trump's supporters are best in denial or living in ignorance. They are not people who appreciate satire – they'd just call it leftist crap, they'd say you liberals! They don't understand cleverness or irony or truth in humor, it's all lost on them."

In that, he is like Cipes who when asked if he wants to spark an awakening in people, says says he has no intention of doing that – he wants to preach to the choir, and alleviate their fears with a night of humor.

Trump may not have created the intense divisions in this country, but he certainly knew how to exploit them. Plato said we laugh at other people so we can feel superior to them, and so much of modern satire comes down to pointing at those idiots over there, but not implicating ourselves. The Rising and Trump in Space: A Musical Comedy couldn't be more different tonally – but their creators are alike in that they turn the lens on themselves as well.

"Jonathan Swift said satire is putting a mirror in front of you and looking at the world, except you're not in the picture" says Armen Pandola, the creator of The Rising. He laughs, and says "I try to do it and include myself in the picture."

He does believe it is possible to reach beyond the liberal bubble and doesn't want to be polemical at all. The Rising is really skewering social media, which the Trump campaign used so successfully against Hillary Clinton, and we are all a part of that world.

We talk about The Rising a few days before a gunman attempts to assassinate several G.O.P. congressmen practicing baseball. The play is about a shadowy revolutionary group that starts randomly killing one politician every day, but government insists they don't exist and that these reports are fake news. But the bodies keep falling.

"Hey, there's somebody being killed every minute, some of them are bound to politicians," says one character. The play is set in 2033, but it could happening five minutes from now, or as it's poster art says, in a world that is just an explosion away.

The title of course comes from that old Quaker tradition of a community coming together to raise a barn. "The idea of The Rising is that it's a community of people looking to change and build something, but of course the methods they use are not good. They're killing people, and I don't hide the consequences of that" Pandola says.

People are moving further into their own respective camps, and Pandola wants to show this highlight these divisions by making them even more extreme, showing us where we might be headed.

Gillian Belllinger, Landon Kirksey and Kevin Richards in Trump in Space: A Musical Comedy

Trump in Space: A Musical Comedy is a parody musical set 400 years in the future. It follows the adventures of Captain Natasha Trump, the great great great great granddaughter of Donald Trump, who has destroyed the planet leaving humans to find a new one.

The show's co-creators Gillian Bellinger and Landon Kirksey both hail from that strange, alternative universe called Texas. They are also huge science fiction fans, and they use Star Trek as the main inspiration – always in an attempt to be as overtly silly as possible.

"One of the things I love about sci-fi is that it gives us a lens to talk about things that are complicated but gives us the space, pun intended, to do so in a way that is less emotional and close." says Bellinger. This is exactly what Gene Roddenberry did on the original Star Trek – he created a show where unsettling and even taboo subjects could be discussed, cause, hey who doesn't like space? Or for that matter, science fiction parody musicals?

Early drafts did attack all those idiots over there, but after staged readings Bellinger and Kirksey got notes saying you need to point a finger at everybody, so they wrote jokes at their own expense.

"We didn't want to be just lopsided and obviously are political beliefs are very apparent, but it really is the polarization of this thing that is the problem, so where you shine a light on that you become more aware...of...how can I affect change by coming together as opposed to dividing," says Kirksey.

Another division I find is that many people don't want to laugh about Trump, or even think about him. When I tell a friend at Fringe Central that I am writing a piece about satire on Trump, he shakes his head and says, "I'm tired of hearing about him."

Jon Jacobs in Dreams in Overdrive

Dreams in Overdrive is a solo show that briefly deals with Trump, and it's creator Job Jacobs echoes this thought when he says, "I've seen one other show that included a little of political Trump humor, and I found myself completely turned off. It kind of makes me nervous for my audience. Do we really even want to laugh about Trump? Or would we rather just completely ignore his existence? Since Trump is already so absurd, any attempt at making fun of him also just makes me sick."

Steven Benaquist, writer and one of the performers of Too Many Hitlers

Which brings us to everyone's favorite punchline, Adolph Hitler. Too Many Hitlers is a farce about one of the most evil men who ever lived.

Nine of Hitler's decoys – one of which may be the real Fuhrer--are hiding in a bunker in Berlin during the closing days of World War II. The sight of multiple Hitlers on stage is funny, especially when they break into a song and dance number, or do an extended bit of dialogue taken entirely from the titles of Sylvester Stallone movies.

The song Nazi Me is Nazi You is funny too – a fatherly Hitler decoy is explaining to a more junior member that the essence of being a Nazi is what you are not...you're not old or weak or a cripple or black or jewish or whatever. This is when the laughter starts to sting cause now you've been tricked into laughing at something that is inherently not funny.

The humor is obviously very dark, and after testing the show against audience reactions, Steven Benaquist, who performs in and wrote the show, lightened some of it's aspects. But he stands by the dark humor of the piece, even if some audience member might be put off by the tone.

"The reason why some people don't like it is late in the show they grow attached to these Hitler decoys and they don't want to be reminded that they were fucking racists, they hated the jews and I don't want them to forget it," Benaquist says. He wants people to laugh, but also remember that the Nazis were and are evil.

Andra Moldav and Kate Rappoport in How to Love Your Dictator: Olga & Ludmila's Guide to Fascism.

If Too Many Hitlers is a farce that wants to remind you of the past, How To love Your Dictator: Olga & Ludmila's Guide to Fascism imagines a worst case future scenario; Trump is Putin's puppet and we have been annexed by the Russians.

The scene is set by loud Russian rock music, cold war era propaganda films and a complimentary shot of Vodka. Several people are shot. The audience is thankfully spared.

Kate Rappoport was born in Poland and Andra Moldav in Romania, but both moved to America when they were still children. The show is partly based on conversations about their experiences growing up in Eastern Europe, and how their grandmothers had such a negative outlook on the world. Originally a four-minute short they created with their sketch group Femmebot PhD, they expanded it after the election into a holiday show they called The Last American Christmas.

How to Love Your Dictator takes the outlook of growing up in an oppressive culture where you don't have freedom of speech, and cannot make fun of political figures. It plays like an episode of Access Hollywood or TMZ, only hosted by two depressive Russian ladies. They offer Americans helpful tips on living under a dictatorship. "Thank you for spending your last free days with us," they cheerfully tell the audience near the show's end.

""I just feel that in American society, satire and being able to express what makes you laugh is so entrenched in our society that it's funny that I don't even think about it too much or as some dangerous political statement because I know I have the freedom to do that." says Rappoport.

"We as Americans are used to laughing at people that are in power, and it's really cool that we are allowed to do that," she says. "It's crazy to think in other countries people can't laugh at what's going on cause when they do, it creates incredible changes in society."

So can we laugh Trump out of office? Of course not, but as Benaquist says, condemning mockery as useless is itself useless. Cipes still believes in the power of laughter because, as he puts it, Trump is a bully and bullies hate to be taunted – it throws them off their game. Authoritarian regimes want to create a culture of fear--but if if you ridicule the powerful, and take down the image of the glorious leader, perhaps you are one step closer to changing things. But first you have to laugh.


THE UNIVERSAL CLICK AT THE HOLLYWOOD FRINGE

Hello beautiful souls! This is Miss Barbie Q! Your friendly neighborhood drag queen!

What a thrill it is to be reporting from the frontlines of the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival (which I will lovingly refer to as the “Fringe” from now on).

But I come to you from a totally different angle. I am a trans person (I identify as GNC - Gender Non Conformist) AND a POC (Person of Color), so I got all kinds of goggles on! I'll admit, when I got the task of reporting from my point of view, my hardnose activist flag came up and kept looking for things that may or may not offend. I have show in the Fringe as well, so I have been hypersensitive of how my show is being perceived and welcomed. But as the Fringe has opened up, the preparation and people have strived to be as inclusive as possible. And I thank them for providing a space, not just Fringe Central, but the Office Hours and Workshops,  for all to be mindful.

The process has been tedious to say the least. This year I am co-writing, co-directing and co-producing!  It's called #LastDance. And I must say there are some things that are universal. Rehearsal schedules, press releases, the drama of the getting off book, the joy of blocking, workshopping and creating! Finding the right mix of actors that want to bring someone else's vision to life is beautiful to see. We have a mix of gay, trans, diverse ethnicities and that was done with a mindful purpose. I am not gonna lie, it as a task trying to get drag queens to come audition. Some of it was with timing, some were doing other projects but we as a production crew kept an open mind and realized that the right people would come as the universe saw fit and they did.

The play is dedicated to a dear friend that passed away earlier this year, so we tried to tell a poignant story alongside keeping the homage to him in mind.  That was no easy task.  Learning to agree to disagree, compromise lines, blocking, costumes all for the good of the show as a whole has been humbling and invigorating as well. Working with such talented people has made me love each one of them and make me want to knock each one them out on occasion as well. HA!

As the previews got closer, something happened. And I noticed it happens with every show I do. There is this “click” that happens when we all find this groove. I think it is a universal “click”.  I think it happened for us when we finally got into the space at the McCadden and my actors got to be in the space. Not just be, but really “be”. Aaron, the stage manager, lighting and sound extraordinaire was such a delight during tech, that it helped everyone including me realize we have a real show! What a rush! So after previews, we reminded them to come to the Fringe opening night to make a presence, speak to other performers about their shows, get to know the Fringe folks and get used to talking about themselves and the show!

Miss Barbie Q, From the 2015 Hollywood Fringe

I'll admit, I was just as nervous, although I had a solo show two years ago, I never really participated in the other events because I was on a totally different schedule and I know now that I missed out on so much, and I didn't want them to miss out.  So most of the cast and crew were able to come and yes, I was nervous!

And you know what I have found so far?

EVERYONE IS A NERVOUS AS I AM!! LOL what a relief?

I have seen two plays so far, UPSTAIRS, a musical ensemble piece, and LOVESICK, a solo piece.

Upstairs: A Musical Tragedy was such a delight. Although it has already closed, it stressed the importance of LGBT stories, especially the tragedies that cross the newsdesk (this one being about the fire that killed 30 people in New Orleans  in June of 1973) The acting, the voices, the music not only told the story, but made you feel for the them and understand that their deaths mean something. Our stories mean something. Each and every one.

Lovesick: The Misadventures of a Love-Crazed Maniac took us on a journey all its own. Bringing the bisexual element to the play, it spoke of the thirst for love, in all the wrong places and the longing to just be loved. And the epiphany we all have in learning to love ourselves. It really is a testament to what the journey is to know what love is. Really. “Lovesick is still playing.

So this is just the first installment of what a chocolate gender non-conformist sees when it comes to the Fringe. I am so grateful to be able to speak my truth and am looking forward to sharing more of the LGBT shows that are at the Fringe. Granted, I am not able to see them all, BUT I am trying my best to go to them and share with you the inspiration, the laughs and insight.

Until then!

Miss Barbie Q

Life is good!

#MissBarbieQ

#GratefulQueen


A LEISURELY STROLL THROUGH HEAVEN AND HELL

BACK TO THE USSR

Do you get it yet, my fellow Americans?  Do you get it yet?  First, the FBI Chief is fired in the middle of an investigation of the White House, then the so-called President meets with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, and American press is barred from coverage!!! That is, only the Russian Press is allowed to cover the press conference of the so-called President and the Russian Foreign Minister IN THE WHITE HOUSE, and still life goes on mostly as usual here.  Can you even imagine the outcry if President Obama had done anything like this?  There would be mobs in the street, and militias would be forming.

So here it is, those who still can't read the writing on the wall - written in such huuuge letters, they can be read all the way from Russia:  He is just a USEFUL IDIOT for them.  While being just an IDIOT for us.  And those who persist in believing in that this so-called President is on their side - when he so obviously only cares about #1 - what can we call them?

(And yes, these photos are from the infamous "pee tape," because the Twisted Hipster has that kind of access.)

So, that said, let's try to find the peace of mind in Art that can't currently be found in life.  Toward that end I took refuge yesterday in the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), in the Ahmanson Building, in search of transcendent Beauty.

THE BEAUTY THAT IS ALWAYS WITH US

Fantasy Bust by Carrier-Belleuse. Photo Credit for all the photos in this column: S. L. Fife

Between Two Loves

Aaaaaaaah.

Escaped!

I find myself on the third floor of Ahmanson Hall, in front of two statues by a sculptor I've never heard of: Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.  French, lived 1824-1887.  I love these two pieces, they are so supple and sinuous. And emotional, yes.  Why don't I know this guy?  He reminds me a bit of Rodin (you know, the "thinker" guy?), but more straightforward, less stylized.  And, looking him up on google - oh, wow, so Rodin apprenticed with him. So thanks for this, Monsieur Carrier-Belleuse.

Rodin's Minotaur and Nymph

Rodin's Eternal Spring

Now that I've brought up Rodin, I feel like I have to see his many sculptures nearby.  They're all very tactile and dynamic, but two really jump out: Eternal Spring and Minotaur and Nymph. Wow, pretty sexy.  I mean, Eternal Spring will either make you feel good about your own sex life, or the very opposite.  Hard to believe the man doesn't have a boner. If you don't get one with a kiss like that, then something is not firing on all cylinders. On the other hand, Minotaur and Nymph is creepy.  From the Nympth's look, it seems that the Minotaur is not having any problems with his tumescence. Is she happy about it or not?  Your call.

I have to admit, there are some crazy gems in this LACMA Permanent Collection, much better than I gave it credit for.  I mean, yes, I was spoiled by the museums in NYC - the Met Museum and MoMA both go on forever and have so many famous works of art, and they're almost always swamped with visitors (except in the Greek vase section, always lots of room there!).  But what's great here is the unexpectedness of what you find, and how empty it is on a weekday.

Woman Drying Her Hair by Degas

Four or five feet away from the Rodins are a few Degas sculptures. It is late afternoon, and one of the sculptures - A Woman Drying Her Hair - catches the golden light in a truly magical way.  The woman's body glows with dappled light, which catches every indentation on her fleshy form.  The curtains are open on the museum window, and the Los Angeles Mid-Wilshire landscape shines outside.  Somehow this un-idealized woman and this workaday cityscape belong together, or maybe she just seems at home here in her timeless busy-ness, squeezing the water out of her long thick tresses while taking in the golden view of a golden city.  There is nowhere to rush to, nowhere else to be, nothing to worry about, no rent due (or overdue), no collusion between super-powers to douse the small flame of individuality that still burns in the hearts of people. Nothing else besides a sculptured woman drying her long hair in the late afternoon tranquility, and the golden light glowing over everything.

Satan by Jean-Jacques Feuchere

But of course the world isn't that simple, much as we might like it to be. Something draws me back to that first gallery toom, with the lovely Fantasy bust, and there I find the 1836 sculpture of Satan by Frenchman Jean-Jacque Feuchere.  Wonder what prompted this?  I guess it was that Romantic impulse of rebellion, as Satan the fallen angel was also an archetype for the artist, who dared to defy God by taking on the role of Creator.  Then again, this is just very disturbing.  This Satan isn't so much evil as he is gnawing on his own liver, consumed with anger and envy and jealousy and vows of Revenge... and we're back in the modern world.

Back in the world where FBI Chiefs get fired for all the wrong reasons, and there are so many conspiracies going on at any one moment that how can anybody go about his or her business without worrying about what's going to happen next, and how can I really protect my daughter from all the serial killers masquerading as Uber drivers, and damn, I forgot to pay off my credit card last week and now they're going to hit me with another late fee, and why hasn't that screenplay sold yet when my manager told me that there was so much "interest," and--

But then I remember that Degas woman bathed in the golden light - and even this "Satan" is so beautifully made, so lovingly conceived and carved and polished - and the fear begins melting away.

Good things will happen, they have to.

This world is simply too beautiful a place to allow oneself to be overwhelmed by despair.

Right?

 


Burn, Baby, Burn, or… Bye, Bye, MY American Pie

As I contemplate my current Actors Equity Association dues statement, I have decided, after sixty-something years of acting and diligently paying my toll come hell or highwater over the years both lean and abundant, I will be requesting a leave from the once-respected union, one of which I used to declare in program bios I was proud to be a member. Today, I'm about as proud of being a member of AEA as Rihanna is to say she used to be Chris Brown's girlfriend.
Of course, part of the reason for this is that I'm teaching acting and directing for lotsa hours at New York Film Academy, as well as privately coaching prominent actors on two different TV series on different networks this season. Above anything else, however, caring for Victor, my partner for 48 years, desperately trying with everything in me to keep him comfortable and living at home as long as possible as he descends into the fog of Alzheimer's, has kept me from traveling to work in theatre and eventually led to giving up my beloved apartment in New York last year. Staying in my fifth-floor walk-up with a view of a brick wall or traveling in shows has always done my nomadic Kerouac-inspired soul unimaginable good, as exploring new cities and enjoying the freedom of hotel living are things I have called home since my glory days as a working kiddie. Still, all that would not be good enough reason to stop handing AEA my meager little dues were it not for what the union has done to my world.
If you live in El Lay and have any interest in the performing arts, you would have to have been in a coma the last two years not to know how Equity has royally fucked the amazingly prolific and courageously innovative intimate theatre community in our city. By demanding small struggling theatres pay any union member who agrees to hone his art for free or with infinitesimal remuneration to have a creative outlet to offset the lack of caring from the mostly artless but omnipresent Hollywood film industry, AEA has decimated the ranks outrageously—but not without a fight. Still, when over two-thirds of LA members voted in a referendum demanding the union not put their new soul-sucking rules into effect, they ignored us all and implemented the ridiculously unworkable plan anyway.
It was difficult enough last year to send off my hard-earned cash to a union that's done nothing for me in years but give me grief—and has totally disregarded the wishes of two-thirds of its LA membership. This time out, I just plain can't seem to do it. As I said, I have been a loyal dues-paying member of AEA since sometime before Johnny B shot Honest Abe, but I can't in all good faith support their unconscionable cause any longer.
In all honesty, there's not much to lose for me. There aren't many roles for geriatric juveniles with an ass the size of Texas around these days unless it's a priest or a mentally-deficient adult—and playing stereotypical fading old duffers who invariably croak at the end isn't much of a challenge either. Granted, this is also true in the film and television industry, but it's especially prevalent onstage, where the only real challenges as an artist for a guy at my stage of life come from bravely off-centered 99-seat theatre companies working to create astounding new art and make a real difference. I have no interest playing Doc in West Side Story or some other role I could call in from home for some dastardly LORT-Z pay rate at a civic light opera in Duarte or somewhere in San Bernardino County. As a 70-yr-old actor living in LA these days, teaching and private coaching are a far better way to pay the bills and pass on what one has learned from the masters before passing on—unless you're an established name actor and even then, I suspect most of them are sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.
So, after 63 years fiercely believing in AEA and everything for which the original concept unionizing stood in the first place, sadly, I'm outta here. I may not be able to control where my tax dollars go as handled—mishandled—by our insane and dangerous President Dummald J. Troutmouth and his equally character-challenged minions, but I can stop paying Equity as it screws me personally and systematically destroys the community I love so dearly. It's a sad state of affairs but, truly, it's also oddly freeing.


Waiting For Godot's Obamacare Replacement Starring Patrick Stewart

Here's something fun for all you progressive theatre nerds. Stephen Colbert had Patrick Stewart on the show and did not waste the opportunity! They did a spoof of Beckett's Waiting for Godot to create a wonderful satire of the Republicans continual attack on Obamacare and how they will "repeal and replace," an empty promise that is feeling more and more like a Beckett play.

Now that you've had a laugh. Call you representatives and tell them you support the ACA.


Lincoln Center Makes a Plea to Save the NEA

Lincoln Center, the world's largest performing arts center, released a public statement about President Trump's threats against the National Endowment of the Arts. By contributing $704.2 billion every year to the U.S. economy, the arts not only are a robust facet of American culture, but are also attract private philanthropy.
Lincoln Center is home to the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In an open letter posted to their website, the New York arts institution argued for both the human and economic benefits of continued federal support of the arts.
“Beyond our shores, American arts institutions are the envy of the world,” reads the statement. “In a unique public-private model, private sources provide the vast majority of funding for our artists and arts organizations. Government helps in targeted ways at pivotal moments, for example, by providing early funding to get projects off the ground or helping to create or expand promising initiatives to achieve greater reach and impact. Underlying all of this is the National Endowment for the Arts.”
“For more than 50 years, the NEA has provided leadership in the public arts arena,” reads the statement. “The total cost of the NEA is less than one dollar a year for every American. But because it is so successful and its imprimatur so prestigious, every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources.”
Lincoln Center, which brings in six million people annually to its events, also made the strong case for how the arts serve a public good, while highlighting organization's work in arts education.
“A child's early introduction to ballet teaches strength and discipline,” the statement said. “A veteran's exposure to art therapy brings healing and hope. A student's participation in music class improves math scores and critical thinking skills. Art shapes achievement, with profound and practical effects.”
The statement does not mention President Trump by name, but in an echo of his “Make America Great Again” slogan, it states: “A great America needs that kind of return.”
You can read the full statement here.


"THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE"

"Everything is political."
That was the word on the street in the late '60s and '70s, when the Twisted Hipster came of age.
The age came by it honestly: From the assassination of JFK to the anti-Vietnam War movement to the killings of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the riots at the 1968 Democratic convention, to Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis - it was truly a turbulent age and one the contributing factors to twisting up the inner life and expectations of any hipster, including this one.
Many years have passed since then, and our national focus has been more on that twisted inner life and the emotional fallout from those turbulent times.  But now we have Trump - an atrocity with a bad hair weave.  A cult leader who hides behind any shred of decency until he doesn't have to and reveals himself for the predatory freak that he is - witness his recent rescinding of transgender protections, after earnestly promising to be their champion.
Now comes his exclusion of The New York Times, CNN, Politico and several other media outlets from his most recent press conference - just think if President Obama had tried anything like that. Richard Nixon was bad, but he was never this bad.  This is boldly undemocratic.  UNDEMOCRATIC.  Please consider that word.  Trump claims to represent "The People," even though he lost the election by 3 million votes.  (Oh, and what happened to all those claims of "illegal voters"?  Just another bright shiny object used to distract our attention from the bigger crimes that  he is surely committing.)
The fact is, Trump received the fewest electoral votes since Jimmy Carter - the last one term president, something that the Twisted Hipster also sees in Trump's future.  He keeps touting what an "incredible" victory he had, how "huge" it was.  And when a reporter corrects this misinformation, he merely brushes it aside - oh my God.
The Twisted Hipster has lived through Nixon, Reagan and Bush W.  Trump is Nixon on acid.  Trump is Nixon without the statesmanship.  Trump is Reagan without the personal likeability.  The Twisted Hipster yelled at the TV screen for Reagan's 8 years, as he deregulated business restrictions.  The Twisted Hipster yelled at the TV screen for another 8 years as W nearly destroyed our economy.  But this Orange-Haired Menace is so much worse than them all - not even close.  He got elected by Trumpeting his not being a politician, and somehow that worked just enough.  Now he wants to be King Donald, and he has declared war on the press - ignoring the fact that this is the First Amendment for a good reason.  There is no democracy without it.
The Twisted Hipster is an artist who has also proudly worked as a  journalist.  He was hired by The Village Voice right out of college to write theater feature articles and wrote several during his 18 month tenure there (before his job was phased out for financial reasons).  But this was The Village Voice at the end of its heyday, and the young TH was privileged to share a newsroom with the likes of Jack Newfield, Nat Hentoff, Andrew Sarris, James Woolcott, Karen Durbin, Bob Christgau, Richard Goldstein, Alexander Cockburn, Erika Munk and so many others, all under the leadership of Maryanne Partridge - perhaps the first female editor at a major news outlet. (Not counting Katherine Graham, who owned the Washington Post.)   TH's editor was Ross Wetzsteon, a legendary name in Off-Off-Broadway theater circles for helping to put together the Obie Awards for years.  Ross was not warm and fuzzy, he wasn't a friend, but he was a very serious journalist who has mentored many current journalists, including Charles McNulty at the Los Angeles Times.  Ross had studied writing with Vladimir Nabokov at Princeton, and he was ruthless in terms of applying those stylistic lessons to those he edited.  Thank you, Ross, for the indelible lessons.
The TH went on to write for many publications, including In These Times, American Theatre, The Sunday New York Times "Arts & Leisure" section and The New Republic.  He also delved into hard news, being the only journalist to meet with boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in maximum security prison after Carter's reconviction.  The TH sounded the alarm that justice still hadn't been served, but nobody listened.  It took six more years for Carter to get his case heard in Federal Court, where he finally gained his freedom for the very reasons that the TH had written about.  While jubilant that Carter was finally free, the TH felt nothing but a deep sadness for the five years that Carter spent in prison after the article had been written.  (The New York Times actually bought it for their Sunday Magazine, but then cancelled its publication after complaints from Selwynn Raab, who had broken the original story of Carter's frame-up; the TH knows this is how it went down because Mr. Raab called at 10:37 pm one night to boast about it.)
The TH had issues with journalism - namely, its Trendiness.  Hard to believe, but the word "demographic" was rarely used outside of academic circles before the early 1980s,  Similarly, it was still possible to have a genuine conversation with artists about their art until around that same time, when everything started becoming publicity.  That is, it was no longer about the art or the artist's authentic voice, it was only about getting your face out there, reaching your demographic.  Which made the TH not a journalist but a grossly-underpaid publicist.  And if the TH had wanted to be a publicist or advertising copywriter, then he would have done so.
One thing the Twisted Hipster can say absolutely: the journalists he observed and worked with were deathly serious about sources and verification.  The instances of writers making up "FAKE NEWS" and getting away are very rare - most recently, the "Rape on Campus" article in Rolling Stone in 2015.  But the fact-checkers at most publication are the most relentless and driven of all employees.  They will call you five or six times a day if there is even a shadow of a question about the veracity of anything you have written.  They will chase you down and disturb your dinner with friends until you have answered their questions to their satisfaction.  To call these people purveyors of "FAKE NEWS" is obscene and an insult to journalists and seekers of truth everywhere.
But the insult is not personal, it's political - as is everything else now.
Yes, "everything is political" once again.
And the Twisted Hipster is honored to join the ranks of such "enemies of the people" once again at such a critical moment.
While BETTER LEMONS is an arts website devoted largely to the Los Angeles theater community, it is also an instrument for delivering the truth to its readers.  The TH would like to thank Ashley Steed and Enci Box (who 10 years ago was acting in one of the Twisted Hipster's plays) for this opportunity.
The Twisted Hipster pledges to keep it real in a time when our gaslighter-in-chief is doing the opposite.   (See what all that emphasis on Trendiness leads to?  The sad imitation of a president that we have today.)  The TH pledges to give you the artist's point of view, and to keep telling the truth - as he did in the case of "Hurricane" Carter.
Here's hoping you will keep listening.


#LAthtr to gather for Women's March on Saturday

Some people have asked if there will be a group of LA theatre people for the Women's March on Saturday downtown. So a few of us organized one!
We will be meeting at LATC at 9am and will walk over together to Pershing Square from there.  There are speakers on from 9-10am but the march itself starts at 10am in Pershing Square and will march to City Hall where there will be more speakers (for the schedule please see the Women's March LA website).
Who's going to the march? Hope to see you there!


The Ghostlight Project on Jan 19th

ON JANUARY 19TH, 2017 AT 5:30PM IN EACH TIME ZONE ACROSS THE COUNTRY, PEOPLE WILL GATHER OUTSIDE OF THEATERS TO CREATE A "LIGHT" FOR DARK TIMES AHEAD.

Here's the information from the Ghostlight Project:

While the national event is simultaneous and collective, the particular event is yours. And here's the thing: you're theater people – you know how to create an event. We have suggestions and inspirations but the event is really for YOU to make. Be creative. Go deep. Get crazy.

Click here to download our How-To Kit.

Want to join theaters in your area? Click here for a list of participants.

____________

Here are some LA/SoCal theatres. Who else in LA is participating? Please let me know

ART AND COMMERCE PRODUCTIONS, BURBANK, CA

THE LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE, LA JOLLA, CA

UCSD DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DANCE, LA JOLLA, CA
LOMPOC HIGH DRAMA, LOMPOC CA
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH, THEATRE ARTS DEPARTMENT, LONG BEACH, CA
THE GARAGE THEATRE, LONG BEACH, CA
PANNDORA PRODUCTIONS, LONG BEACH, CA
24TH STREET THEATER, LOS ANGELES, CA
THE ACTORS' GANG, LOS ANGELES, CA
CENTER FOR THE ART OF PERFORMANCE AT UCLA, LOS ANGELES, CA
CORNERSTONE THEATER COMPANY, LOS ANGELES, CA
CULTURE CLASH, LOS ANGELES, CA
ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE/LA, LOS ANGELES, CA
THE FOUNTAIN THEATER, LOS ANGELES, CA
THE ROAD THEATER COMPANY, LOS ANGELES, CA
THE ODYSSEY THEATRE ENSEMBLE, LOS ANGELES, CA
THEATER OF NOTE, HOLLYWOOD, CA
THEATER ARTS DEPARTMENT AT LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY, LOS ANGELES, CA
OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE THEATER DEPARTMENT, LOS ANGELES, CA
IAMA THEATER COMPANY, LOS ANGELES, CA
KIM MAXWELL STUDIO,  OJAI, CA
CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY C.A.S.T. (COALITION OF ARTISTIC STUDENTS IN THEATRE), ORANGE, CA
PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, PASADENA, CA
CALIFORNIA STATE POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE & NEW DANCE, POMONA, CA
DESERT ROSE PLAYHOUSE, RANCHO MIRAGE, CA
OUT OF THE BOX THEATRE COMPANY, SANTA BARBARA, CA
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE, SAN DIEGO, CA
THE OLD GLOBE, SAN DIEGO, CA
SAN DIEGO REPERTORY THEATRE, SAN DIEGO, CA
SDSU SCHOOL OF THEATRE, TELEVISION, AND FILM, SAN DIEGO, CA
SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF THEATRE, TELEVISION, AND FILM, SAN DIEGO, CA
THE SANTA YNEZ HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE GROUP, SANTA YNEZ, CA
CHILDREN'S CIVIC LIGHT OPERA THEATRE COMPANY, WEST HILLS, CA

deTOLEDO HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE, WEST HILLS, CA


"Take Your Broken Heart, Make It Into Art."

My heart is broken and I need some healing!

As January 20th approaches, I'm afraid that the world is coming to an end. It feels like I'm waiting for doomsday to happen, while trying to pretend in front of my boys that life is the best thing ever and every day is the “bestest day ever” as my son, Sydney (5 years), likes to say.

November 7th seems to have put me in a black hole. I have been avoiding friends and people in general. Even at my son's school I have not been able to talk to people much and I've avoided running into people. If I see someone I know, I say a quick “hi” and usually I quickly turn my attention back to my boys. They are a great distraction!

If I talk to anyone, I have to make a concentrated effort to say something positive and if I can't, I talk about the weather. Thankfully we have that now to talk about which also is a great distraction. If I don't focus on the positive, I'm afraid that I will crack and start to cry and fall apart.

I've been searching for inspiration online. Articles about why the wig-man might be a good president fail to inspire me or lift me up. The petitions I'm signing daily seem pointless (though I keep on signing). Calling the White House or my representatives is depressing because people either hang up on me, or the tell me to call someone else, or they connect me to a black hole.

I have avoided social media because it's full of bad news. Some people are outraged, some post articles that are not legitimate, and a lot of people share more and more petitions.

My email inbox has been getting little attention as well. I get emails about great deals on something that I don't need. Emails to sign more petitions. Harassing emails from the Democratic Party to fill out survey after survey and “Why don't I respond. Do I not care about the election?”

And as I'm trying to avoid everything, this past week finally inspiration found me when a friend of mine, Leonora Gershman Pitts, posted in her timeline in response to Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech. Leonora is is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She works as an actress and filmmaker, serves as a City Commissioner for the City of LA, and is the co-founder of the Los Angeles Women's Film Collective. She is married, has two kids and two dogs and she lives in LA. Her post is very well articulated and call to action to artists. I needed this! I needed her post to finally be inspired to do something! To not sit at home and dwell on what is happening but to get up and inspire others around me with my art.

I want to talk about Meryl, about bubbles, about cities, and about makers.

The reaction from Conservative Twitter and our own President-Elect after Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes was swift and predictable. After she called on us to access and nurture our collective empathy, to protect and challenge our free press, and to continue to create create create, the Right called the rest of us “elitists”, said that actors should stick to acting, that we West and East Coasters live in a bubble.

First, let's quickly recognize and then release the irony of this relatively small group of Americans decrying the idea that actors/performers/entertainers should hold political opinions and say them out loud; this is the same group of people who worship Reagan, wanted to change the Constitution to allow Schwarzenegger to run for president, and just put a reality show blowhard idiot in the White House.

Secondly, don't come at me with this idea that Trump wasn't mocking the disabled reporter, which seems to be a common right-wing response on Twitter. Own that you voted for the guy who made fun of someone's disability. Own it. You know full and well he was, there is no other excuse. Also, if you think asking people to choose empathy over bullying is political, examine your life and make some changes, I beg you, for the betterment of our fragile world.

On to the generalization that Hollywood, or the coasts, or cities, or any diverse area is stuck in a liberal “bubble”. I live in the second largest city in the United States. Before I lived here, I lived in the largest city in the United States. Before that, I lived in a small city in a vast but tiny-populated state. So, I have a little experience with white, rural America, and a little experience with diverse, urban America.

Here in Los Angeles, my family and I are surrounded by immigrants, transplants, and homegrown Angelinos of every imaginable ethnicity, class, race, and religion. My kid goes to public school, so we have seen first hand how a group of racially, ethnically, socio-economically, academically, and behaviorally diverse little people can come together and immediately form a little society. My white kid is a minority at her school. This isn't a bubble. It couldn't possibly be - we are all so very very different from one another.

Just because our experiences are diverse and co-existing humans has led us to be more collectively progressive in our views doesn't mean we live in a bubble. It means, as they say, that the arc of human thought and action bends toward progress. Always has. The more we work to get through each day together in a large city, the more we realize that we are all in this together, that we need to exist and protect and align with one another: that's progressivism in a nutshell. We co-exist in this city, sharing our experiences, our ideas, our troubles, our triumphs. We come together when we know someone is in need, we create micro-communities within our communities, we know each other's names. That's not a bubble.

A bubble is being surrounded by people who look and think exactly like you. That's a bubble. If you lack the intellectual curiosity to suss out the difference between fake news and real news - and then just automatically doubt the reporting of the real news, you're in a bubble. If you have convinced yourself that a man who uses the kind of bullying, hurtful language that our president-elect uses, is worthy of our higher office: bubble. Bubble. Bubble. If you think his cowardly and cruel heart is somehow honorable, bubble. Awful bubble.

To Hollywood, specifically, being an “elitist” bubble, I invite any of you to please come visit a set. Nearly every single person on that set belongs to a union. Nearly every single person, save maybe the very biggest stars (who have earned their money and acclaim are shouldn't be excluded from the conversation just because they happened to succeed) are working- and middle-class. Electricians, grips, sound designers, hair and makeup artists, PAs, most actors, costume designers, editors, line producers, location managers, camera ops, DPs, casting directors, set dressers and designers -- most of us are just independent contractors working from job to job. Union workers, just like a mason or a police officer or a plumber.

Lastly, to the point that Meryl should shut up, that actors / entertainers / performers / makers / creators / artists shouldn't speak about politics or current affairs - this might be the point that pisses me off the most. The entire reason art exists, in every single form, is to illuminate, explore, dissect, and attempt to explain the human experience. Since the dawn of man, since people could speak, artists - STORYTELLERS - have helped us understand ourselves. When a movie makes you cry or a TV show makes you laugh or a painting has taken your breath away or a piece of writing has made you blink in disbelief at its beauty or a song has given you goosies from head to toe - even if it is escapist art - it is because some part of you recognizes yourself within the art. Maybe not even you, personally, but yourself as a member of the human race.

Actors, creators, artists, we are all just storytellers. It's our one job. Art is inherently political, and it always, always, always has been. So to the people on the right who want us to shut up, nice try. We've never been able to shut up - it's precisely why we, even the shyest among us, became artists in the first place. So, as we say in California: yeah, no. We aren't shutting up. We're turning up, now more than ever. Make your own shit if you don't like it. Dare ya.

Artists: let's get to work. It's annoying them. That means it's working.

If you feel like I felt the past few months, I hope you will find inspiration to create art. Don't wait for others to invite you to create. Start on your own. And if you are inspired to create something, let us know what it is. We would love to hear it.

As for me, neighbors, inspired by my edible forest front yard, came over today. I gave them a tour of our garden and told them how we are harvesting and storing water with Hügels and ditches, with drought tolerant plants and native flowers. I showed them what vegetables and herbs we have planted and how we are protecting our plants from the scorching sun with arches and plants that will grow in during spring. They are inspired to have a garden like ours and I offered to help.

This will be the year for me where I can put my knowledge and pass it on and who knows, maybe these next four years I will work toward transforming our neighborhood into a sustainable community.


In the Heart of America

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Place: South Bend, Indiana.

Home of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish.

We were 3.5 weeks into the LA Theatre Works national tour of “Judgment at Nuremberg”. It is a radio play about the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

You know the one-where Nazi war criminals were tried for the crimes against humanity that resulted in the Holocaust.

Our play is specifically about the trials of the judges.

The trials that followed the first Nuremberg Trials. These trials were of the judges, doctors, business men, IG Farben whose chemicals were used in the gas chambers and so on.

It's Judges judging Judges.

It's a morality play about who is responsible and how far does that responsibility go.

Fun fact: War crimes and crimes against humanity came out of the Nuremberg Trials. It was the first time that people were convicted of carrying out the law. The first time that people were prosecuted for doing something that wasn't illegal at the time that they did it. That's how bad the crimes were. We needed to set a precedent so that it couldn't happen again.

It isn't a comedy.

3.5 weeks at universities all over the country, doing workshops and having talkbacks. Amidst an impending Presidential election. We find ourselves in the middle of America facilitating a conversation about fascism, nationalism and hate. The kind that makes us insulate ourselves from our neighbors.

Election Night.

No one was going to come and see a play about the Holocaust tonight-so we had the day off.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Notre Dame was it's swanky-ness. It is gorgeous, surrounded by trees of every color changing before our very eyes. We checked into the Morris Inn-clearly the place they put up donors to impress them.

changing-leaves

This is a place where dreams are made. This is a place where anything is possible.

The next thing that I noticed was the lack of color-everywhere except the trees and the staff at the college. The only students that I saw of any color at all were clearly athletes.

Did I mention I was in Indiana.

Mike Pence is the Governor of Indiana.

Rohr's-the fancy bar at the Morris Inn.

nd-morris-murph

In the middle are me and my castmates. 8 liberal actor tour-mates/friends. 8 of the best that there are to work with. The crème de la crème. 8 people going onto the front lines of truth and 8 people who have been bonded together through intention.

Across from us is a group of 40-50's something women celebrating a birthday.

At the end of the bar is a group of very large college athletes dominating the TV where the sound is on.

Sprinkled amongst us are several tables of couples that probably never look like they are having a good time.

We ordered food and drinks and waited for signs of how the night was going to progress. What the next four years would hold.

Our very smiley waitress, relatively young, particularly Mid-Western-but surprisingly, under further investigation, is a mother of 4. She looks around to see if anyone is watching her and secretly shows me a photo of her kids on her iPhone.

Smiley Waitress: This is a great job. If I stay-my kids will be able to go to college here and get financial aid.

She points to Murph, the grey-haired gentleman bartender.

Smiley Waitress: Murph has worked here for more than 40 years. They named a burger after him. It's really good.

Hillary has taken her first states. Our group cheers. We receive glowers from numerous guests. I feel obliged to remind our group that we are not in Kansas anymore. Kansas, actually would've been a problem as well-but to be conscious of the fact that we might not be in the majority.

Trump takes Tennessee and a middle aged white guy stands up at his table and obnoxiously cheers and claps and directs all of his energy at our table. He jeers at us.

Obnoxious White Guy: Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

I am actually not sure why he would care that we didn't all vote for the same person-but he was successful at making a point. A point that felt like a threat.

I went to the bathroom and the front desk staff was peering into the bar TVs. They all jumped to attention as I walked past to look like they were working. I stopped and chatted with them-my way of letting them know I'm not the person who needs them to busy themselves.

Darlene the Front Desk Clerk: How is your night going?

Me: Good with the exception of the guy who just clapped for Trump in my face.

Darlene: Oh, yes. They get very aggressive if you don't do what they want you to.

Me: How is this for you tonight?

Darlene: Just a day in the life. This is a good job so I am getting through.

After I returned from the bathroom, the bar had emptied out quite a bit. It was that time in the night when it was looking pretty good for Hillary.

Gone was the obnoxious white guy. Gone was the group of women who I wished that I had asked how they felt about the election and being in Indiana-just to hear what they had to say.

And then about a half hour later-Trump takes another state. Hmmm.

The large athletes-couldn't tell if they were football players or basketball players or maybe both-were all white except one who was ethnically ambiguous. They cheered loudly and ordered more beer. I believe “Whoops” were involved. The ethnically ambiguous one looked like he was in conflict with himself as he tried to “Whoop” along.

One of my cast mates stands abruptly to leave.

Cast mate #1: This is how much they hate us. They had to make sure we knew just exactly how much they hate us. They are really that afraid of women that they would rather have him than her.

She refuses to watch anything further publicly and retires to her room for some kind of sanctuary.

I was feeling a little touchy. I went out for some air.

Earlier that week we were in Iowa. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota. And Arizona. But in Iowa, I was met with these stares. Not by the Quakers. Not by the Amish. Not by the students or the staff at the University. By the people who were just regular people that we'd bump into at the Culver's fast food joint (Frozen custard-check it out) or the lobby at our hotel. These people who stare-it is a look I've seen before-it is a look of disgust. Perhaps I don't look the way they think I should? Perhaps it's indigestion. It's the same kind of look that someone gets when they want to destroy something.

In the space of 3 hours going between Wisconsin and Iowa to return rental cars-it's a long story that involves a cancelled flight at Chicago O'Hare airport during the last game of the World Series when the Chicago Cubs won for the first time-

I was asked by 4 separate people in 4 different places:

“Where you from? You ain't from round here.”

One of whom was a toothless truck driver who thought I might like to see his bumper sticker that was an outline of a pin up girl holding a garden tool.

It read: Every farmer needs a good ho!

When he finished laughing and slapping his knee (really, he actually knee slapped himself) he invited me into the cab of his truck.

Toothless truck driver: Maybe you'd like me to show you other things you won't see out there in California. Maybe you'd like me to teach you a thing or two.

It was at that moment I assumed the person pumping the gas into our rentals was pumping diesel so that the car would stop in a half a mile and they could come “rescue me”.

People keep pointing out that he was just a trucker…and I keep pointing out that I am just a woman and it spooked me. I felt fear. The kind I haven't for a while. The kind that is intentional. The kind you can see in their eyes.   That they want to teach you a lesson. The kind that should be unacceptable in a modern society.
When I returned to the bar this time-

Trump had just been given Florida.

One of our cast mates hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #2: My kids are in tears. They don't understand what is happening. I told them it was going to be fine and not to worry.

The bar was now mostly empty. Except for our group, Murph the bartender, a 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled and a man who it turns out was speaking on the panel about the Nuremberg Trials before our show the next night. We talked about the precedent that Hitler set with his rhetoric of hate. We talked about his focus on how “others” were the problem and his meteoric rise to power. We talked about how quickly the tide can shift. We acknowledged how terrifying it is that his language is mirrored to a tee by Trump as we waited to see how Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin were going to turn out.

Dessert was definitely required.

The 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled came over.

Me: I'll have the crème brulee with 6 spoons please. How is this night for you? How do you feel about this election?

She scoffs.

Blonde Bartender: I'm just getting through it. Is that it? The kitchen is closing.

Me: Yes, that's it.

The crème brulee didn't help.

States that had seemed to be locked up were changing from blue to red.

Another cast mate hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #3: I don't know what to tell my son. He has a Muslim girlfriend. What am I supposed to tell my son?

It was 1 AM. I'd never been on the east coast for an election. I'm used to Los Angeles where you have a new President by 10.

The bar was closing.   It was me and 2 cast mates, the 2 bartenders and the staff of the hotel. All but the blonde bartender looked like they'd seen a disaster.

I felt like I had just watched the World Trade Center towers fall again. It felt as personal as that day did. An attack on our freedom. Our way of life.

We retreated to our rooms, in shock.

The next day-I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. And the morning news didn't bring a sudden miracle.

I walked to the bagel place on campus. It was cold, sunny and windy.

trees-theater

A very tall athlete brushed past me. I felt invisible. I felt like I had a target on my back.

On the sidewalk someone had scrawled in pastel colored chalk:

Love Trumps Hate

love trumps hate

Standing in line, I overheard 2 undergrads mumbling to each other.

Female Undergrad: I don't really get what the big deal is?

Male Undergrad: I don't know. Everybody always overreacts. I mean what can happen in 4 years?

I felt like a crazy person. I felt scared.

The show that night was the kind of show you dream about. And never want to perform at the same time. Our mutual shock over what had transpired in the last 24 hours had turned to anger. Purpose.

If we were gonna be in the good state of Indiana where Mike Pence is the Governor we are going to leave it all on the stage. We are not going to leave a stone unturned. We are going to tell the fuck out of this story and hold our heads up high.

We had developed a camaraderie that you can only find on the front lines. With the people you go to war with.

Fighting the good fight.

Fighting for right by showing the humanity of being wrong.

The show was tragic and terrifying as these words that we had been saying for the last 3.5 weeks were ringing true. These words took on a new meaning.

There is a monologue in the climax of the play.

The character Ernst Janning, the pre-eminent Judge on trial for war crimes, is confessing to his part in upholding the law. He paints the scene as to how these crimes could have happened.

“There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed…What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through…It will be discarded sooner or later.”

I and my cast mates were in tears in the wings.

It wasn't until I returned home on Thanksgiving Day that I actually felt the weight of reality. Everything has started to normalize. Everyone is getting on with their day. And after standing on stages across this country for the last 5 weeks, I feel impotent. On stage everything makes sense. I am doing something. I am contributing to the world. I am an ambassador for peace. What do I do now?

Politics are a mirror the same way art is.

It is easy to sit in Los Angeles and say “How could anyone vote for him?” I know I did.

If you want to know how someone voted for him, ask them.

And then listen to what they say in return.

If you listen to someone's fear instead of their hate-they will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about why they are the way they are.

We seem to live in a time where everyone has to agree to be respectful. It's actually the opposite. Respect for humanity is out of the sameness of us all being people. Not because we are all the same.

Fighting for the good of all includes all, even those we don't agree with. Especially those who don't agree with us, because those victories are the hardest won and lost.

Wiser people than me have said that dialogue is the only true path to peace.

There is work to do.