QED: a Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 3.3
One of the first things I encountered while scouring news media outlets on the morning of June 12 were the words of a father, Siddique Mateen, outraged and upset over what his son had done, disavowing his child’s actions. “I don’t want any father to go through what we are going through,” he said. “What he did was […] against what I taught him. This is against the principles of me and the whole family.”
I talked to my own father not long after that. He checked in on me with a joke, his way of dealing with serious topics. We chatted for a bit, and he told me he was glad I was safe. I was more worried about my students, especially my queer students, whom I knew frequented Pulse. Facebook became an instant lifeline, and I was grateful so many students had requested my e-friendship in the previous year, their safety quickly confirmed with an online check-in. A vigil at Lake Eola was already being planned for the following Sunday. Someone had objected: “but that’s Father’s Day.” Grief and fatherhood, it seemed, were going to have to reckon with one another. Later in the day my dad sent me a text about jihad. I didn’t reply.
American Theatre, 33.3
A comedy about the Civil War? How do you make an episode from our nation’s bloodiest conflict funny? Can a play about America’s history of slavery manage to teach audiences about a neglected part of that history and also get laughs? A Civil War comedy might not be the most obvious idea for a great night out at the theatre in southern Florida. But that’s just what the producers and artistic associates at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota attempted last December when they included Richard Strand’s Butler in their mainstage season. Doubling down on the play, the team at FST also chose Butler as the production which would anchor their annual community forums. It was a big gamble.
Butler – a talky, four-character history play about a crucial moment in the American Civil War – tells the story of Major General Benjamin Butler,later elected to the U.S. Congress, who, in his early days at Fort Monroe in Virginia on the James River, changed the course of the war. When three enslaved men arrived at the base and asked that they be allowed to stay, Butler, who argued that enslaved persons were being used as weapons of war and could therefore be impounded as contraband like ammunition or cannons, allowed them to remain at the fort and work for the Union army rather than return to the Confederates. This action was in direct violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and Butler was understandably nervous about this flagrant lawbreaking. But not only has history vindicated Butler’s slightly contorted legal arguments; in his own time, as the tide of the war changed, President Lincoln himself eventually approved of Butler’s actions, and Union military leaders across the country would come to adopt his policies as their own.
Asolo Program Essay, 2015-2016 Season
Guess who’s coming to dinner? The question contains a surprise, of course, but it is also a provocation, a challenge, a test for the person who hears it. In Todd Kreidler’s play, Joanna Drayton asks her fiancé and her family to “guess who” and – as it goes in the theatre and in life – also uses the question to ask them so much more. For audiences like us, who have seen the famous 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, exactly who is coming to dinner is not really a surprise anymore. But knowing the plot ahead of time, particularly with a story this relevant, doesn’t make the ideas contained in the play any less fascinating or any less shocking; instead the intervening time between the late sixties and Asolo Rep’s 2015-2016 season seems to have made these ideas more rich, more nuanced, even more relevant.
This season’s theme at Asolo Repertory Theatre is “Times of Change,” and the artistic team, led by Michael Donald Edwards, has turned the focus to periods in American history when there was powerful upheaval and great conflict. These times of change go way, way back. The season opens this year with the great American musical West Side Story, a show that describes a fictional conflict between a white gang and a Puerto Rican gang in the New York of the late 1950s, but when West Side Story was first conceived by Jerome Robbins, he actually imagined crafting a drama about a religious conflict – a Jewish Juliet and a Catholic Romeo, with families who would vehemently oppose their romance. Robbins, Arthur Laurents, and Leonard Bernstein eventually changed their minds: religious conflict seemed less interesting to them, less current for the 1950s, than the ethnic conflict on which they decided.