15 Nov 2013
The Stop Gun Violence NOW Theater Festival will honor the one-year anniversary of the Newtown massacre and its 26 victims Dec. 12-15 at The Workshop Theater.
Presented by Adina Taubman and Chrysalis Theatre Company, the festival will present four days of theatre, including plays, docu-theatre, one acts and panel discussions, centered around the themes of gun violence and gun control.
Featured works include A Line in the Sand, a one-person docudrama by Adina Taubman based on interviews conducted in Littleton, CO, in 1999 following the massacre at Columbine High School; 9MM America, a docudrama written and performed by 10 young women and girls between the ages 12-21, based on their experiences with gun violence in New York City neighborhoods where it is a daily threat; Bang Bang You're Dead, a one-act play about a fictional school shooting performed by high school students in New Jersey by William Mastrosimone; 13 short plays from the collection 24 Gun Control Plays and several new one acts written by members of Chrysalis Theatre Company; and The Sandy Hook Theatre Project, which showcases poetry, prose, music and interviews written by the Newtown, CT, community, examining the town before, during the moments of, and after the tragedy.
The panel discussions will include "How to Prevent Gun Violence in New York City and other Urban Areas," "How to Create Theatre for Social Change," "How to Take Legislative and Political Action," "How Parents and Kids Can Talk to Each Other about Gun Violence" and "How Survivors, Families, and Communities Recover From Gun Violence and Move Forward."
A special tribute event to the 26 victims of the Newtown massacre and their families will be held Dec. 14 at 8:30 PM.
All of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the local gun control organizations that are sponsoring the festival: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Organizing for Action and Harlem Mothers SAVE.
Tickets and more information are available by visiting SGVNowFest.com.
How about now?
By Caridad Svich
Where will US Latina/o theatre-makers be in 30 years? What will 2046 look like?
These two questions loomed large over the many, varied conversations sustained during the Latino Theatre Commons National Convening at Emerson College 31 October through 2 November 2013.
If indeed, as US population demographic studies predict, Latina/os in the US will be a majority in 2046, how, then, In effect, will our impact on culture be quantified?
I think it is safe to say that none of us will truly know where we will be in 30 years’ time, and, for that matter, know exactly what American theatre will look, sound, and move like. The subscription-based resident/regional theatre system is already in dire need of an overhaul, and our small teatros across the country are struggling just to make ends meet. I’d like to think that US stages, large and small, will reflect in an equitable, democratic manner the plurality of voices, peoples, genders and aesthetics of our cultural workers, and therein, of our population. It has taken more than twenty years for even a hair’s breadth of gender parity on our stages. Although I am optimistic by nature and want to believe that the troubles and struggles that many of our practitioners face now regarding issues of representation, visibility, equity, and fiscal sustainability will be eradicated, or at very least, substantially less cumbersome, I am wary of sounding a blaring trumpet at this stage in the game.
So, I think perhaps it best to not craft a grand vision for 2046, but rather, one for the immediate future.
What can we do now to better the lives of our fellow citizen-artists? What can we do now to strengthen the fragile eco-system of American theatre, of which US Latina/o theatre is a part?
Let’s not take on the world right now. Let’s just focus on what may be possible with a little ingenuity, hard work, resourcefulness, light and grace.
Could we imagine a shared stage writ large?
What would happen if ALL, and I mean, ALL of the US Latina/0 theatres in this country actually banded together to create shared programming, touring of productions and artistic exchange of new writing, classical work and works in translation?
Could we envision a season or two, or even three (or more, if we wanted to be grand about it), where Repertorio Espanol, INTAR, Pregones/PRTT, IATI, LATea, Nuyorican Poets Café, Borderlands, Milagro Theatre Group, Su Teatro, Teatro Dallas, Teatro Paraguas, Teatro del Pueblo, East LA Rep, Teatro Vista, Teatro Vision, Casa 101 (and more) all shared artists and resources and programming?
Could we call, if we were so disposed to play the celebrity angle, on Mariah Carey, J.Lo, Cameron Diaz, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara, Oscar Issac, Benicio del Toro, Andy Garcia, and Rita Moreno - artists whose combined net worth as a group is more than 700 million - to step it up, and actually produce/present a season or two across the country?
Could we make our own National Theatre, which already is in existence, albeit in pockets of isolation city to city, region to region, bountiful in its indigenity, mestizaje, and syncreticism as any other, and in so doing, actually turn the system upside down?
[Caridad Svich is a playwright and founder of NoPassport theatre alliance & press, which launches 30/30 – a US celebration of Latina/o theatre across the US this month. Visit: http://www.nopassport.org/3030-us-latinao-theatrenopassport-reading-scheme]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NoPassport and Louisiana State University Department of Theatre present:
8th annual NoPe - NoPassport Theatre Conference
DREAMING THE AMERICAS:
THE DIASPORIC IMAGINATION
NoPassport and Louisiana State University Department of Theatre present a one-day theatre conference initiated and curated by Caridad Svich (2012 OBIE for Lifetime Achievement) and co-curated by Eric Mayer-Garcia (LSU) exploring the diasporic imagination, and in particular, the intersection of communities with origins in west Africa and the Caribbean, as it is reflected in new writing for the stage and live performance on March 29, 2014 from 9:30 AM-6:00 PM in the Music and Dramatic Arts Building, located on the LSU Baton Rouge campus. This conference on the diasporic imagination will query the symbiosis of theatre/performance and diaspora. How does diaspora transfuse cultures, spaces, and voices across distances, borders, and history? As hosts for these intersections, what is it about theatre and performance that make them fertile soil for diaspora's retracing of origins and migrations within the imagination? What are the politics of remembering those who have left or have been displaced, and what happens with the vacuum their absence leaves behind?
The conference features a special US premiere performance of edited version of Caridad Svich’s Carthage/Cartagena from UK’s Signdance Collective International, Europe’s only international touring signdance theatre music company. Among those moderating panels and taking part in the conference will be Lynn Manning (co-founder, Watts Village Theater Company) Oliver Mayer (faculty, USC), Otis Ramsey-Zoe (faculty, Howard University), Lillian Manzor (faculty, University of Miami), Christopher Oscar Peña (playwright), and a distinguished roster of artists & scholars from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and across the US.
The conference will also feature the launch of several new titles from NoPassport Press, including collections by Rogelio Martinez and an anthology of short stories (in new translastions) from Latin America, Spain and Catalonia.
Conference One-Day Pass is $10.00 (for general admission and faculty), $5 for students with valid ID.
Register directly at http://www.fracturedatlas.org/donate/2623
NoPassport was founded by playwright Caridad Svich in 2003 as a Pan-American theatre alliance & press devoted to action, advocacy, and change toward the fostering of cross-cultural diversity and difference in the arts with an emphasis on the embrace of the hemispheric spirit in US Latina/o and Latin-American theatre-making. www.caridadsvich.com/NoPassport. Caridad Svich and NoPassport is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.
Spark by Caridad Svich
Saturday, October 12, 2013 @ The Temple Lounge, The Temple of Music and Art
330 S. Scott Ave, Tucson AZ 85701
Sunday, October 13, 2013 @ Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center
147 E. Adams St, Phoenix AZ 85004
SPARK is Co-Winner of ATC’s 2013 National Latino Playwriting Award
Spark is a play about three sisters living in the US, caught in the mess of a recent war’s aftermath. It is about what happens when soldiers come home, when women of little economic means must find a way to make do and carry on, and the strength, ultimately, of family. A contemporary US story of faith, love, war, trauma, and a bit of healing.
This series focuses on personal perspectives from a select group of practitioners on theater and social change, the nature of artistic efficacy, and on past and ongoing gun control theater actions. We welcome readers to reflect with us.
What makes a play a gun control play?
Some background: In January 2013, I instigated along with theater alliance NoPassport, a gun control theater action in Washington, DC, in collaboration with Theater J, force/collision, and twinbiz to coincide with the March on Washington for Gun Control organized by Molly Smith and Suzanne Blue Star Boy. In February 2013, NoPassport Press published24 Gun Control Plays, which gathers twenty-four plays, an essay, and an interview that were all inspired and/or presented at the Washington, DC, event. Since then, NoPassport has staged gun control theater actions in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Sydney, Australia, and more in collaborations with NY Madness, New York Theatre Review, and The Vicious Circle. In May, a YouTube channel was launched by The Vicious Circle and NoPassport to invite artists to film and upload, with permission, their interpretations of these plays. In June of 2013 StageReads published a selection of the plays from 24 Gun Control Plays. This September, Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania will stage some of them for several performances. Other performances in other cities may occur in due course.
Through all of these actions what has remained constant is the faith amongst these artists that the dialogue about gun control in this country, and on a wider level, the abuse of arms globally is worth having, because the choice to be silent about this is not an option.
The question remains: are these short plays and performance texts in and of themselves gun control plays?
They are texts that address how we—
Live with and without guns
Experience and engender violence
Wound and heal,
Break and bleed.
And how sometimes we don’t know who we are as human beings in civilized societies unless we have a weapon at our side or know that there are weapons protecting us.
They are, as a body of plays, unruly dramas both in content and form. Their unruliness reflects the difficult nature of the overall thematic subject, but also, I would add, the complex character of plays that seek to not only reflect society but also intervene within it.
What is art’s efficacy?
I am of a conflicted mind about the nature of art and whether it has true efficacy, especially when it is not necessarily made with the direct and immediate goal to effect a change in a law or is somehow related to matters of governance in a village, town, or city. I believe in theater and social action. I believe in applied theater. But I also believe that art is not merely an instrument of social change. In fact, I am wary of art being put to utilitarian uses and being asked to fit a “useful” application in society.
Art is. And often is outside matters of written law. It delves into the chaotic, strange, odd, and unresolved aspects of humanity and being. It dives into the complications of love. It battles for a country’s soul through poetic means. It wrestles the spirit. It questions, sometimes, the meaning of religion. It embraces faith.
Art is unruly. It resists governance.
It is by nature transgressive. Artistic truth is resistant to consensus.
To write is an act of intervention.
“Here,” Art says, “is difference. Look.”
After Ranciere, how do we look when we look?
In The Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere, in Gregory Elliott’s translation, argues that looking can be dangerous, for “To be a spectator is to be separated from both the capacity to know and the power to act.” He further posits that the “established relations between seeing, doing, and speaking” (original emphasis) is troubled by spectatorship. In other words, to be a spectator of performance is not a passive act. It is not devoid of effort. It demands that the spectator free themselves of consensus in viewing a work, and thus, be free to engage in his/her/trans experience of a work, and ultimately engage in scenes of dissensus.
Every moment in live performance is in some way unstable and open to multiple and differing modes of interpretation and engagement (The unruly nature of art!), unless the makers of the performance seek a passive response.
One could argue that work made for mass consumption—aiming for unilateral lowest common denominator acceptance is profoundly apolitical, for it does not seek a true commons, where voices of differences and the redistribution of those voices allows for healthy dissensus.
As Jean-Luc Nancy says, “One could extrapolate from Ranciere that art is a means (and perhaps the most common one, considering all the forms of knowledge and power) of understanding our communal existence and the very modes of being in-common (what brings us together and what separates us).”
So, how does the spectator look?
Another way to ask this question is: How do we witness?
Trouble in mind
The desire to tell a story and to retell a story arises out of a need to bear witness and ask others to do so. Whether I retell Iphigenia’s story of sacrifice through the lens of the Ciudad Juarez murders in Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable) or the stories of impoverished fishermen trying to eke out a life and living along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill disaster in The Way of Water or the story of a couple traversing time and space to try to understand the nature of love after all wars in Archipelago, I write out of stuff that troubles, and I ask those that come to the work as collaborators and as an audience to engage in these troubles in mind. At day’s end, I hope that something does change an audience member’s way of looking, seeing, and hearing the world after they have experienced the work, regardless of whether the work is immersive in conception or performed in a proscenium house.
Will that little bit of change make them vote differently one day for a referendum or a candidate?
Will they, because of having experienced the work, treat their fellow citizens and neighbors better?
Will they be walking down the supermarket aisle one day, and suddenly think about how their life is not so different, in the essence of humanity, from that of Iphigenia?
Art does not know how it will effect change. Or whether the change will be immediate or long-lasting. Or if any change, beyond one of momentary perception, will occur.
Art is a gamble. As is life.
You make a motion. You raise a voice or two. You trouble the trouble. And see.
This thing of beauty
I walk down the same streets every day.
I walk out the door and hardly look. My mind is aflush with all that must be done. Errands, meetings, and the busy-ness of life make up my day.
Occasionally, what seems out of the “ordinary” or “usual” will catch my eye or make me look at the streets I think I know so well anew.
Sometimes these moments of reawakening make their way into my writing.
Sometimes they are forgotten after a night’s sleep.
And sometimes they resurface days or weeks later in midst of a conversation or an article such as this.
I am thinking a lot about beauty and art these days, about the so-called seeming lack of social efficacy of beauty. You know, art and its purpose and those things that make up the heart of what we do.
Isn’t it enough to put beauty in the world? However rough and unusual it may be?
I am thinking about the poster for the movie 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg and why it seems to demand passivity from me as a potential spectator of the film, and yet how, instead, the poster just makes me angry. Really, still, marketing the image of men holding weapons gunslinger-style is considered viable and even sexy?
Eight months have passed since the instigation of the first gun control theater action and the publication of the 24 Gun Control Plays. It has been the summer of highly covered trials in the media—Bradley Manning, Ariel Castro, George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case—and the Hawaii to Hong Kong to Moscow travails of Edward Snowden. It has also been the one year anniversary of the massacre in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Life moves on.
And soon, perhaps, all of this will be forgotten.
Despite tragedies sustained and moments of inquiry and outrage.
Art’s job, one of its jobs, is to record. To look and remember. To rail against—humbly, provocatively, aggressively, or by tender means—what is/will be forgotten.
In some ways, making a piece of art is about catching the moment.
Even if no one’s looking.
Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
 Jean Luc-Nancy, “Jacques Ranciere and Metaphysics,” trans. by John Hurley, in Jacques Ranciere, ed. Gabriel Rockhill and Philip Watts (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 92.
By Caridad Svich
This essay was written for the August 2013 issue of StageReads, where Archipelago is the featured play. It is reprinted here with the author's permission
An introduction by Stephen Wrentmore
Stephen Wrentmore is a theatre director, change consultant and the Associate Artistic Director at Arizona Theatre Company.
A casual conversation led to a casual inquiry
In cyberspace words were shared,
The virtual, led to paper and ink
That connection with words (let’s call it a script) led to travel.
Travel made new conversations, made real contact, a rehearsal room, a bar, food, conviviality.
This led to a spark of recognition.
“I will send you my new script,” she said. “It’s quite different.”
And so, virtually, I was introduced to the relentless beauty and eloquence of Archipelago. It glistens, like a body emerging from water, familiar and strange, public and private. A space of contradiction, of elegance and complexity, of seduction and alienation.
It is a glimpse at a dream become nightmare
It is love lost and love found
It is here and there
Other and home
It is him and her
It was love at first sight.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latino Literature describes Caridad Svich as a playwright, songwriter, editor and translator. I would add essayist, teacher, academic and commentator to the list. Hamlet demands the player, “hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature” and in so much of Caridad’s prolific career this has been the case. The Way of Water, set in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Spark, which explores soldiers’ homecoming from conflict. Then there are the adaptations of major novels of the Americas - The House of the Spirits, Love in the Time of Cholera, In the Time of Butterflies - and translations of pretty much the complete works of Lorca. These are just a few examples from a huge list that form a body of extraordinary and evolutionary work.
Like the great writers who went before her, Svich is interested in the bigger, deeper themes concerning what it means to be human, the world we live in and why, ultimately, we do what we do. Her prose is expressed in conflict and in love. In tension and in harmony. I see in her work the bloodline of the classics: there is Sophocles and Lorca, Shakespeare and Lope De Vega. Glancing at any page in the script you will see swathes of white space around short, precise, fathomless interchanges. Archipelago sent me back to Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, which I directed a few years ago, and it took me to a night at the National Theatre in London when I was very young, seeing Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language, and to the works of Beckett and his love for language and for the actor. In Archipelago I see the same deftness of touch, and the accuracy of the writer’s blade as it cut flesh and prejudice. These are the true parents of this play. The piece is poetic.
It suggests but shows no interest in answers.
Questions lead to questions.
It is willfully complex and achingly simple.
Look closely, it is not a flat surface, like the desert is not all sand…
There is an extraordinary sense of wanderlust in the narrative of Caridad Svich’s life that infuses the narratives of her plays. Born in Philadelphia to a Cuban-Spanish mother and Argentine-Croatian father, her formative years were spent gazing at the passing miles of late 1960s America as the family Chevy carried west then east then west then east, metronomically across the States from a home in New Jersey to Utah, Florida, California and New York. The tapestry of language and the tapestry of experience binding the Balkans to the Americas both north and south has had a profound impact on her, and that complexity is woven into her texts, her storytelling, and her adaptations.
Then think of the worlds that Caridad’s parents left behind.
Think how those worlds conjure stories.
Stories interwoven across multiple languages that were sung and spoken as the miles rolled by. Then later recalled as each stroke of the pen, each click of the keyboard pulls forth a ghost from this past and confronts the future in a pattern across the page.
I wanted to tell her everything about everything
About armed soldiers patrolling the streets
Roads cut off by barbed wire and concrete
And bayonets fixed to barrels and brothers dead in prison
and planes overhead and the swift crack of rifles…
Scene 10, Archipelago
From this place of transience has come an ability to observe and absorb, then reshape and express the ever changing ever more complex world around us. Caridad is interested in diversity of landscape, of people, and of the topography and geography of their experience. She creates continents for her characters and maps for the audience to trace their finger across as her situations and characters unfold. As a result one can start to see global themes emerging from her work: ideas of exile, migration, loss and loneliness – perhaps of isolation and the gossamer tethers that tie us all together. The personal political and the public, global political are played out on the landscape of the body. Humanized and tortured, erotic and profound.
We dreamed of candles and tea and soup and lemons
Figs and cherries and blossoms at springtime
We whispered little songs to each other, and surrendered our pride
Scene 6. Archipelago
Caridad Svich in Archipelago creates for us a dystopian world, and in the middle of that world she places love. Caridad plays with our knowledge of things, our prejudice, and our curiosity. For all that is NOT there, we find clues and tethers to hook our imagination. There are fingerholds and pitons to help us climb, to show us what MIGHT be there. Our job is to push through the veil of naturalism to the realm of our own imagination, to partake of the journey. A journey with a nameless boy and a nameless girl of an age, of any age, in a place that might be home and might be foreign, where time moves in many directions.
The play is set nowhere. It might be South America and a large metropolitan city in the United States; it might be the Middle East and America. What we discover are two people. One from there, one from here (wherever there and here are). One is always the other, one is always the outsider. Despite its worldliness it is an empty space. For all that happens around and to our Adam and Eve they never meet or connect with another voice. Instead they are connected to and divorced from each other. From the sound of the landscape, the ebb and flow of the ocean and the inevitable passing of time.
To define the play is to miss the point. It is not interested in solidity, and so, perhaps we might describe it as a memory play. And indeed, in the same way as your memory plays tricks with you, so too does the playwright. It seems an act of utter futility to try and describe a play that, like the roads of Caridad’s youth, lies before you to explore and interpret for yourself.
So, what’s the play about?
I would say, “About 90 minutes.”
New from Santa Catalina Editions:
by Caridad Svich
OUTLAW PLAYS by US playwright Caridad Svich focus on characters living outside boundaries imagined and real. The two plays in this volume- KILL TO EAT (a patriot song) and PENSACOLA - are driven by a punk energy in their use of language and the staging of action. Poetic, raw and strange, they traffic and play with genre tropes from pulp fiction, “noir” cinema, and steam-punk literature and are influenced by murder ballads and electric blues.