by Jasmine Arroyo
January 20th has come and gone, and Joe Biden is our president, with Kamala Harris as our first madame vice-president. Life will be as it was, and we will all start to work towards a common goal.
The question is, what is the goal? What is our collective purpose? The Council on Foreign Relations (2020) documented Trump gained 74,222,958 votes behind Biden’s 81,283,098 votes in the 2020 election. There is a divide in this country, and where we lie as a country, let alone a theatre community, is a decision we need to prepare to make. In four years, with 2020 being the imminent precipitous end, the rest of the world saw America crash and could not look away. Police brutality, systemic racism, economic anguish, increase of Covid-19 causalities with no slowing down, and riots. Riots from both sides of the aisle have apparent differences in how they are seen and handled by our government.
So how, as a community, do we navigate the divide. The theatre community is not a stranger to making waves with controversial content. In 2018, the musical The Prom performed “Time to Dance” at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and made it the first televised same-sex kiss ever for the parade (Quinn, 2018).
Closer to home in the Tampa community, Jobsite showed Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith about the formidable aftershock of the L.A. riots.
However, these topics are just scratching the surface of matters that need discoursing, and the political strife may further prevent theatres from pushing the envelope. Is the public too exhausted from the political theater displayed in the real world that they want to escape it within our world of boundless possibilities?
The formation of the Federal Theatre Project in 1935 granted artists during the Great Depression to keep moving with the help of federal funding and backed new theatre works and interpretations. This project’s product birthed Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty, about a 1934 taxi union strike. The play shook up politics mixed with theatre, and individuals equate it to Communist propaganda. Similar to the current spew of regarding left-wing individuals as Socialists. If the theatre ancestors can stand up for what is right when faced with unremarkable uncertainties, then the present theatre community will need to ask if they can do the same.
The artistic directors now need to ask the following questions: how do we stand by our mission statement and be current, how do we entertain and make money while being emotionally intelligent, and how do we give back to our community? While they ask that, they should know they are not alone to question how to move forward.
BBC. (2021, January 20). Joe Biden inauguration: When are he and Kamala Harris sworn in? Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55419244
Capps, K. (2021, January 7). The Double Standard for Policing Capitol Rioters and BLM Protesters. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-07/trump-rioters-weren-t-policed-like-blm-protesters
Jobsite. (2020, November 22). Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.jobsitetheater.org/twilight-los-angeles-1992/
Lindsay, J. M. (2020, December 15). The 2020 Election by the Numbers. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/blog/2020-election-numbers
Quinn, D. (2018, November 23). Thanksgiving Day Parade Airs First Same-Sex Kiss and Some Conservative Viewers Weren’t Thankful. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://people.com/theater/the-prom-musical-thanksgiving-day-parade-same-sex-kiss/
Voelker, S. (n.d.). The Power of Art and the Fear of Labor: Seattle’s Production of Waiting for Lefty in 1936. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://depts.washington.edu/depress/seattle_waiting_for_lefty.shtml