Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Black Queer Theatre

I've been holding on to this post for awhile and the time to drop is NOW as Freedom Train Productions' annual new play festival FIRE! is set for ignition. I hope to see you at the 7:30p performance of Origins of Us this Saturday in the Bronx!

Before sharing with you FTP's moving "manifesto for citizen theatre artists", I've got to play catch up with zapagringo history:

* The Allied Media Conference just keeps getting better. If you missed it this year, make sure you are there in 2011 (June 23-26).

* While the neo-colonial FIFA World Cup played out in South Africa, so did the growth and expression of power from below. Here's a video of solidarity from organizers gathered at the US Social Forum in Detroit to the Poor People's Alliance of South Africa, put together by some favorite compañeros of mine, Divad and Tej.

* The Federation of Neighborhood Councils of El Alto, Bolivia (THE indigenous city of the hemisphere) declared the government of Evo Morales to be "colonial and oligarchic" and joins the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia in mobilizations to defend their territory. I could say more but will stop for now, to understand what is happening I highly recommend picking up the absolutely fascinating (and timely) "Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces" by Raúl Zibechi.

* Arundhati Roy, who had an arrest warrant issued against her earlier this year in India for her interviews and coverage of Maoist rebels, gave a brief interview for the latest issue of Desinformémonos in which she observed, "The indigenous movements and struggles... are our only hope. While the communist resistance movements, including the guerrilla wars, may have something to teach us about resistance, I do not believe that they have the vision or the imagination to show us a way of living sustainably." Here is the English translation of that piece.

* The 12 remaining political prisoners of Atenco, Mexico are finally free! If you don't know how historic this victory is, take a minute to check out my article from earlier this year on the case of Atenco, the struggle of Atenco's People's Front in Defense of the Land, and their connection to East Harlem's Movement for Justice in El Barrio.

* For their part, Movement for Justice in El Barrio is organizing ongoing support for the struggle of Atenco and recently hosted an Encuentro IN San Salvador Atenco for the Other Campaign this past Sunday.

So that is a long way of saying that there is much more to come - including word of my new gig with The Foundry Theatre! Without further ado, here are some potent words from inspirational friends and compañeros in the struggle at Freedom Train Productions (see you on Saturday!):

manifesto for citizen theatre artists

Theatre in the United States today exists in a nation that revolted against its own cultural ministry almost twenty years ago -- a right wing inspired and left wing affirmed attack on artistic expression of race, gender, and sexuality. We birth our work within a larger economic structure that systematically devalues the subjective profits our art offers society -- the well known story of the actor-waiter is one of many cases to which to point.

It is fire, imperative, NOW, and change to re-claim the artist’s stake in a nation gone haywire. Our practice of a citizen theatre artist is one with responsibilities toward connecting the on stage with the off stage struggle.

We believe many theatres hold and aspire to revolutionary values, however, the forces of the anti-citizen state compel theatre artists and institutions from fully realizing all areas simultaneously.

We must state our claim to the people’s symbols and institutions to governance and the artist’s stake in it all. Shaping their process in the image of the world that the citizen theatre artist knows is possible is one way forward.

We’ll do it by switching things up from a majority rules society to a canaries rule humanity where laws and state actions are informed by those most in danger, i.e. canaries in the coal mine. For example, Freedom Train Productions recognizes that black queer protagonists, if they are ever seen on stage, are sequestered off, splintered into different groups, and are not fully empowered in the exchange of ideas. For this theatre work, canaries rule ensures that black playwrights and their black queer protagonists are given ample resources and opportunities to tell their story and the stories of their people.

We’ll do this by openly embracing the inherent feminist and egalitarian ideals of collaboration that our professional medium offers. And we’ll call this tenet stage democratics. Directors, actors, playwrights, technicians, designers, and producers come together to make the good work happen. In some "avant-garde" theatre, multiple individuals hold the position of the director. Sometimes there is no director. In all cases there should be respect for all creative workers, no matter what title they hold. This process asks audiences to hold a fuller set of responsibilities and brings them further into the work.

Finally we’ll cultivate an infinite capacity in re-memory, an exercise that today’s nation-state and unchecked capitalist empires blatantly ignore and actively resists. The citizen theatre artist does this with an unending curiosity to explore and implement theatrical form and tradition. Re-memory debunks the paradigm of Western Theatre as traditional and everything else as unconventional. Black Arts Aesthetics, Magical Realism, Spoken Word, Hip Hop Theatre are indeed traditions and traditional. Re-memory informs new work development, play analysis and dramaturgy, and the staging, rehearsal and production of all work. This tenet also addresses the socio-political responsibility of the citizen theatre artist to address the un-addressed and to order and disorder the untold stories of the private and the public, homes, neighborhoods, and nation-states around the world.

Alright now, let’s go.

- Freedom Train Productions
Brooklyn, New York, 2009

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