I am honored to be representing the TEAM this week in St Louis for the “28 Hour Plays,” for which playwrights and actors from around the country are joining with St. Louisans to write and perform in 80, one-minute plays in reaction to Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson in 2014, the ensuing unrest, and the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
I have met and gotten to listen to some of the most extraordinary people in the last four days. On Wednesday night we got to hear Elizabeth Vega talk about her activism as an artist in Ferguson and beyond. Her organizations ROOT COOP and Artivists are a complete inspiration and she is a demonstration of how to live life right. Marty K Casey has been unbelievably generous in showing us St. Louis through her perspective, and her Show Me Arts Academy is an awesome assertion that the Arts can actually save people. Basmin Red Deer’s entire world outlook and contextualization of the unrest in Ferguson has been something of a paradigm shift for me. I feel incredibly lucky to know about these women and to become familiar with their work.
Elizabeth Vega talked about a perception that the movement has died down, and cautioned the world not to mistake the quiet laying of the foundations of a sustainable movement for the end of the movement. It is very much alive here in the center of the country.
One of the other playwrights here is Nikkole Salter, who many of us in the TEAM met in 2006 in Edinburgh when we were performing Particularly in the Heartland and she was in a two-woman show also at the Traverse. When she remembered who I was she said that seeing Heartland was the first time that she truly felt American. In the last four days I have begun to understand for the first time something about what it is to be American. And it is beyond unsettling.
When asked by a visiting playwright whether she had any advice for theater artists who might fear that theater isn’t enough, an activist here replied, “do it anyway”. That struck me deeply. I have met people who are doing anything they can, and dedicating their lives to a movement, in the belief that the world can get better.