By Bri Schwartz, Event Coordinator
Graphic by Klaire Brezinski
“Real artists are always waiting for a revolution. When that day comes, they will be the ones who speak for the masses.”
When a 14 year old Bri heard this come out of her theatre teacher’s mouth, she was inspired. She made it her goal to do everything she could to be ready for a moment of revolution. She assumed the revolution would exist in the very distant future. She had a vision of her 30-year-old-self who holds an MFA in directing and years worth of grassroots activist work, waking up one morning to news of a revolution and ready to go into battle. She would be all set. She would know exactly what to do. She would use her art to speak for the masses.
14-year-old Bri did not think that 19-year-old Bri would be existing in a revolution. Heck, 19 year old Bri can barely get out of bed in the morning and walk across the street for her 9:40 Dramatic Theory class. She did not wake up ready for a revolution on November 8th. The morning of November 9th, 19-year-old Bri couldn’t go 10 minutes without crying her eyes out.
The minute Donald Trump was elected our 45th president, artists, activists, and citizens alike joined forces. Their individual revolutions soon became one. People from all different backgrounds have come together for protests and marches. Those with the platforms to speak to masses spoke volumes. Mainstream entertainment is doing what they can. Actors such as Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin have taken on the Trump persona in performance; the cast of Broadway’s Hamilton spoke to the vice president directly.
It took me a little longer than expected to get over the general shock of what was happening. However, when I was ready, I was ready. I thought to myself “How do I make change without screaming into the void? How do I bring people together through theatre and art?”
My high school theatre teacher added me to a Facebook group called Bad and Nasty, where I became connected with artists like me. This article was supposed to cover Bad and Nasty: Not My President’s Day Chicago Edition, an event that I organized as the Grappler event planner along with other Chicago theatre activists.
The group bio reads: “Bad and Nasty (aka Bad Hombres and Nasty Woman) is a loose knit coalition of artists, activists, media makers, theatre folk, web geeks, designers, performers, writers, and concerned citizens, and [whatever YOU may be that is not on the list above] around the world who are tired of waking up every morning since Election Day 2016 feeling angry/scared/sad and not having anything useful to do with these emotions.”
In conjunction with Bad and Nasty, I also organized a series of workshops that centered around art as resistance and political theatre. I reached out to several Chicago arts professionals asking if they would be interested in leading workshops. A few responded. We narrowed down to three: The Theatre School’s own Coya Paz and Laura Biagi, as well as Laila Farah, a professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department here at DePaul. Laura’s focus was Creative Awareness for Compassionate Leadership, Laila’s was Theatre As Resistance, and Coya’s was Intersectional Feminism in Theatre.
We had low attendance. Those who attended were other members of The Grappler. Laila Farah’s workshop was cancelled altogether because there was no attendance. The night before Bad and Nasty, our team made the executive decision to cancel the event due to lack of interest from performers we reached out to as well as a small number of confirmed guests on our Facebook page.
This article is not me pointing fingers. This article is not me placing blame on an uninterested community. This article does not have a conclusion.
I have had a hard time caring about theatre since November 8th. I have had a hard time caring about the thing I have focused the past seven years of my life on. I have had a hard time caring about the thing that myself and my parents are going into unspeakable amounts of debt for. I have had a hard time caring about the thing I spend 7 classes and rehearsals a week talking about putting into practice. I haven’t had a fire in my belly about theatre I’ve created since my junior year of high school, when I devised a piece with my peers at MCVTS Theatre, my former artistic and educational home, called The Education Project. This piece commented and questioned the state of public education in this country, a topic that could not be more relevant right now.
I told Dean Corrin at my Theatre School interview that I wanted to pursue theatre because it was the strongest way for my activist voice to shine through. The reason why I am here at The Theatre School and moved to Chicago a little over a year and half ago is to fine tune my arts activist voice the best I could. With Chicago being home to companies such as The Neo Futurists and Free Street Theatre, who respond directly to revolutions through art, where could be better? However, there is no BFA in Activist Theatre at The Theatre School. I knew this, and knew that my focus would take the backburner in my curriculum.
But what do you do in a revolution? How do you talk about anything else besides the revolution? I don’t have an answer. I do know, however, that life has to go on. I still have to get As in my classes and talk about things other than minority rights, reproductive rights, #blacklivesmatter, and the refugee crisis. I have to write essays on Ibsen and learn the difference between complementary and analogous colors.
This is why our workshops didn’t work. This is why we had to cancel Bad and Nasty. Life has to go on. We can talk about a revolution all we want, but we still have to put effort into the things in our lives that have been priorities since before the election. How do we make change when that change is not our only focus? When we go to school and work from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm? I don’t think I can name anyone who can do both things. How can we revolt when we don’t have the years of experience and privileges that allow us to drop what we are doing and fight in this revolution? How do we make changes in our little liberal communities without becoming elitist and repetitive?
I am not on Saturday Night Live. I am not in the cast of Hamilton. I cannot drop out of school to become a full time activist. I can’t keep bringing up feminism and minorities in classes when they aren’t relative to the class content. I do this on a regular basis when analysing scripts in class and I cannot bare to hear the words “I don’t think politics are relevant to this piece” again without vomiting. I can donate, I can phone bank, I can keep planning these events and hope that schedules can line up accordingly. I can keep writing articles for The Grappler and have people share them. I can continue to work at Artemesia, who produces plays that empower women. I can keep showing up to The Infinite Wrench on weekends that I am free and donate as much money as a I can to Free Street shows when I see them. I can continue to put all of the effort I have into my education here at DePaul, taking classes not only in theatre but in the Women and Gender Studies Department and the other humanities, I can organize, I can share as many Facebook posts as I want.
I don’t think this is enough. The revolution is here and I haven’t spoken to the masses. I feel that my only contribution to this revolution has been a lot of talking to people who agree with me. With that being said, this article does not have a conclusion. I’m not sure what to do.