How It’s New York: 9/11 will always be associated with New York, and a lot of the political theatre attempts to deal with it happened here too. Everybody’s sending around their reminiscences of 9/11, so I will too. Some of my 9/11 memories are embedded in this article about sentimental political theatre I wrote for the Portugese Journal Obscena in 2007. It is a rant but in its own way it honors 9/11. When things are really important they should be treated with honor and dignity.
How It’s Irish: Irish playwrights fall into this trap too, unfortunately (less about Iraq than Israel, but that’s a whol ‘nother topic).
Since I’m guessing most of you don’t read Portugese, I’m uploading my original word doc. Political theatre in this country for a long while after 9/11 was all very guilt ridden, often false as the day is long as playwrights tried to imagine life from the perspective of an Iraqi.
But before the political theatre rant– some more on me an 9/11:
|Sigmund the Cat|
The real reason I was in New Jersey on 9/11: my cat Sigmund, who had Squamous Cell Carcinoma, took a turn for the worse on 9/9.
We had to send him Over the Rainbow Bridge on 9/10, and knowing I wouldn’t want to fly that same day, I changed my ticket to 9/11. I have always believed that somehow Sigmund arranged it so that I’d be in New Jersey with my family on the awful day (and yes, I know how that sounds). I would have panicked if I’d been in Montgomery, Alabama, where I was living then.
[pullquote]From our house in Millburn, you could smell the towers burning—fifteen miles and a river away. [/pullquote]We actually first found out what was happening from friends in England– my mother was online emailing a Cat Newsgroup (I know, I know) about Sigmund when someone there mentioned it. She asked my father had a plane struck the World Trade Center? No, he said, reading the paper, you’d hear about that. A few minutes later she said “here’s another post, let’s turn on the television.” We did, and saw the second tower come down live. It was a gorgeous day, one of those perfect September days. There was an eerie silence because the airports were closed, interrupted by government planes buzzing the coast. I wondered, is this the day the world ends?
My father, Leo Orel, who was a World War II vet, was shaken up. There was a candlelight vigil on my street and we joined it. My dad even carried a candle and was eager to go out, and this was not like him. He looked around for a flagpole stand in the yard.
It’s hard to explain now the impulse to put up and wear flags but it was something beautiful, not something aggressive as it often is here. It was somehow a way of joining together.
9/11 is the reason there is a flag sticker on our front door. To decode what it means you need to picture my dad sadly standing there.
Staging a response to 9/11
Rally Round the War, Boys—THAW
Performing the Rachel Corrie debate
“I can’t help but frame this argument as one of anti-Semitism: it appears to my already admittedly paranoid mind that the anti-Semitism in this country is so deeply ingrained that there is actual contempt for Jews objecting to a play that they feel—rightly or wrongly—is anti-Semitic, and a cry of censorship is raised when the play is shut down because of it. On the other hand, if a group of African-Americans shut down a play they felt was racist, we would be cheering.”
“pretty much totally uninterested in the recent spate of plays that espouse the politics of obviousness—a politics that I largely agree with, but for which I do not go the theater. Now, I’ve heard that pieces like Guantanamo and The Exonerated did great work in drawing attention to underreported issues, and that’s terrific, but I already listen to ‘Democracy Now’ every day.”
“do we honestly think that anybody in the department of defense is going to say oh, the theatre people care, so let’s just stop? The Jihadists will say, oh Western theatre wants us to stop, so let’s just stop?”
Projecting and Profiting from Bush
“I actually feel that Havel’s plays have absolutely nothing to do with the political situation in the US or anywhere else….I worry that he (Havel) is being used by all of us ‘good theatre liberals’ to further our own agenda… (Hey, he publicly supported the invasion of Iraq – how about it for all of us good anti-bushistas?)”
Political Playwright Possibilities, and Potential Progress
Maybe things are changing. Or maybe we’re just plain bored. But the tide is turning.