Nobody in the last fifty years has gone to live theatre to kill time like they would slip into a cineplex. Nobody has sat and blankly watched theatre like they would TV because they don’t have anything better to do. There is always something better to do. People go to the theatre because they hope—more often than not against their better judgment—that what they will experience there will change them, open them up, break down some poisoned part of them, help them live with some unbearable pain, give them more hope. People who go to the theatre are frequently disappointed.
Tyrone Brown asked me to share with my colleague Sharon Williams the honor of giving the curtain speech at tonight’s sole performance of Hoodies Up!, a series of short plays inspired by the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Tyrone surely intends for us to keep our remarks exquisitely brief and practical tonight, but as I started thinking about it my brain, as it is sometimes wont to do, erupted in about five different directions. These moments of mind spasm are, in part, why I created Just Wrought: that is, to spare everyone me blathering on at curtain speeches and the like. Here’s what I won’t be saying tonight:
My reason for joining the Hoodies Up! writers team can be boiled down into one word: selfishness. I wanted to work with Tyrone Brown, a director whom most folks in the “Seattle theatre know” recognize as a coming powerhouse. I wanted to write for African American actors, a chance as rare as hen’s teeth in the Pacific Northwest and, sadly, in the nation at large. I wanted to tell a story I had never publically told before, from a time in my life that I cherish. All good selfish reasons. (When I start doing theatre for non-selfish reasons let’s all start worrying, okay?)
Hermann Göring famously declared, “When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun.” Nazism at its nastiest, and most honest. Fascists hate art and anything else they don’t understand, or that causes people to prick their ears up and say, “Whoa! What’s going on?” Of course, there’s a simple syllogistic trick that flips fat-headed Göring on his ear: “When I hear the world ‘gun’ I reach for my culture.” That’s what Tyrone did when he began processing the Trayvon tragedy, and that’s what the writers he invited did in turn, and then in turn the actors and directors. Tonight it’s your turn: the audience, the final hopeful piece of this hope-against-reason puzzle. Tonight, when you come watch Hoodies Up! you’ll be reaching for your culture, and countering the insidious icon of the gun that holds America mesmerized. You will be taking the risk of being bored, confused, annoyed and generally disappointed, but you will have chosen hope over every empty and utterly logical reason why you shouldn’t have bothered.
Because theatre requires hope beyond logic.
Just like living.