THIS VISIBLE MOMENT

June 14, 2016
Summer sun

If you are reading this close to when I write it, you know that forty-nine people were just killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Another fifty-three were injured. Everyone I know is grieving and in pain. The persons attacked were mostly young, and latinx; it was a gay nightclub and undoubtedly a hate crime. Recent news reports suggest the shooter might have been struggling to accept his own natural proclivities (he had previously attended Pulse with entirely different intentions). He was likely consumed by self-loathing and shame.

It’s been a tremendously bad week in the news. I was already struggling with the injustice of the sentencing in the Stanford rape case, and with reports of twenty years of abuse toward women at Profiles Theater in Chicago. Talking about the former brought about a panic attack.

We are porous creatures, and on the regular we have to process large scale tragedies. They enter our bloodstreams. Between the news and the internet, everything that happens anywhere can feel immediately, viscerally present. We end up wrestling with fear, confusion, shock, anxiety – especially if we identify with the victims. This part is also true for all Americans: When I kiss my person good night, it is with the knowledge that anyone could walk into a nearby public space tomorrow, with a gun, and end one of our lives. For any reason. For no reason.

When I last saw Walter, he was searching for speakers on the subject of environmental activism in the age of the anthropocene. He mentioned there’s an idea circulating, among concerned agitators, that our next phase of activism on this matter might be mourning. A mourning that does not preclude further actions, but which does acknowledge this big picture: we might have already lost.

I can’t type that last sentence without feeling anger, resentment, frustration, despair, disgust, and disappointment.

So, what to do?
Emotions are built to lead us to action.
This can lead to great, modest, or terrible behavior.

There will always be people struggling with negative emotions.
They will naturally want to take some sort of action to express those emotions.
We make it really easy for that action to be legally purchasing a military grade assault rifle.

Here’s my own personal Quick and Handy Guide to Activism:

1. Take Care Of Yourself
2. Love and Be Loved
3. Determine What You Want To Do (as always, set Smart, Actionable Goals)
4. Do That

You can’t skip steps 1 or 2.
Sending my love to every queer person everywhere.

David Hockney, We Two Boys Together Clinging. 1961
David Hockney, We Two Boys Together Clinging. 1961

IN PRAISE OF FEET

June 2, 2016
Pale sun

“Hungarian folkdance is very sexy and dangerous,” says Blanka.

I have been thinking about feet lately.

Now I am observing Csaba Horvath’s feet. He has launched right into the dance steps, without preamble. He calls it “a kind of tap dance.” It goes: One and two and three three three. Tap and tap and foot hits calf.

In short order, the company of Wilma HotHouse actors becomes a footloose Hungarian village, inhabiting the world of Blood Wedding. This is a Monday, and like most Mondays, the HotHouse has gathered to host guest artists and try out new ideas from practitioners who delve into the physical. Csaba will be working with them all week. No one really knew what he was going to do. “ We have no idea what he is going to do,” says Blanka, happily, in her introduction. It is a testament to the courage and trust in this community that everyone jumps right in, regardless.

There is downward and upward force to the movement. Strength is culled from the ground.

Someone told me Csaba Horvath used to terrorize students at A.R.T. so I was expecting a temperamental beast. In actuality, he has jetlag, a quiet sense of humor, and a gentle but focused monk-like demeanor. He is in an all gray outfit, with overly long, loose dance pants that were either mosquito bitten into frayed ends or destroyed by regular devotions of stomping.

It would be such a thrill to put a whole village onstage. To have them dance like that. If I weren’t a playwright I’d want to be a dancer. Or a journalist. Or a painter. Theater is of course, all of those professions. I watch the actors, jot down potential constellations for casting. I think about diversity and pairings. I ponder economics. I wonder if I could sneak some village dance scenes into my play. Could the Wilma afford that? Would the play ever get produced elsewhere? I have no conclusions.

Except for maybe this one: No shoes. No shoes for actors.

You know how we live in a culture where clothing and behavior is gendered, and women have been assigned high heels? I lament this. Choice here is a joke. Yes, standing on tiptoe can be fun – I have enjoyed starry nights in college, wearing heels while riding my trusty bicycle. Hard femme. Stilts are also nice, have you tried stilts? I just ask: what happens when you mistake the costume for your self?

Heels are still an expectation. Women were turned away at Cannes when they didn’t wear heels. At the cinema, a woman in heels tried to outrun a dinosaur.

Being grounded. Having both feet on the ground. If someone wanted to maim female power I can’t think of a better way than by expecting we all stand on tiptoe and balance on a stick. Perhaps we could strap dead fish to our feet. Perhaps that would be worse. But no, dead fish are cool and soft.

I’ve seen several folk dances now that make use of bare, stomping feet as a way of awakening lower body energy and strength. I surmise: Rooted feet -> stronger awareness of one’s own needs -> greater assertiveness -> less self-objectification -> listening to your body -> better female orgasms -> happier village all around.

Pfffffffft.

Stomp stomp stomp.

Cobblers, feel free to come up with new options for fancy female footwear, and I’ll scheme about how to sneak some dancing into my play.

I wish I could come down for HotHouse every week.

HotHouse Blood Wedding workshop, with Csaba Horvath, 2016.
HotHouse Blood Wedding workshop, with Csaba Horvath, 2016.