If you haven’t noticed, Flagstaff is experiencing a major theater boom. Theatrikos is the community theater located downtown where people make theater happen on a volunteer basis. They have a studio series and TheatriKids is growing in talent more and more each year with an entire season of shows to itself. That’s not to mention Alpine Community Theater, another option for kids, and Crooked Figure Theater Company, NAU’s summer stock theater, as well as Arizona Adventure Theatre.
I’ve had recent experience with the Flagstaff Shakespeare Company. After studying theater at The Evergreen State College, AMDA and the University of Arizona and interning for the NY Neo Futurists and South London Theatre, I continued acting in NYC, Virginia, Guam and eventually back home in Flagstaff where, after several Theatrikos shows and a staged Flag Shakes reading, I played Hindl in Flag Shakes’ production of God of Vengeance.
Following the show’s close (played in repertory with Indecent), in a conversation between the cast and members of the community, we talked about the main character, who is a Jewish man living with his daughter above the brothel he owns and operates. The idea of purity and piety around Jewish people and in the Torah pulses throughout the play. There was some concern about whether or not this play should be put on in our community. The father was a violent, abusive man. This concern revolved around the fact that, with recent (and seemingly constant) anti-Semitism in the world (and Islamophobia, even in our own communities), perhaps the father, or anyone representing the religion, should be seen in a perfect light. Or, at least, a good light. This good portrayal should supersede any truth or layered reality that more purely aligns with our messy human experience.
One side argues that we can’t afford any more negative views of Jewish people because of the violent discrimination against them, so we need to tell stories that portray them as good people. On the other side, as valued and respected humans, Jewish people have the right to be portrayed and written about and seen and discussed in full dimension. They—and we all—have the right to be seen in full and not just as a paragon.
If you saw a play about a transgender youth who was a bratty, selfish, lazy, careless and cruel person you may think, “Yikes—this is the last thing we need right now. We need to see how amazing our transgender youth can be, how helpful, what they have overcome.”
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Do you believe that? Or do you believe the audience has a right to see all people in all ways? Does timing matter, and, if so, what’s the timeline? Don’t people also have a right to be seen in a bad light? Or is that right taken from them because of current events, racism, bigotry and phobias? What about the Jewish rapist? What about the transgender murderer? The Islamic doctor with a malpractice suit?
The only oppressed group that I can join is that of women—and tack single mother onto that. Otherwise I am straight, white, cisgender and even Christian. If you are unlucky enough to follow me on social media, you’ll know that I am the queen of oversharing. I’m one of the few who don’t present my life to be perfect. I share life the way it appears to me in full, raw too-much-information detail. I do this partly because I’m a writer, partly because I’m a lonely single mom and partly because I don’t have a lot of other vices like drinking or smoking and partying. Above all, though, because of my privilege, I do it because I can.
I’m not typically thought of as dangerous or someone to worry about. I blend in. I have the privilege to be seen in full, to have really bad days—and to share them on Facebook.
Emotional expression, both in real life and on social media, is something I’d also like to see men doing more often. Stop calling people who express deep emotion crazy. And just imagine for a minute the idea that certain groups don’t have to be seen as paragons. Where people can see an individual and say they are not representing a gender or a race or a religion, they are just an individual who has a unique story worth being told.
Speaking of stories being told, Flag Shakes’ The Winter’s Tale opens Friday at The Museum of Northern Arizona. This female-based version tells the story of a ruler gone mad, yet somehow, because it’s Shakespeare, you’ll find this story of banishing babies to the woods and imprisoning pregnant wives less controversial than God of Vengeance for which the actors were arrested when it debuted in the U.S. Hmm...