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Artistic Director’s Welcome
BOARD OF TRUSTEES Steve Johnson, Chair Amy Brakeman Laurie Burt Paul Buttenwieser RoAnn Costin Mike Dreese Zita Ezpeleta Michael Feinstein Provost Alan M. Garber Catherine Gellert Rebecca Grafstein Lori Gross Ann Gund Sarah Hancock Jonathan Hulbert Alan K. Jones Robin Kelsey Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard Dennis Masel Thomas B. McGrath Rebecca Milikowsky Ward Mooney Bob Murchison Andrew Ory Diane Paulus Diane Quinn Mike Sheehan Sid Yog
DIANE PAULUS The Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director American Repertory Theater
WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER I cannot think of a better production to open our 2016/17 Season than Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education. For more than 20 years, Anna’s pioneering documentary performances have given voice to communities in crisis. She first performed at the A.R.T. in 1992, presenting her landmark work Fires in the Mirror, which brought voices from the 1991 Crown Heights riot together onstage. Anna returned to the A.R.T. in 2008 to perform Let Me Down Easy, which asked how we pursue grace and kindness in a distressing world. Now, Notes from the Field introduces audiences to the students, law enforcement officers, parents, teachers, administrators, and other individuals caught in America's "school-to-prison pipeline.” For Anna, theater has never been about only the art on stage. She works tirelessly to make performance a much-needed public forum. From 1998 to 2000, her Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, co-hosted by the A.R.T. and Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, convened six-
BOARD OF ADVISORS
week summer intensives to support the development of art that illuminated social conditions and deepened
Karen Mueller, Co-Chair Ann Gund, Co-Chair Paolo Abelli Frances Shtull Adams Yuriko Jane Anton Robert Bowie, Jr. Philip Burling* Greg Carr Antonia Handler Chayes* Lucy Chung Lizabeth Cohen Lisa Coleman Kathleen Connor Rohit Deshpande Susan Edgman-Levitan Jill Fopiano Shanti Fry Erin Gilligan Jonathan Glazer Candy Kosow Gold Rachael Goldfarb Barbara Wallace Grossman Peggy Hanratty Marcia Head James Higgins Horace H. Irvine II Brenda Jarrell Emma Johnson Jerry Jordan Dean Huntington Lambert Ursula Liff Tim McCarthy Travis McCready Irv Plotkin Martin Puchner Ellen Gordon Reeves Pat Romeo-Gilbert Linda U. Sanger Maggie Seelig Dina Selkoe John A. Shane Michael Shinagel Lisbeth Tarlow Sarasina Tuchen Susan Ware Stephen H. Zinner, M.D. *Emeriti
the capacity of artists to communicate with their audiences.
Notes from the Field draws on and extends these efforts, asking audiences to engage in a second act of facilitated discussions around the themes of the show before a final coda performed by Anna. The A.R.T. shares Anna's commitment to making the theater a space of generous listening and radical empathy. By incorporating discussions directly into the performance, this production builds on our ongoing initiative to place art and audiences in dialogue around the pressing global issues of our time. Later in September, the A.R.T. will present the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Plough and the Stars, which marks the centenary of Dublin’s 1916 Easter Rising. This drama by master Irish playwright Sean O’Casey sparked controversy at its 1926 premiere: O'Casey places everyday individuals—in all their impurities and mixed motivations—at the heart of the bloody Rising, rather than mythologized heroics. Now, a century after that event, the Abbey's contemporary re-staging marks the first production of a work by O'Casey at the A.R.T. At a time when the names of entire cities in the U.S. have become shorthand for episodes in a civil rights crisis unfolding across this country, the theater cannot stand apart. These first two productions offer the theater as a transformative gathering place where we can listen, empathize, identify our shared vulnerabilities, and strengthen our collective capacity for action. Thank you for joining us.
COVER Anna Deavere Smith. Photo: Jeff Riedel.
THE GUIDE Managing Editor Ryan McKittrick Senior Editor Robert Duffley Contributors Matthew Connaughton finkle Kevin Lombard
Catherine McKenna Brenna Nicely Marcus Shelby Anna Deavere Smith Alisa Solomon Ciara Walsh Designers Tak Toyoshima Joel Zayac
Editors Nicole Banks Christopher Conway Jonah Eggleston Grace Geller Nick O'Connor
THE A.R.T. GUIDE Custom Publishing by Dig Publishing LLC 242 East Berkeley St. Boston, MA 02118 Advertise:
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The 2016/17 Season is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 1
AUGUST 20 SEPTEMBER 17, 2016
NOTES FROM THE FIELD: DOING TIME IN EDUCATION Created, written, and performed by Anna Deavere Smith Music composed and performed by Marcus Shelby
TOWARD EMPATHETIC IMAGINATION AND ACTION by Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by Leonard Foglia
Urgent and inspiring, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education outlines the civil rights crisis currently erupting at the intersection of America’s education system and its mass incarceration epidemic. In Act I, Anna Deavere Smith introduces the students, parents, teachers, and administrators caught in America’s "school-to-prison pipeline” through her trademark portrait performances. In the tradition of call and response, a second act before a final coda performance invites audiences to reflect on how we might begin collectively to move forward from difficult histories and devastating social policies.
OC Audio Described Sept. 15, 7:30PM Sept. 17, 2PM Open Captioned Sept. 15, 7:30PM Sept. 17, 2PM
While traveling in various parts of the country to do interviews upon which Notes From the Field is based, I was particularly influenced by two women I met in South Carolina, one in Charleston and the other in Summerton. They were both actively involved in the mid-twentieth century movement to desegregate American schools: Millicent Brown and Beatrice Rivers. Ms. Brown helped integrate Rivers High School in Charleston, South Carolina in 1963. She told me about the trauma she suffered as the first Negro to walk the halls of Rivers when she was 15 years old, facing hostility from many students and teachers alike. After some months she began having symptoms of a heart attack. Today, at age 68, she still has those symptoms. She is collecting a series of interviews with others around her age, who were “firsts.” Many still have the same physical and psychological symptoms that they experienced as barrierbreaking youngsters. Beatrice Rivers was a petitioner in the desegregation case Briggs v. Elliot. Filed in 1951, it preceded the more famous Brown v. Board of Education into which it was eventually subsumed. To this day, pulses go up for the old-time black folks in Summerton, South Carolina when they talk about their case. They are proud of their struggle and upset that most Americans evoke only the Brown case when they talk about civil rights history. The case began in 1947 as a demand for equality in transportation—a story that is easy to remember, once you hear it. The community asked the county for a school bus so that their children would not have to walk as many as nine miles to the school for Negroes. The county said no. The community somehow found a broken-down bus and got it running. They asked the county to pay for gas. The county said no. The NAACP stepped up to support the community in 1949, expanding the demand to one of equal educational opportunities in Clarendon County. The first action was for black citizens to gather at their church to sign a petition for education equality. Beatrice Rivers’s signature on that petition curls and curves in that old-fashioned, perfectly rounded “cursive” writing. She told me that all of the adults who signed the petition lost their jobs, her father among them. He was a janitor at the “white” high school, and many in the town liked him. He was the last to lose his job, but lose his job he did. Popularity was not enough to override racism. As some of you well know, even though southern towns were eventually ordered to desegregate, they found
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ways around it. They created private “religious” schools for white children. I spoke with Terry Peterson, a white man who was a young activist in those days. He is still at the forefront— fighting for social justice in Charleston. He looks like a southern gentleman, with a full head of white hair. I wanted to know his point of view about why the county refused even to supply gasoline for the bus. He shook his head. He shrugged. He pursed his lips. And he said that the same sentiments exist today. I told him that some white people say racism is not real. “It’s real,” he said simply. And he started to weep. Have we squandered a generation’s hard-won victories? In many American cities today, schools are as racially segregated as they were in the 1950s. And other social forces and institutions are separating us from each other even more. Thomas Jefferson constructed a plan for public education in the Notes on the State of Virginia, as one speaker in the play, philosopher Maxine Greene, points out. His plan was for a system that would reveal the “excellent students” and throw out the “rubbish.” The “rubbish,” Maxine says, were the poor kids who couldn’t make it. Schools that work as sorting mechanisms are deep in our American DNA, whether the sorting is meant to find talent and aptitude, whether it is meant to weed out those who slow “us” down, or whether it is meant to keep races and social classes apart. Those working to dismantle the “school-to-prison pipeline” make a strong claim that schools sort out future prisoners, feeding the astonishing growth of America’s prison industry and making us the developed country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Laws were one way we looked at the problem of integration six decades ago. I am grateful for the laws. My education and my career are byproducts of laws that helped make it possible for more of us to reach our arms over the chasm of racism and classism. But sixty years later, it’s obvious that laws are not enough. We have fine law schools in this country; one of the best in the world is on this campus. Could you ever imagine The Graduate School of Empathy and Love? I know that sounds ridiculous. But I also know that some individuals have a special aptitude for these core elements of our humanity. Those gifts should be honed, nourished, refined, and celebrated in the same way we cultivate athletic prowess, intellectual productivity, and business acumen. We need a (continued on page 5)
ACT II Experience
Graphic: Joel Zayac.
Deeply affected by the disturbing ways that public education in poor communities interfaces with the criminal justice system, Anna Deavere Smith has chosen to use the theater as a convening place to look at and discuss the problem. She stops the show in the middle, making room for you, the audience, to meet and engage in discussion. These reflective discussions are a crucial component of the show and a crucial extension of Ms. Smith’s and A.R.T.’s shared mission to expand the boundaries of theater. By opening our theater up as a space of much-needed civic dialogue—especially in this moment, when we may be on the brink of a new civil rights movement—we hope to contribute to ongoing efforts to close the gaps of economic and social disparity in our culture. The theater is one place where we can repair and enrich our moral imaginations. americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 3
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(continued from page 2) generation of leaders who are as loving as they are strategic. We need such leaders to help us find ways to imagine ourselves as beings who could extend our concern beyond the boundaries of our front doors, our fences, our perceived selfinterests, our skins. How? As an artist, my effort has been to broaden the realm of my inquiry beyond my writing room and beyond understanding based on personal experience. For forty years, I have been creating plays out of fragments of conversations with diverse groups of people from all over the country. When I was a girl, my paternal grandfather and I used to spend hours talking. He said, “If you say a word often enough it becomes you.” I have been trying to become America word for word. I interview people—seeking to understand a problem from a variety of points of view. This practice allows me to enrich my understanding of my country. I choose moments of crisis as the pivot points. I now seek to extend my work beyond the artistic product that evolves out of those many conversations. I now extend the realm of my work into the audience. What do you think? What is your position on the large and complex landscape of points where failed attempts at education meet prison walls, broken families, broken dreams, broken possibilities? Even
the position that is far from the nexus of the problem is a position. We all live somewhere in the landscape. We are really all connected “to the person next door, down the street or whatever,” as a woman in a maximum security prison told me. We must do the work required to make our democracy robust. I invite you, groups of strangers, to sit together during this play to chew, fret out loud, speculate, connect, invent, find. We need to be together. While I did research in my broken-down boarded-up hometown, Baltimore, I met a charismatic, articulate man in his late twenties. He had spent a lot of his young adulthood in prison, where he developed a rich vocabulary by studying the dictionary from beginning to end, and back again. With passion he said: “We can’t wait for the leaders to make it better. We have to make it better.”
Actress, playwright, and teacher, Anna Deavere Smith is said to have created a new form of theater. She received the National Humanities Medal, presented to her by President Obama in 2013. She was the 2015 Jefferson Lecturer for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow for Theatre Arts (for the development of Notes from the Field). She
is a MacArthur Fellow and received The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. She is the recipient of two Tony nominations, and two Obie awards. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror (seen at the A.R.T. in 1992). She has created over 15 one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews, most of which deal with social issues. Twilight: Los Angeles, about the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, was performed around the country and on Broadway. Let Me Down Easy (seen at the A.R.T. in 2008) focused on health care in the U.S. In popular culture she has been seen in "Nurse Jackie," "Black-ish," "The West Wing," The American President, Rachel Getting Married, and Philadelphia. Books include Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines. She has a number of honorary degrees including Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Juilliard, Union Theological Seminary, and The Radcliffe Medal. She sits on the board of trustees for the American Museum of National History, the Aspen Institute, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is University Professor in the department of Art & Public Policy at New York University. She also directs the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University.
from Notes from the Field Composer and Performer Marcus Shelby
Photo: Peter Varshavsky.
I have had the greatest honor of my life working with Anna Deavere Smith on her School-to-Prison Pipeline Project. I have learned a great deal from her about communication and empathy. Both are central to the blues form given to us by our ancestors, who found a creative way to express hope, determination, and identity in the face of overwhelming oppression. The musical score for my work is born out of this blues tradition, which includes call and response, improvisation, inflection, and tension and release. I have found the power of the blues in all of Anna’s past work, so this is a natural form for us to work with. Each of the individuals whom Anna interviewed has a personal and succinct musicality that embodies the very essence of the blues—triumph over tragedy. The music aims to provide a soulful addition to Anna’s words. The subject material for the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project has personally inspired me to fight for reform using my creative tools. I am eternally grateful to Anna for this opportunity.
Marcus Anthony Shelby is a composer, arranger, bassist, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco. His work and music have focused on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and early childhood music education. In 1990, Shelby received the Charles Mingus Scholarship to attend Cal Arts and study composition with James Newton and bass with Charlie Haden. From 1990-1996, Shelby was bandleader of Columbia Records Recording Artists Black/Note. Currently, Shelby is artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. In 2013 Shelby received a MAP Fund Award to compose Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, an original composition for big band orchestra about the prison industrial complex. In 2015, Shelby was commissioned by Anna Deveare Smith to compose the score for her new play Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education. Shelby also has arranged for Ledisi and the Count Basie Orchestra, recorded with Tom Waits, and received the City Flight Magazine 2005 award as one of the “Top Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area.” Shelby teaches at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and in March 2013, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed Shelby to the San Francisco Arts Commission.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 5
For Notes from the Field, Anna Deavere Smith conducted interviews around the country. Here, she speaks in Baltimore with Kevin Moore, who captured video of Freddie Gray's arrest.
DIGGING UP THE PIPELINE ANNA DEAVERE SMITH TAKES NOTES FROM THE FIELD By Alisa Solomon What should happen to an elementary school student who declines to come in from recess when the teacher calls? Or who grabs a classmate’s Play-Doh and refuses to give it back? Or doesn’t take turns while playing with other kids? In Boston, according to Greater Boston Legal Services, kids in grades K-3 have been suspended for these specific behaviors— kicked out of school for a time simply for acting like children. Instead of disciplinary methods that help children to grow socially and academically, suspensions, studies repeatedly show, are counterproductive: they take kids out of a learning environment and leave them further behind in their studies. What’s more, they do not help correct students’ misbehavior; rather, they often confuse children, produce antipathy toward school, and, especially as students get older, leave them unsupervised with unstructured time, free to hang out and get into trouble—often, with the law. School suspensions—disproportionately meted out to students of color and students with disabilities—make up just one of the
conduits feeding what child advocates and policy experts have come to call the “schoolto-prison pipeline”: the policies and practices that push schoolchildren, especially those most at risk, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. It’s a disturbing, astonishing term that conjures a rushing tide of young people being funneled behind bars. Some analysts have begun to call it the “cradle-to-prison pipeline,” noting that kids born into precarious circumstances are thrown into this current even before they begin kindergarten. Anna Deavere Smith was stunned when she first heard the phrase a few years ago as she listened to a discussion among social justice experts in New York. She learned about five-year-olds being handcuffed for throwing tantrums, about older kids arrested for pranks. The sorts of mischief that once would have landed kids in the principal’s or guidance counselor’s office were now sending them swirling down the drain into the pipeline. Smith’s artistic pilot light—always fueled by
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a desire to understand the human encounter with our country’s most vexing and pressing problems—flamed high. She set out to understand the plight of these children, using the unique and powerful form of documentary theater that she invented decades ago. Smith builds her plays by interviewing a diverse group of people who all have some stake in a particular event or issue, and then culls rich monologues from what she calls the “organic poetry” in their expression. She performs these verbatim texts with complete fidelity to the rhythms and patterns of each person’s speech and gestures. As a result, on stage, through the medium of her body, Smith brings into dialogue—into intimate conversation—people who would otherwise never occupy the same space. A Lubavitcher housewife, a Nation of Islam minister, an Orthodox rabbi, and a young rapper, for instance, are just four of some twenty-six characters Smith personified in Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, the 1992 work that dug into the heart of the violent clashes between
Photo: Blake Alcantara.
that neighborhood’s Hasidic and CaribbeanAmerican communities and that catapulted Smith to international acclaim. With this same technique, Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 illuminated the causes and effects of the riots that followed the verdict in the Rodney King beating case. House Arrest examined the American presidency and its public image; Let Me Down Easy (presented here at the A.R.T. in 2008), illness and mortality within the context of a broken healthcare system. For her Pipeline Project, Smith traversed the country, beginning in California and Pennsylvania, interviewing students, teachers, principals, mentors, advocates, judges, inmates, government officials, and more. Smith arrived in her hometown of Baltimore to conduct more interviews on the heels of the death of Freddie Gray, one of hundreds of African American men to have died in police custody in 2015. She landed in Charleston, South Carolina after a young white man opened fire there on an African American Bible-study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We geared up for rehearsals here in Cambridge amid the terrible events of July that saw the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the slaying of five police officers in Dallas, and that revealed, even more starkly in this divisive election year, national discord over not only the best policies for addressing social problems, but even over what the problems are. The pipeline gushes on in a context of racial disparity, gun violence, and racial profiling, a context in which—in the astounding words of Justice Sonia Sotomayor—an individual can become “not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state just waiting to be catalogued.” During her research, Smith saw how the punitive aggression of policing in poor communities of color lines up with young people’s experience in the local schools. The populations disproportionately profiled, arrested, and met with violence by police— people of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty, or learning disabilities— are the same ones targeted by “zero-tolerance” school discipline, policies intended to keep schools free of drugs and weapons by imposing severe punishments, but that criminalize all kinds of rule-breaking or disruptive activities that in more affluent communities would be resolved with a good talking-to or, in severe cases, with therapy to help the child stabilize and succeed. The statistics—in this, the Western country with the highest incarceration rate—are not only staggering. They also reveal a web of predicaments entrenched in criminal justice practices, education policy, long-term poverty, and, as Dr. Victor Carrion, a character represented in the play, points out, the chronic stress of impoverishment and violence that hampers a child’s ability to function in a classroom. Just a few examples from the overwhelming data: In 2012-13, 190 children in kindergarten to third grade were suspended from California schools for the “crimes” of chewing gum in class, talking back, or wearing
“....In a sense, we are already at war with and among ourselves. Affluent Americans are locked into suburbs of physical comfort and mental insecurity; poor Americans are locked inside ghettoes of material privation and spiritual debilitation; and all of us can almost feel the presence of a kind of social insanity which could lead to national ruin. Consider, for example, the spectacle of cities burning while the national government speaks of repression instead of rehabilitation... Or a nation gorged on money while millions of its citizens are denied a good education, adequate health services, decent housing, meaningful employment, and even respect, and then are told to be responsible.” DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., FROM A PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THE POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN, DECEMBER 4, 1967 the wrong clothes. Seventy percent of students involved in “in-school arrests” or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino. Being suspended in ninth grade doubles the likelihood that the student will not complete high school. Nearly seventy-four percent of males in state prison do not have a high school diploma. Even in these polarized, violent times, there’s an opening for change now that Smith hopes her play can help pry wider. Activism for racial equality is responding to devastating events by working to accelerate the bend of America’s arc of history toward justice. As Democrats and Republicans alike agree that mass incarceration has to be scaled back, schools and local legislatures are beginning to inch away from “zero tolerance.” Massachusetts has helped lead the way with Chapter 222, the law that restricts the use of school suspension and requires schools to provide alternative learning programs for students in trouble. President Obama himself acknowledged, in his speech in Baltimore after the uproar over Freddie Gray’s death, how tightly the strands of poverty, violence, inadequate schooling, unemployment, and adversarial policing are woven together. More than in her previous plays, with Notes from the Field Smith wants, she has said, to “build a model for art to be in direct connection to advocacy.” It’s an intricate model. Smith is not talking about agit-prop or hectoring audiences with her own answers. On the contrary, she regards theater as a place of radical hospitality that can convene a public and raise the most tangled questions. But how, then, do theatergoers think about and perhaps take action in response to those questions? For all her virtuosity, Smith doesn’t count her work a success if the only thing spectators say to each after the play is, “Wow. That was powerful. So, where should we go for drinks?” She has long been consumed by an inquiry into what might happen after the houselights come up. She ran its first laboratory here at Harvard from 1998 to 2000, the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. Smith recruited a “core audience” of
local residents committed to attending all the offerings in a summer season of works curated by Smith and developed at the Institute, and to participating in a variety of conversations spurred by them. Now, for Notes from the Field, Smith is conducting an even more ambitious experiment: You, the audience, are cast as the actors in Act II. While theater can’t do the work of organizing, it has a unique power to reveal issues in their layered complexity, stir up surprising empathies, spark the moral imagination, and move us to examine our positions in relation to the problems presented—perhaps leading to further engagement and action beyond the theater’s walls. At a time when there are too many reasons to feel what the Italian political theorist Antoni Gramsci famously called “pessimism of the intellect,” we hope that Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education— and the conversations it provokes—can fill our reservoirs with “optimism of the will.”
The dramaturg for Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, Alisa Solomon teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she directs the MA concentration in Arts & Culture. A longtime theater critic and political journalist, she has written for The Nation, The New York Times, Howlround.com, The Forward, American Theatre, among other publications, and The Village Voice, where she was a staff writer for two decades. Her books include Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, and most recently, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof. Alisa holds a doctorate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale and loves to be in a rehearsal room when she can carve out the time. She served as dramaturg on Anna Deavere Smith's Let Me Down Easy and is thrilled to be working on the Pipeline Project.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 7
THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE STRIKING STATISTICS AND CONCEPTS
DEFINITION The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the punitive and discriminatory school disciplinary practices that drive children into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many experts say that underfunded public schools are ill-equipped to deal with the multiple needs of contemporary students. The pipeline is fed by “zero tolerance” policies, intended to keep schools free of drugs and weapons by imposing severe punishments, like year-long suspensions, for infractions, no matter the circumstances. Rather than improving school safety, these policies have ended up criminalizing all kinds of rule-breaking or disruptive activities that previously would have been handled by child-appropriate measures like trips to the principal’s or guidance counselor’s office. Students have been suspended or expelled at high rates over the last two decades. When young people are not in school, they are, quite simply, likely to be in trouble. Data show that zero-tolerance discipline disproportionately targets students of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities.
Nationwide, 70% of students arrested in school or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino/a. (Source: US Department of Education—Office of Civil Rights.)
Beyond school walls, these same populations are disproportionately profiled, arrested, and responded to with violence by police.
THE BROADER CONTEXT School discipline policies are not the only cause of the crises affecting American schoolchildren. Too many students grow up in environments that are not conducive to learning: they are surrounded by violence and poverty, suffer from trauma and physical and mental health challenges, lack the self-regulation that school culture requires, and are bereft of hope and a sense of purpose. Public schools, meanwhile, starved for resources and forced to focus on high-stakes testing, place unrealistic expectations on teachers. Often schools must cede disciplinary matters to police officers stationed in their buildings through federal and local initiatives, even as counselors and nurses are eliminated from school staff due to budget cuts. Despite the commitment and expertise of dedicated educators, schools can become places where students encounter the same arbitrary, over-aggressive policing they
In Massachusetts, one-third of children arrested 1/3 before they turn 18 years old are arrested again within one year of their release. (Source: Greater Boston Legal Services.)
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face in their communities. Activists say that students come to perceive the school system as emphasizing control and punishment over a stimulating educational experience, and to sense that they are being prepared more for prison than for lives as engaged, imaginative, productive citizens. Many advocates, educators, and health professionals have suggested that we need to shift resources spent on the “back end”— the building of prisons and youth facilities—to the front end—richer, more deeply endowed schools, as well as support for early childhood and for pre-natal care, and, importantly, support and growth opportunities for parents. Today, new technologies—smart-phone cameras, social media—have made more visible to the general public the problems these young people are facing. Videos of abuses go viral and affect events as they unfold; organizers wielding these technological tools reveal the urgency and dignity of struggle and expand the ranks of those who are urging change.
Children with disabilities make up 19% of Boston Public 36% School students and 19% account for 36% of overall suspensions. (source: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.)
Nearly two-thirds of all out-of-school suspensions in 2/3 Massachusetts in the 2012-13 school year were for “non-violent, noncriminal, non-drug” offenses. (Source: “Not Measuring Up: The State of School Discipline in Massachusetts,” report by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, 2014.)
Arrest rate per 100 students
THE LEGAL CONDUIT TO THE PIPELINE
Even when controlling for school poverty, schools with a School Resource Officer (SRO) had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an SRO.
DISTURBING SCHOOLS LAWS
National and state-wide efforts to reduce the criminalization of routine school infractions often center on changing local school district policies, reducing the heavy presence of police officers in hallways, and providing more guidance and academic counseling for students, and more opportunities for them to strive for excellence in academics, the arts, and athletics.
0 Total arrest rate
Alcohol/public intoxication charge rate
Schools with a School Resource Officer (n=13)
Disorderly conduct charges
In some states, though, even these substantial improvements would still leave students vulnerable to criminal arrest.
These are states—Massachusetts remains one of them—that have on their books some version of a “disturbing schools law”: a vague and subjective means of charging a student for behaviors that would not constitute crimes if engaged outside school grounds.
Schools without a School Resource Officer (n=15)
(Source: Matthew T. Theriot, "School Resource Officers and the Criminalization of Student Behavior," Journal of Criminal Justice 37 (2009): 280-287.) Note: When controlling for school economic disadvantage, the presence of SROs did not relate to more arrests for any other type of offense than disorderly conduct.
In Boston schools, black girls are disciplined at a rate 11 times higher than white girls, while black boys are disciplined at a rate 8 times higher than white boys.
Gender, Race, and Discipline
In 2009 In 1979
Graphics: Tak Toyoshima
ON THE RIGHT PATH The U.S. Department of Justice has investigated—and even sued—several states for violating the rights of children funneled into juvenile justice systems for minor infractions. In 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice, along with the U.S. Department of Education, published guidelines aimed at both curbing harsh, discriminatory over-punishments imposed for school discipline violations, and fostering safe, inclusive and positive learning environments while keeping students in school. “By ensuring federal civil rights protections, offering alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and providing useful information to school resource officers, we can keep America’s young people safe and on the right path,” said Attorney General Eric Holder when the guidelines were released. This year's Democratic Party platform promises to end the school-to-prison pipeline and "build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead." Here in Massachusetts, in August of 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012—An Act Relative to
(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics.)
(Source: "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected," research study by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, 2015.)
Nearly 60% of men in federal prison and 74% in state prison never earned a high school diploma.
Men's Risk of Imprisonment by Age 30-34
4% 1% 3%
White high school dropouts
AfricanAmerican high school dropouts
(Source: Bruce Western, Harvard, as published in the Boston Globe, March 19, 2015.)
Students’ Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School. It went into effect on July 1, 2014. It aims to keep children in school by restricting the use of suspension and expulsion and requires schools to collect data on student exclusions, establishes enhanced hearing provisions for students prior to suspension or exclusion, and promotes alternative programs to assure continued academic progress for students who are disciplined. While students and their advocates welcomed this progressive law, according to the Boston Student Advisory Council, students are still being removed from their schools for minor offenses, with low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities being more likely to be suspended unfairly. Students taken away from their education by out of school suspension are more likely to fall behind in schoolwork or drop out.
Prepared by Alisa Solomon, Dramaturg for Notes from the Field.
1.6 million American children go to public schools that employ law enforcement officers but no counselors. (Source: US Department of Education.)
South Carolina’s became notorious in the fall of 2015 when a girl in a Columbia, SC high school math class was reprimanded for using her cell phone; when she refused an order to leave the classroom, a school officer was called in. Video shot by fellow students show him pulling the student out of her desk and dragging her along the ground. The student was charged under the disturbing schools law, which makes it a misdemeanor “willfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon...” Another student, Niya Kenny (who is represented in Notes from the Field), was also arrested under this law for standing up and objecting to how her classmate was being treated and encouraging fellow students to film it with their phones. Age 18 at the time, Ms. Kenny was charged as an adult and faces a $1,000 fine or 90 days imprisonment. She is due in court on September 15, 2016. Here in Massachusetts, students can be charged for “disturbance of schools or assemblies”—a crime punishable by up to a $50 fine or a month of jail, with a third offense within a year requiring a one-month jail sentence. A 2012 investigation of Boston, Springfield, and Worcester by the ACLU and ACLU of MA, and Citizens for Juvenile Justice, found that in all three districts such “catch-all public order offenses” were often used to justify in-school arrests “based on misbehavior that could have been addressed more appropriately by teachers and school staff, and with significantly less harm to students.” Introduced last year in the General Court, Senate bill S842, and the parallel House bill, H1623, seek to decriminalize student nonviolent and verbal misconduct like cursing, sassing or bouncing a basketball in a hallway—all misbehaviors for which students have been arrested and charged in criminal or juvenile court. The bills have failed to advance.
“… the presence of on-site police officers frequently results in both more student arrests and more arrests for misbehavior previously handled informally by educators and parents.” (Source: “ARRESTED FUTURES: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts’ Three Largest School Districts,” report by ACLU, ACLU-MA, and Citizens for Juvenile Justice, 2012.)
Tenth-grade suspensions cost the United States upwards of $35 billion in taxpayer funds.
(Source: “The High Cost of Harsh Discipline and Its Disparate Impact,” research study by the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.)
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 9
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THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS
A NOTE ON
THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS by Catherine McKenna
Written by Sean O’Casey Directed by Sean Holmes
A.R.T. brings the Abbey Theatre's acclaimed production of The Plough and the Stars to Boston at the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. As revolution sweeps Ireland, the residents of a Dublin tenement shelter from the violence that sweeps through the city’s streets. Sean O’Casey— one of Ireland’s most renowned and controversial playwrights— captures a conflict between idealism and ordinary lives. Celebrating nearly a century of the Irish nation state, this production by the national theatre of Ireland, staged by Olivier Awardwinning director Sean Holmes, will bring a new perspective to O’Casey’s absorbing play. Presented in association with Cusack Projects Limited. The Plough and the Stars is supported by McCann FitzGerald and the Boston Friends of the Abbey Theatre.
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On Easter Monday (April 24), 1916, some 1,400 revolutionaries, drawn from the ranks of two nationalist militias, the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers, seized possession of about ten strategic sites in Dublin, most prominently the General Post Office, and proclaimed the establishment of an Irish Republic. The Easter Rising was widely recognized, even by some of the participants, as more of a symbolic gesture, the ignition of a spark, than the beginning of an actual war of independence. So few could hardly hope to throw off British control of Ireland, which was ruled from Westminster through a viceregal administration. Although Britain’s military forces, including some 200,000 Irishmen, were fully engaged in fighting the First World War on the continent, Britain found men and resources for suppression of the Rising in Ireland. Troops, heavy artillery, and a gunboat were turned on the rebels, and within a week, the Rising ended in the unconditional surrender of the revolutionaries. By that time, nearly 500 were dead, more than half of them Dublin civilians; swaths of the city were in ruins, burned to the ground or turned to rubble by artillery; and hundreds of businesses had been destroyed by looting. When Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars opened at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin on February 8, 1926, the Easter Rising was ten years in the past. It had concluded with the execution of fifteen of the leaders and the internment of thousands accused of participating. The brutal suppression of an unpopular armed rebellion had resulted in the explosion of nationalist sentiment among the Irish people, most of whom had wanted nothing more than some degree of selfgovernment, or Home Rule, when the Rising began. After the end of the World War, a real War of Independence had broken out in Ireland. When that war concluded with a treaty establishing a Free State in twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties, civil war ensued between those nationalists willing to accept this level of autonomy and those determined to fight on until the entire island of Ireland was independent. Between the War of Independence and the Civil War, Ireland had been in turmoil from 1919 to 1923. The first half of The Plough and the Stars is set six months before the Rising, and the second during Easter Week 1916. O’Casey looks back at the moment when armed revolution began and reflects on the costs of that doomed, destructive “blood sacrifice." Characters like Peter Flynn, the Covey, Mrs. Gogan, Bessie Burgess and Fluther Good are colorful and comic in their language and their relationships, but lurking within their dialogue are many of the challenges that the fledgling Free State was facing by 1926—the loss of some 35,000 Irishmen serving in the British Army in World War I, the emotional and social scars of the lacerating Civil War, the religiosity that would resist science and cede considerable power to the Church, class divisions that would endure despite the overthrow of an English ruling class, sectarian antagonism, unbalanced gender relations, and grinding poverty. The main events take place at the edge of the stage:
12 2016/17 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
in Act II we hear the voice of a “man” addressing a crowd outside the pub in which the scene is set, assuring them that “bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing, and the nation that regards it as the final horror has lost its manhood”. This unidentified figure speaks the ideas of Patrick Pearse, who wrote the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that he and six other leaders of the Rising signed, and who read it out at the door of the General Post Office shortly after noon on Easter Monday. At the end of the act, we hear the same man speaking the actual words that Pearse famously spoke at the graveside of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in August 1915: “They think they have pacified Ireland; think they have foreseen everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools!—they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” The world of national politics and high rhetoric is nearly offstage in The Plough and the Stars, however. O’Casey focuses instead on a Dublin tenement and its residents. These people have different relationships to the events going on around them— some are enthusiastic, some hostile—and are affected by them in very different ways. It is a world that O’Casey knew well, having been raised in just such a Dublin tenement. Whereas most of the early productions at the Abbey Theatre involved traditional Irish legend and folklore or the lives of country people, O’Casey trained his eye on the lives and language of contemporary urban dwellers. Indeed, we catch a glimpse of O’Casey himself, perhaps, in the play, in the figure of the Covey, an ardent socialist for whom the international plight of the working class is of far greater consequence than the aspirations of Ireland to nationhood. The 1926 production of The Plough and the Stars provoked protest in Dublin from people who objected strenuously to O’Casey’s cynical view of the Rising and his anti-heroic representation of its participants. So it is highly appropriate that the Abbey Theatre has chosen this play for a new production in 2016, the centenary of the Easter Rising. The commemoration of the Rising has been a time of reflection on all that has followed on from it—not only the War of Independence, partition, the Civil War, and the establishment of the Free State and later the Republic, but also the decades of economic hardship and mass emigration, the violence of thirty years of Troubles, membership in the European Union, the Celtic Tiger, and its collapse. The questions still resonate: what did the blood sacrifice achieve? Was the violence necessary? In the words of W.B. Yeats in his poem “Easter 1916,” “Was it needless death after all?”
Dr. Catherine McKenna is the Margaret Brooks Robinson Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures and Department Chair of the Harvard Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures.
Photos: Lloyd Cooney, Nyree Yergainharsian, James Hayes, and Ciarán O'Brien; Ros Kavanagh.
SEPTEMBER 24 OCTOBER 9, 2016
ABOUT THE ABBEY THEATRE
Directed by Sean Holmes, The Abbey Theatre's production of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars marks the centenary of Dublin's 1916 Easter Rising.
The Abbey Theatre is Ireland’s national theatre. It was founded by W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. Since it first opened its doors in 1904, the theater has played a vital and often controversial role in the literary, social, and cultural life of Ireland. In 1905, the Abbey Theatre first toured internationally and continues to be an ambassador for Irish arts and culture worldwide. The Abbey Theatre produces an annual program of diverse, engaging, innovative Irish and international theater, and invests in and promotes new Irish writers and artists. Over the years, the Abbey Theatre has nurtured and premiered the work of major playwrights such as J.M. Synge and Sean O’Casey as well as contemporary classics from Sebastian Barry, Marina Carr, Bernard Farrell, Brian Friel, Thomas Kilroy, Frank McGuinness, Tom MacIntyre, Tom Murphy, Mark O’Rowe, and Billy Roche. The Abbey Theatre also supports a new generation of Irish writers including Richard Dormer, Gary Duggan, Shaun Dunne, Stacey Gregg, Nancy Harris, David Ireland, Jimmy McAleavey, Owen McCafferty Phillip McMahon, Elaine Murphy, Sean P. Summers, Michael West, and Carmel Winters.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 13
14 2016/17 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR
SEAN HOLMES Sean Holmes, director of the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Plough and the Stars, is the Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith in London and has worked for the UK’s National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Royal Court, among others. Here, he talks about his contemporary approach to O’Casey’s classic.
Photo: Ros Kavanagh.
What approach did you take to directing this play? Obviously the play is about a historical event, and it’s set in 1916, but it’s also got to be relevant now. O’Casey actually wrote the play in 1926 and, of course, it’s as much about 1926 as it is about 1916. If you look at the play very simply, O’Casey takes an event which had already been slightly mythologized, and he says “This event is actually really complicated and complex,” and he shows that individuals behaved contradictorily from moment to moment— selfish and selfless, brave and cowardly. He puts that mess and those contradictions onstage. And I think that that’s what I’m trying to do. My approach is to try to be true to the spirit of O’Casey’s play whilst not worrying so much about the letter of the play. I suppose on a personal level, (you may have noticed I’m English, although I am called Sean—spelled the right way), the mischievous part of me also liked the idea of maybe doing it and slightly annoying everyone, because I think that the play really annoyed everyone originally. For you, especially as an Englishman, what is your view on the Easter Rising itself? My job is to deliver what I think O’Casey’s view is. I believe O’Casey definitely thinks that it was a complicated event in which people looted shops, in which civilians were killed, in which British soldiers killed innocent civilians, in which the rhetoric didn’t match the reality. I’m aware that Ireland is not my country, but I’ve got family here, and I used to come over as a kid, and everyone used to go to Mass. I think the really interesting question is the legacy of the Rising. It didn’t really achieve any aims, and it resulted in lots of innocent people dying, but the British response and the killing of the leaders led to a new political consciousness, which then led to independence in a very short time. You’ve also got a political party that have grown out of that movement, so you want to celebrate this thing, but also the consequences of celebrating it are really difficult. There are also people in the island of Ireland, dissident Republicans, who would say that they are in a direct line with the event, and the state is really uncomfortable with that. That’s why it is exciting to do the play, because of its complexity and its contradictions.
Ciarán O'Brien (The Young Covey), Sean Holmes (Director) and Ian-Lloyd Anderson (Jack Clitheroe) during rehearsals
Your production includes a range of modern aspects, from costumes to set and lighting. Is there a risk of the more modern production compromising the authenticity of the original plot and purpose of the play? I don’t think those choices do anything to the plot; the story is intrinsically the same. If you said to somebody “What’s the style of The Plough and the Stars?" They’d probably say it’s naturalism. But actually, the more you look at it, it’s not, really. It’s about presentation and performance. A number of the characters speak about themselves in the third person—every thirty seconds. There’s a weird obsession with image, which is partly a response to poverty and partly a response to being occupied, which makes people powerless. People want to give themselves agency and status, which become about performance. So you have a play about performance, which is being performed. And the characters are wearing modern clothes so we can understand who they are. But when Jack finds out that he is in the Citizen Army, he puts on their 1916 uniform. When I bring the British soldiers on at the end, they wear modern battledress—like you see from Afghanistan or Iraq on the news. And they are English because the play is partly about Britain as well, and you know, I live in a country that is still involved in imperialist wars.
What’s important is that we don’t just create a different naturalism, which is 2016 naturalism. What elements of stagecraft do you make use of to challenge the audience to engage with the themes, or to enhance the subject matter or message of the play? In our production of this play, we address much of it directly to the audience. The first gesture of the play is acknowledging the audience is there. The other element of stagecraft would be trying not to get tied into naturalism and trying to find a way to break these selfimposed barriers that we build, like imagining a fourth wall. Finally, what would you say to your actors before a performance? The objective of the play is: this is what we believe about this material, at this moment in time. And we’re presenting it to you. What do you think? Then that’s the thing to go on with, that confidence: do we believe in what we’re doing? We do. Then let’s go on, look everyone in the whites of their eyes, and let’s win.
Interview by Ciara Walsh & Matthew Connaughton. This interview was originally published by the Abbey Theatre.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 15
English monarchs had ruled Ireland since 1541, when Henry VIII was crowned King of Ireland (prior to that, Ireland had been a papal property of the English crown). In 1800, The Acts of Union abolished the Irish Parliament and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Over the 19th century, competing nationalist and Home Rule movements sought a return of self-government through social, legal, and revolutionary means. In 1914, the Home Rule Act restored selfgovernment to Ireland; however, as World War I broke out, its implementation was continually postponed. (In that conflict, more than 200,000 Irishmen fought in the British Army.) Against the chaotic backdrop of the conflict, nationalist groups collaborated to plan an armed insurrection against British rule.
MONDAY EASTER SUNDAY
April 23, 1916: The Rising has initially been planned for this day; however, two days prior, British troops seize a German ship carrying arms destined for the Irish Volunteer forces. In response to the loss of these much-needed munitions, Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill attempts to call off the Rising. As would-be fighters continue to arrive in Dublin despite MacNeill’s warnings, however, Patrick Pearse and other leaders decide to postpone the Rising to the following day and proceed.
THE EASTER RISING
April 24, 1916: The Rising begins in Dublin. Forces from the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers occupy key locations around the city. They establish strongholds at the General Post Office (GPO), St. Stephen’s Green, City Hall, Boland’s Mills, Four Courts, and other central landmarks. Patrick Pearse reads the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and raises the Irish tricolor above the GPO.
April 25, 1916: Initially taken by surprise, British authorities declare martial law and mount a military response to the Rising. British troops establish a cordon around the city center and mass in Dublin Castle. A firefight drives Irish Volunteers from St. Stephen’s Green. Pearse calls upon citizens to support the Rising with his Manifesto to the Citizens of Dublin. A mob begins to loot several prominent Dublin shops.
April 26, 1916: British military response intensifies. General Maxwell departs London under command to restore order by any means necessary. Gunships and field artillery shell remaining Volunteer strongholds, including the GPO. In an encounter known as the Battle of Mount Street Bridge, Irish Volunteers inflict heavy casualties on the British. James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army fly their flag, the “Starry Plough,” over the Imperial Hotel.
A TIMELINE FRIDAY MAY 1916
After courts-martial conducted in secret and without defense counsel, Patrick Pearse and 14 other leaders of the Rising (including all seven signatories of the Proclamation) are executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol. (James Connolly is shot while tied to a chair, unable to stand due to a shattered ankle).
April 29, 1916: Pearse accepts unconditional surrender. After 485 fatalities (a majority of them civilian), over 2,500 wounded, and over 1,500 prisoners taken to British internment camps, the Rising concludes.
April 28, 1916: British forces now reach around 18,000, greatly outnumbering the approximately 1,600 Irish Volunteers. When a fire caused by shelling starts to spread, Pearse orders the evacuation of the GPO. Tunneling through the walls of adjacent buildings, the Volunteers begin a bloody final retreat.
April 27, 1916: Irish Volunteers make strong showings at several locations, but more British troops arrive and begin inflicting heavy casualties, including civilian deaths and extensive destruction of buildings. Pearse announces (fictitiously) that the Provinces have risen in support of the Rising in order to rally the troops still stationed in the GPO.
After the executions, resentment towards British rule grows. Martial law is enforced until November of 1916, and a broad nationalist coalition forms under the banner of Sinn Féin, formalized in October 1917. Fueled by outrage at an attempted forced conscription by the increasingly troop-strapped British Army, Sinn Féin sweeps parliamentary elections in 1918. They form the Dáil Éireann, a revolutionary parliament, and adopt the Irish Declaration of Independence on January 21, 1919. The Irish Republican Army, led by Michael Collins, mounts the guerilla War for Independence. After two years of fighting and over 2,000 fatalities, the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed, granting independence to 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties.
Timeline Prepared by Kevin Lombard and Robert Duffley. Sources: The City and the Rising (Dublin City Council, 2016), “Neighbours across the sea: A brief history of Anglo-Irish relations” (BBC, 2014), “The Executed Leaders of the 1916 Rising” (Department of the Taoiseach, 2013), “1916 Necrology 485” (Glasnevin Trust, 2015). "Riots and Risings" Sources: Robert Lowery, Ed., A Whirlwind in Dublin (Praeger, 1984); John Houchin, Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge UP, 2009); Elinor Hughes, "The Plough and the Stars," Boston Herald, June 3, 1955 (archived at Harvard's Houghton Library). Research contributed by Kevin Lombard and Matthew Munroe.
Ian-Lloyd Anderson (Jack Clitheroe), Lloyd Cooney (Liet. Langon) and Liam Heslin (Capt. Brennan) in The Plough and the Stars.
RIOTS AND RISINGS
Photos: Dublin Bread Company after the Easter Rising, 1916; National Library of Ireland on the Commons. The Plough and the Stars; Ros Kavanagh
by Robert Duffley Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars premiered in February 1926 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Opening nearly a full decade after the 1916 Easter Rising, the play brought the rebellion’s divisive legacy directly onstage at the new Republic’s national theater. For several years already, O’Casey had been a favorite son of the Abbey Theatre. In The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and Juno and the Paycock (1924), O’Casey had established himself as the brilliant voice of a new generation. Weaving a passionate lyricism from contemporary street speech, he helped to bring the inhabitants of Dublin's tenements—and their struggles in famine, war, and grinding poverty— into the national spotlight. In The Plough and the Stars, though, O'Casey's skepticism for easy narratives of heroism cut dangerously close to stories newly enshrined in national mythology. In a 1924 letter to Abbey Theatre co-founder Lady Gregory, O'Casey called the work "my most ambitious play." Lady Gregory was eager to produce it after reading an early draft, but some of the Abbey Theatre's other leaders felt that O'Casey's ambition had carried him too far. The Abbey Theatre's Board of Directors' initial objections centered on claims of vulgarity. In a 1925 letter listing his complaints, George O'Brien wrote that "the vituperative vocabulary of some characters occasionally runs away with itself." He objected specifically to indelicate references to religion, references to lice, sexual expressions, and the inclusion of Rosie Redmond, a prostitute, in the cast of characters. Michael Dolan, another board member, agreed, writing to Lady Gregory that "At any time I would think twice before having anything to do with it. The language is—to use an Abbey phrase—'beyond the beyonds.'" With Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats' continued support, however, the play was brought to production with minor edits. On stage, O'Casey's irreverence proved combustible. At opening night, the playwright received a standing ovation and largely positive reviews, but signs of trouble became evident as
word about the production spread. Audiences objected not so much to vulgar language in its own right, but to O'Casey's unceremonious treatment of national icons. Audiences eager to see the Rising depicted in a positive light began to organize against the production. Resentment built specifically around Act II, in which two Volunteers carry an Irish tricolor into a pub. At the second performance, Kevin Holloway (the Abbey Theatre's architect and a passionate theatergoer) recorded that, during the pub scene, "the pit door had to be shut in order to avoid a rush on it." At the third performance, audiences audibly protested both the appearance of the flag and the presence of Rosie Redmond. At the fourth performance, on February 11, these premonitions of trouble exploded. During Act II, the audience began to heckle so loudly that they drowned out the speech of the actors onstage. In Act III, a mob of audience members— led by Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and a group of other widows of Easter Week—succeeded in rushing the stage. According to a report by the Manchester Guardian, a general melee erupted in the theater. Actors halted their performance to try and force the intruding audience members offstage, while theater staff attempted to lower the curtain. They were not successful: more audience members rushing onstage ripped it down. The Guardian reported that, in addition to these onstage altercations, "the pandemonium created a panic among a section of the audience, who dashed for the exits and added to the confusion"—with more fighting breaking out along the way. The melee was finally interrupted when Yeats, accompanied by police officers, took the stage. Referencing the then-legendary riots which had greeted the 1907 premiere of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, Yeats waved the crowd to quiet and shouted (reportedly), “I thought you had got tired of this. It commenced fifteen years ago. You have disgraced yourselves again. Is this to be an ever-occurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius? Once more you have rocked the
cradle of genius....The fame of O'Casey is born tonight.” With the help of the police, order was restored in the house, and the play closed its scheduled week-long run with only minor further disruptions (police were stationed in the house for each performance). Following the riot, however, a war of words erupted in the “Letters to the Editor” sections of many papers across the country. For weeks, Catholics, feminists, veterans, critics, and O’Casey himself battled in print about the right of the theater to depict the Rising in a less-thanholy light. The debate spilled into larger themes, including the overall artistic merits of O’Casey’s work. The print battle concluded in an in-person debate between O’Casey and Hanna SheehySkeffington. Crippled by ill health, O’Casey performed poorly, leaving the controversy largely unresolved. A remount in May 1926 was greeted with threats, protests, and stink bombs released in the theater. Despite (or perhaps, as Yeats forecasted, fueled by) these scandals, O'Casey's fame both in Ireland and abroad continued to grow. The Plough and the Stars had successful subsequent runs in London, and the play made its U.S. debut in 1927, performed by the Irish Players in New York City. That production was followed by four Broadway revivals between 1934 and 1973, and a 1936 film by John Ford. The Plough and the Stars debuted in Boston in 1935 at the Hollis Theatre, produced by the Abbey Theatre Players and featuring actors from the Dublin premiere. (Earlier in 1935, Boston Mayor Frederick W. Mansfield bowed to complaints from religious groups and banned the Abbey Theatre's production of O'Casey's Within the Gates, slated to premiere at the Shubert Theatre.) As this brief production history suggests, O'Casey's play marks more than the events (or a single perspective on the events) of the Easter Rising. A century since that event, the Rising's mixed legacy lives on in both the play itself and in its larger history. Robert Duffley is A.R.T. Publications & Artistic Programs Associate.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 17
SPOTLIGHT PROCLAMATION 4: BORDERS/ BOUNDARIES Proclamation is back for a fourth year, bringing together high-school students for a tuition-free, eight-week writing and performance lab at the A.R.T. Greater Boston teens collaborate with their peers, professional A.R.T. artists, and Harvard scholars to make vivid, original theater. Ten students are selected each fall to participate in a paid ensemble theater program, culminating in a performance at the A.R.T.â€™s second stage, OBERON. Applications are currently open to rising high-school juniors and seniors for Proclamation 4: Borders/ Boundaries, exploring the visible and invisible borders we encounter on a daily basis. Weeknight rehearsals kick off on September 13, culminating in a special touring performance on November 15 and a performance at OBERON on November 16. For all things Proclamation, including application and performance info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and visit americanrepertorytheater.org/ proclamation.
18 2016/17 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
Proclamation invites high school students to collaborate on a paid, eight-week writing and performance lab on contemporary themes.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 19
Photos: Proclamation 2; Gretjen Helene Photography; Proclamation 3; Evgenia Eliseeva.
N O R E B O s t n e s e Pr
20 2016/17 Season cluboberon.com
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Photo: We’re Gonna Die: Evgenia Eliseeva. A Ride on the Irish Cream; Ian Douglas. The Donkey Show: Kolin Perry.
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N O R E B GLOW C I M E H T S E K A T GLOWBERON is a collaboration between OBERON, A.R.T.’s second stage and club theater, and the Afterglow Festival, Provincetown’s live performance arts festival of both renowned and under-the-radar innovative stage artists. A.R.T. Director of Special Projects and OBERON Producer Ari Barbanell and founder of the Afterglow Festival Quinn Cox talk about longterm collaboration, the legacy of cabaret and solo performance, and founding the series, now in its second season at OBERON.
Quinn, what should we know about the Afterglow Festival? Quinn Cox: The Afterglow Festival is a liveperformance festival of stage artists, who create over a broad spectrum of forms, that happens every year in Provincetown. Afterglow honors Provincetown’s theatrical heritage as the birthplace of modern American theater—it was home to writers like Eugene O’Neill and Susan Glaspell and the Provincetown Players—by being an incubator, a developmental entity, and a producing agent for new work, particularly when it comes to the solo play form. And how did you two come up with the GLOWBERON concept? Ari Barbanell: Quinn had connected with us and performed at OBERON with Justin Vivian Bond (2010) and his own tandem act, Starsky + Cox, and brought us artists like Bridget Everett (2013), so we’ve been programming together for years. It was a natural evolution, and at least four years ago we started talking about the partnership that would become GLOWBERON. We both feel that OBERON should be the Boston/Cambridge hub for these amazing artists. They’re creating social experiences and incredible performances that are right for the club theater model. Both OBERON and Afterglow are working to meet and cultivate new artists and cook new projects. Considering how long you’ve worked together and how many artists you’ve both worked with, how did you choose the performances and artists that would join the GLOWBERON family? QC: Ari knows her audience, and I put together a list of people who have performed at Afterglow. We wanted to bring artists with mainstream appeal who also push the boundaries—last season we had spoken word poetry and hiphop with Sage Francis, Molly Pope’s neoBroadway through an acid lens, the absurd and postmodern Erin Markey, and Stella Starsky’s solo play.
22 2016/17 Season cluboberon.com
A fixture of New York's vibrant downtown performance scene for over 30 years, cabaret icon Joey Arias will perform at OBERON on Novermber 3, 2016.
AB: What I found exciting last season and even more so this season is the mix of emerging artists and iconic, established artists. Having Joey Arias here is incredible—he’s an icon, and he’s building new work just like everybody else. QC: Performers like Joey Arias, Penny Arcade, Justin Vivian Bond, and Taylor Mac who have now been around for decades are still evolving what live performance means. Joey is a totally pure theatrical experience. He’s never scripted, so we never know what’s going to happen. We have a counterpoint in Lady Rizo, who gives us a classy, Shirley-Bassey-iconic songstress throwback with the glamour, the gowns, the hair, and yet she’s totally down and dirty. Plus you have emerging artists like Dane Terry, Johnny Blazes, and Brian King. AB: Dane Terry is one to watch, and he hasn’t played solo in Boston before. He sets the right tone to start this series—an incredible force.
QC: You feel like he’s taking up the whole stage even though he doesn’t leave his piano bench. AB: Johnny Blazes and Brian King are local rising stars who both have lives at OBERON and Afterglow. It was a perfect fit to bring them together for this project. QC: I don’t think they’ve ever created a show together. For all of these artists, our mandate is to create something new. It’s important to us not to see something we’ve seen before. AB: We’re showcasing what is emerging, what is iconic in the field, and all of the work is new. OBERON is meant to be an incubator, Afterglow is meant to be an incubator, and we’re doing that while providing high-quality, accessible performances to the audience. That’s what GLOWBERON is.
Interview by Brenna Nicely, A.R.T. Education & Community Programs Manager
“It’s like if Annie Dillard had her own show on HGTV.” —THE MILLIONS
HAMMER HEAD The Making of a Carpenter
Photo: Joey Arias; Santiago Felipe.
B W. W. NORTON & COMPANY
Independent Publishers Since 1923 • Wherever Books are Sold americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 23
Our Carnal Hearts, Rachel Mars' gleeful musical celebration of our competitive spirits, plays at OBERON November 9 - 12, 2016.
24 2016/17 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
#ENVY An Interview with Our Carnal Hearts Creator Rachel Mars The creation of UK-based performance artist Rachel Mars, Our Carnal Hearts is a passionate act of exorcism. The show calls envy—in all its personal and political guises—into the spotlight through a medley of folk tales, Tweets, contemporary personalities, and song. Here, Rachel Mars talks about the show and its creation. At the beginning of the show, you offer “a welcome to the ugly parts of ourselves we’d never normally admit.” What are those “ugly parts” that the show is trying to express? The issues in it are dark—it’s about envy and competition—but the experience of being in the show as an audience is joyous and cathartic. I feel that envy has been pushed into a shameful place. We’re in a competitive market that necessarily makes us compete with each other, and then we feel surprised or unprepared when we feel envy. I felt there were no public spaces to talk about that. So the show calls on these uncomfortable feelings that we normally sit alone with, combined with the very public act of being in a singing space all together. There’s a joyful intersection for me in that.
Photo: Our Carnal Hearts; Christopher Shea.
An unlikely ensemble tells this story—there’s an anonymous arsonist, a vicious fairy, and Dr. Phil, among others. What bridges these multiple storylines? On a very basic level, me, as the teller who leads you quite carefully through them. And thematically, they’re all in some way about competition, so those figures return throughout the show. They’re something of a Greek chorus, because they’re embodied voices in costume. It feels like we’re a team of spiritual oddballs who have come to your town to express something, or help you express something. That singing space includes a chorus seated among the audience, in a square with you at the center. Where does that arrangement come from? It’s from the Sacred Harp singing tradition, from the southern states. All the vocal parts sit together in separate sections. It produces a really loud sound—it’s singing without care for the noise. It’s about joyfulness and the act of being together. Maybe we should state that there’s a choral arrangement, but the audience isn’t handed a
songbook when they come in. Not at all. There are some lovely classical singers performing with me. You only have to sing as an audience a couple of times, and if you don’t, it’s fine. I’m not a malevolent figure who will force you into audience participation. There’s a song which is horribly infectious—people go away singing it—called “The Humblebrag Song” that is made up of people’s posts from Twitter and Facebook. Singing them all together does feel like it slightly removes their power over us. Do you view social media as a modern source of envy? In the old days they’d say, “envy is caused by low garden fences,” because they let you see what everyone else has. And I think social media is about really, really low garden fences. Except you’re not actually seeing the garden; you’re just seeing a picture of the garden the way they wanted to show it you. They’re not showing the shit rubble underneath it. I do think social media has a place, but we are so often on our own when we consume it. So the internal discomfort around it is deeply personal, deeply solo, and then becomes deeply shameful. Because you have no one to turn to and say, “Oh, these people are bastards! I’m so happy for them, but…!” The whole show is trying to make a public space for these admissions so that the system doesn’t have silent control over us anymore. I suppose on an epic scale, that’s the project of the show: to recognize the way that we’re acted on and to take a more active way of resisting it. To say, “Yes, I am a part of this system. It’s uncomfortable.” In addition to the stories of the play, there are certainly many examples in the news about what happens when we don’t admit these feelings, and they become incendiary. Absolutely. And incendiary is really the thing. I first started thinking about the issues in the show around the London Riots in 2011. There’s an arsonist character who directly came from that disquiet. I think they were partly catalyzed by the anger of inequality, I think. Which then led to looting—to desperate acts of acquiring stuff. Envy seems to be a general or thematic word, but I’m hearing you connect it to inequality, which seems like such a specific, political word. Politicians use envy to cover up inequality.
When people in the 99% are uprising or angry with the 1% who have disproportionate wealth, then politicians often say “oh, it’s the politics of envy.” It’s not—it’s the system, and it’s the fact that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider and wider. So I hope that that sentiment and that argument come across in the show, in a funny, poetic fashion. You’ve used found texts, from Twitter to the words of Boris Johnson, Margaret Thatcher, and roller derby in a number of shows. What excites you as an artist about these realworld texts? I suppose it’s the idea of a public language being present at a particular time. When I have done shows using found text, it’s often about juxtaposition, about slamming two things together. One show used speeches by Margaret Thatcher matched chronologically with the lyrics of the highest-selling single by a woman in that week, matched week for week— Margaret Thatcher rhetoric and Madonna or Whitney Houston for example. It’s based on this idea that the language was in the public domain, in the air at the same time. We can’t see it, but this is the language that we’re surrounded by all the time, and surely we internalize it, and it does something to us. So I suppose the show is an attempt to solidify it and make it visible. And I was really taken with singing as quite a kind of act of resistance, in many ways, to the individualism that we’re headed for, or that we’ve been in since Thatcher and Reagan. What should people bring to the show, however you choose to interpret that? Come how you are, and I think part of the job of the piece, actually, is to make a community out of the people who have arrived for it. I’m not pretending you’re not there; this isn’t a space where there’s a kitchen sink and we all pretend like it’s real. It’s got a very definite kind of immediate contact between me and everyone. Come prepared to have fun, and be slightly provoked, perhaps. And if nothing else, you’ll hear some very beautiful singing. Not by me. By trained people.
Interview by Robert Duffley, A.R.T. Publications & Artistic Programs Associate
cluboberon.com 2016/17 Season 25
S T N E I D E R G RADICAL IN G THEATER FOR MAKIN UDIENCES FOR SMALL A by finkle
t. is a radical ac all audiences of 5. sm r ce fo en r di te au ea rience for an icipating in th pe rt ex pa l d ve r for an te no g c ea Creatin graphi ve make th ★ is a musical nts that I belie ie ed gr in My piece U R y ke 5’s, here are 5 Sticking with sgressive. onderfully tran w s ce en di au l al sm
Theater for small audiences redefines, deepens, and challenges the relationship an audience has to a performance. While in typical theater the audience gets to disappear into the darkness, in a small space the audience, though not necessarily performing, must more actively meet the needs of the experience. In the case of U R ★, the audience participates in the performance in order for the show to happen. This engenders a heightened awareness of themselves and their fellow audience (fostering COMMUNITY! And EMPATHY!) that is in intentional opposition to our fractured, impersonal, fast-paced world.
Inherent Dramatic Question
The small audience by its very nature creates a palpable tension, which is inherently theatrical. A dramatic question is more present between the performance, performer, and the audience. Audience enters a show with questions like: • What are the rules of this space? • Who are these people sitting next to me? • Why is this piece for so few people? • How will I have to participate? Audience is thrust into immediate conflict, immediate action.
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In a larger space, audiences frequently forget about trust. A large space has an established order that seems safe. But when audience comes to theater for small audience it is typically in an unconventional location. Trust must be established between artist and audience in a more direct and conscious way.
Theater for small audiences is extraordinarily impractical. Questions of financial feasibility are part of the experience for both creator and audience. • How much did it cost to make? • What is everyone getting paid? • How much have I paid for this experience? It is an act of defiance against a society that embraces things that are big, loud, and showy to create something on a smaller scale. (Something small can still be loud and showy, can’t it?) It seems almost anti-capitalist.
Time, Timing, Mistakes, and Awkwardness
In the best theatrical experiences, time flies by. In the worst…well, we’ve all been there. In theater for small audiences, time awareness is heightened. The creator is responsible for setting time in a way that is both specific and malleable. The myriad of ways that individuals experience and process must be taken into account. Particularly if the piece is task-based or requires audiences to take action. Time must be given to allow for something to fall apart, for something to go wrong, for a mistake to made. An awkward exchange between audience members, between audience and artist, between audience and art is exhilaratingly, radically human.
Kenny Finkle's plays include: Indoor/Outdoor Alive and Well, Penelope of Ithaca, Transatlantica, A Thousand Years, Josh Keenan Comes Out to the World, and Syd Arthur. Over the last 3 years, Finkle has been developing a series of nontraditional theatrical works with music and visual art entitled HEART MUST RACE. U R ★ is the first piece in the series. It has been developed with support from the Orchard Project and the A.R.T. It will be presented at OBERON as part of the Mini Series Oct. 10 - Nov. 6, 2016.
MEET A BOARD MEMBER The A.R.T. is fortunate to have a loyal group of supporters who contribute generously to help the theater thrive. Our board members are instrumental in helping us fulfill our mission of expanding the boundaries of theater.
How/when did you become involved with the A.R.T.? We became A.R.T. subscribers when we lived near Cambridge around 1990. I liked how every show made me look at the world in a different way. When we moved back to Boston, we eventually became subscribers again, and I joined the board in 2008.
Why do you choose to support the A.R.T.? What makes our mission meaningful to you personally?
Photo: (Left) The Garden, by Nicole Canuso Dance Company; (Right) Gavin Creel in Prometheus Bound; Marcus Stern.
SARAH HANCOCK Sarah Hancock, a former software engineer for IBM, Programart, and Compuware, Inc., recently produced the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Women of Will at the Gym at Judson and Bedlam's awardwinning Off-Broadway productions of Saint Joan and Hamlet at the Lynn Redgrave Theater. Sarah serves on the board of several nonprofit organizations in Boston and the Berkshires. For the A.R.T. Board of Trustees, Sarah serves in a number of pivotal roles: she currently chairs the Audit and Compensation Committees, and is also a member of the Executive and Conflict of Interest Committees.
In the early days, I just had a desire to support a cultural institution that I enjoyed. As I’ve become more involved, it’s a bit more specific. I’ve been on the Strategic Planning Committee, and I’ve been on the Finance Committee as the theater has grown and matured. I feel a responsibility to help keep the momentum going.
How does your professional background inform the work you do with the A.R.T.?
I never would have guessed that being a software quality assurance specialist would inform my work as a Trustee. It turns out my professional skills—being able to look at both the big picture and every detail, asking questions, testing things from every angle, being able to politely point out problems and focus on solutions—are skills that are very valuable in my work with the A.R.T.
What has been your favorite A.R.T. production? It’s so hard to choose just one! I tend to like the off-beat, quirky plays, like Trojan Barbie and Prometheus Bound. My all-time favorite, though, is still Cardenio. It was a jewel of a show.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the A.R.T.? It’s never a good idea to ask the Chair of the Audit Committee about hopes & dreams. We tend to just hope for clean audits—which we get every year—kudos to the finance team behind the scenes! Beyond that, I feel that the A.R.T. is growing into its potential as a leader in the field of theater—taking on challenging topics, trying out innovative marketing tactics, developing the next generation of theater professionals. It’s all very exciting.
Outside of theater, what are your passions & hobbies?
I love to travel, sometimes to rather off-beat places such as Greenland, or New Guinea. A recent highlight was ringing in the new year with my kids in Antarctica!
What’s your biggest “A.R.T. insider tip”? OBERON. There’s so much going on. It’s been really fun to see pieces in development there that end up on the mainstage later. This season’s Trans Scripts is an example of that.
The 2016 Gala featured a performance by Matthew Morrison and the Boston Children's Chorus.
(L-R) 2016 A.R.T. Angel Anne Finucane and A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, A.R.T. Board Chair Steve Johnson and Trustee Paul Buttenwieser, Friends and supporters of the A.R.T., Matthew Morrison with 2016 Gala Co-Chairs Linda & John Henry, 2016 Gala Co-Chairs RoAnn Costin and Maureen & Mike Sheehan.
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Co-chaired by RoAnn Costin, Linda and John Henry, and Maureen and Mike Sheehan, the 2016 Gala featured a special performance by Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe-nominated artist Matthew Morrison, who starred as J.M Barrie in the A.R.T.’s production of Finding Neverland on Broadway, as well as an appearance by the Boston Children’s Chorus. The evening also included the presentation of the A.R.T. Angel Award to Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman for Bank of America. A champion of the A.R.T. and the entire Boston arts community, Anne has worked tirelessly to elevate the arts and make the cultural resources of the city accessible to all. Anne received this award in recognition of and in gratitude for the enormous impact she has had on the theater and in our community. The Gala is the A.R.T.'s largest fundraising event of the year, raising critical funds that support the theater’s artistic programming as well as its Education Experience and Community Connections initiatives. The 2017 Gala will be held at the Citi Wang Theatre on Monday, February 27, 2017. RoAnn Costin will receive the annual Angel Award and the event will feature a performance by Laura Michelle Kelly, beloved by audiences for her portrayal of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland at the Loeb Drama Center and on Broadway.
Photos: Liza Voll.
1865 Revere beach parkway Everett MA (617) 389-7000 www.parkwaycycle.com
americanrepertorytheater.org 2016/17 Season 29
C A M B R I D G E , MA $4,875,000
email@example.com / www.gailroberts.com / 617 245-4044
Building Community One Home at a Time Supporting: The Mt. Auburn Hospital, US Fund for UNICEF, The Guidance Center, Huntington Theatre Company, The Cambridge Jazz Festival, and Cambridge Community Foundation
Published on Aug 15, 2016
Includes articles on Anna Deavere Smith's "Notes from the Field," the Abbey Theatre's "The Plough and the Stars," and special OBEORN events.