Unexplored Interior First Rehearsal Remarks
On video, you can see the dead much more vividly than in the theater. Documentaries capture reality and render detail about political personalities in a country's civil war with more authenticity than local theater artists can. So why bring the saga of Rwanda to the stage?
Because this is a story about the Rwandan extended family that has never been told before. Raymond's journey—and his search to find out the fate of grandfather; to find the perpetrator who killed him and why; why his country convulsed... this is a new contribution to literature. It's a feverishly imagined, fact-based epic novel for the stage that is entirely new and of the moment.
Moreover, this play is a radical act of moral imagining on the part of its playwright, its evolution energized by empathy; to move the play from what it was, to what it's become; from a solo show for the author to perform about a white man's guilt and burden to something totally new; something much more intimately connected to the emotional center of the country's tragedy; these were critical, radical revisions...
For all the documentaries and books that are out there - Jay O. Sanders has brought well-researched strands together and, at the same time, imagined something deeply theatrical through a radical revision process. We credit and thank Jay and his early collaborators for diving down so deep.
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Why are we doing a play about genocide? We've written about this on our blog - over the summer. Those comments reflected just as much about us—as offspring of refugees born from the embers of Holocaust and genocide—as they did about Jay's play. That all art, in a way, is a response to the catastrophe of man's inhumanity to man. That our job is to confer humanity—to celebrate life and beauty—and to raise a voice, and prick the conscience when we descend into inhumanity; into racial and tribal and religious prejudice, hatred, murder and worse. Art is there to shine a light, to build a bridge, to plant new seeds, or to issue a cry of alarm; a shriek against the ravages of war. Yet all this is general.
Jay's play offers some very specific, compelling reasons for taking a primary position at the start of our new theater company's season. Let me list a few:*It's the story of a young African man in America who must figure out how to live meaningfully in a world of violence. That, my friends, is the Super Theme for two of our other plays that we're producing this inaugural season; one set in Chicago and a finale right here in DC. The young African American's journey to find a safe and dignified place in our world—to gain an understanding of why terrible things are happening, and what to do about them; how love and community can be powerful responses. *How does Raymond, son a Tutsi story teller, reckon with surviving Hutus, former friends, responsible for the unimaginable? How do perpetrators and survivors (and their children and grandchildren) live together in a post-atrocity world?
Two more themes (out of several hundred more we could talk about) that I mention here; the two most important themes for me:
The twin phenomenon of our historically Shameful Response to the genocide and the acts of Corrective Remembrance that have been part of the post-conflict healing process.
The world's response to the unleashing of violence was shamefully passive. The United Nation's demurral to intervene was shameful. As the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was opening its doors 11 months earlier, attracting record numbers of crowds in its first year of operation. The phrase "Never Again" was rendered hollow as (an average of) 333 people an hour were murdered every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days straight. In our life time. Never again. Our response was Hurricane Katrina like. Holocaust like. We got there too late. We got there with aid. After the killing. Where was the UN? Where were the troops for the UN?
Our reckoning with the genocide and how we mark its momentousness has led to a process of RESTORATIVE JUSTICE and CORRECTIVE REMEMRBANCE. Through purposeful artful humanizing and authentic memorializing, we remember Rwanda as it was, as it must become anew from all that was lost.
My heart is full of happiness & thanks; Vindication and pride; Fury and Fire. Hope and Healing prayers for those who have suffered for our collective quiet. May we be quiet no more. May we be censored never again. May we be strong and valiant in the face of fear. May we take care of each other in the face of strife and the threat of division. May we sow seeds of love and banish hate. May we be caring midwives for Jay O. Sander's 10 year long pregnancy. May our collective baby live and thrive and grow into greatness.