April 16th, 2008 → Leave a comment
I haven’t even begun to chronicle the last two weeks on the road. It feels like it’s been an eternity since I took off for this one month on the road. The days have been so packed. And it always seems to happen this time of year– The Women’s History Month/Asian Pacific Islander Heritage month rounds I call them.
I am compelled to blog because I was reading about the recent suicide of Daniel Kim on CNN.com. He was a Korean American student at Virginia Tech. After the shootings last year, he became fearful that he would become mistaken as Seung-Hui Cho, and he became very reclusive and isolated. He stopped going to classes. Preferred making friends in the virtual world. His friends tried to get him help. The school administration ignored all the warning signs. He bought a gun and killed himself.
I forget so much how I got into doing art for a reason. After the heartbreaking grantwriting process, the time spent apart from family and friends, the airport shuffle, and all the bureaucracy I complain about on a daily basis— there is the opportunity to actually make and share my work.
Why did I get into this shit? Because there was a time that I knew so well that art provided the space to consider, critique, and contemplate our lives the way television did not. I forget so often as I do this as my living now. Art gave that space for that festering boiler machine called “the unspoken” to pop safely into something beautiful.
I watched Mike Daisey’s “How Theater Failed America” yesterday at Joe’s Pub and he goes into this one story about how he and some college friends lived on ramen one summer to create a rep theater company in Eastern Maine (where they were convinced they could change the landscape of theater as we knew it!). It’s a familiar story. Of post-college ambition given a slave labor workout and and insane double and tripled cast roles in the attempt to make art like nobody had ever seen before.
He also critiques how the infrastructure of theater mirrors corporate structure. Bigger theaters need to appeal to the “bottom line.” They can’t take huge risks. And now, as I have known forever, the demographic of theater audiences get older and older and are fewer and fewer. The most “well-heeled” of theaters would never let themselves be considered “community theater” (though, paradoxically, it’s the “community theaters” with the microscopic budgets that have the audiences that these large theaters should be wanting to cultivate).
So what is this work supposed to be doing? Who is it for?
Are we social workers? NO! But we do work that social workers can’t with the tools they have.
I often tell my students, “This work is not therapy. But it is therapeutic.”
Last week I was on a panel at Amherst College. There was a recent suicide in January by a Korean American student.
During the Q&A, I talked about my journey with the show. How stressful it can be. How proud I am that I am still alive after having taking up the enormous task. And I talked about a teenager whose class I performed for in 2006. She told me afterwards that she had been molested a few years ago. The class was getting out, I lost her in the chaos of the setting. I felt like I let her down.
As I recounted this story at Amherst, I started to tear up. And rather than apologize or hide it. I said in front of the audience at Amherst: “I’m feeling very emotional right now. And I think you can see it. And I just need to let you know that I can still take questions and comments.”
And now, I’m in New York in the Lower East Side. I’ve had a very chill week and here. I get about a week to “relax” before the shows in Queens next week.
Some pics from last week.
You know God is a Woman when you meet Rhodessa Jones, founder of the Medea Project. A theater project for incarcerated women. She works so hard and does so much right by her work.
This is my friend Matthew who lives on a farm in Western Mass with his theater company. They have chickens. And I said, “I want to see if the chickens laid any eggs!” And there it was in the corner of the coop– a fresh egg from the chicken’s jaja.
Matthew cooked two eggs. The farm fresh egg and the store bought egg and we did a taste test. It was subtle but you could taste the difference! The fresh egg was more tasty.
I don’ t know why, but tractors are funny.
I thought my tech Jen who didn’t come on this show with me would get a kick out of the theater at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stonybrook U. They have a big garden window at the back of the theater. They cover it with the back curtain, but it’s the oddest placed window in the history of architecture. Here I am with the folks who brought me out.