Ari Roth Reflects on Shame 2.0 (With Comments From The Populace)
So begins the month where we hold on for dear life (we shouldn’t admit to that, should we? There’s a more positive launch point to propel us, no? As there’s also the exhilaration of so much passion and energy being locked in to a singular purpose) as we steel the spine and shore up spirits and energy to be present and open; to continue to learn and listen and revise and refine and adjust and hold true and MAKE DISCOVERIES in safeguarding all that is vitalizing and good in this work; in this example of persistence; in this new dramatic premise; in this very sad and acrimonious documenting of what’s going wildly wrong in one near and dear part of the world – and that washes up on our shores, or gets built up along the border, one slab of a border security wall after another.
It’s important in these hours before we embark to remember what has brought us – our theater – to this material…
It’s a sense of kinship in struggle– in the effort to express and ring alarms about under-documented injustice (if we can believe --- in this day and age of news saturation, that there are still corners of darkness – but alas – pockets of dark and denial there are, when we don’t even know we’re denying) – and it’s there that Einat Weizman was been compelled to take audiences in her own research and writing – writing into stiff headwinds of resistance and policing – mobilized citizens groups, rogue trolls, and government ministries mobilized to manufacture political punching bags and bugaboos for their own political agendas… there rises a movement to shut down public forums and platforms where voices are raised, and flashlights shine in the darkness to show us the observed dark parts of our society.
That campaign to silence and shut down – and cancel festivals for alternative theatre – is something that enervates and energizes. When Einat was forced to vacate her earned place at the Akko Festival in the summer of 2017, and 7 other invited projects voluntarily withdrew in solidarity, Mosaic stood in solidarity from a distance – we knew this was a cause and mission we would support -- as the unfolding events begot a response – how could we stand with Einat and the Akko 8? We tried to organize a fundraising effort on Facebook to garner support to put shows into rehearsal elsewhere – we knocked on doors at developmental labs like Sundance and NYTW and beyond to see if Einat’s project could sneak in at the last minute. No doors opened.
Having produced the provocative play THE RETURN (originally titled OVED SHABBAT) in 2017, as part of our own Voices Festival (a Festival once canceled itself, now flourishing anew) as we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Occupation, we realized that Einat had been part of the premiere of THE RETURN – I was curious to read her chronicle about that production and the subsequent theatre shut-down – a prelude to her Akko drama. There was much more kinship to be found in the original SHAME – More about the role that an aggrieved angry citizens groups and cultural vigilantes play in intimidating artists and producers to self-censor in advance of the government apparatus kicking in to do the full thing – SHAME offered a way to both identify with and then partner with artists facing opposition – we would advocate with them.
The idea was always to marry the initial drama of SHAME (all that vitriol from the public all for wearing a t-shirt – and the making a cultural political expression) with the act of outright censorship which was to come and the threatened shut down of three independent cultural forums in the space of 2 years; Einat and Morad’s next act. And so, SHAME 2.0 was born.
Our 2nd Act chronicles what we’ve elsewhere described for Einat and Morad as a period of MAXIMUM CREATIVE RESISTANCE – a hyper prolific jag that they’ve both been on. It again mirrors Mosaic’s (again, a KINSHIP IN STRUGGLE). Because there’s nothing more energized than an artist with a chip on his-or-her shoulder and a fire in her belly and love in her heart. And that’s the thing about this Israeli/Palestinian team – they have all of that and more. As do their American partners. A fierce pursuit of justice, a reverence for craft and the beauty of art, a chip on our slandered shoulder, a fire in our variously hungry and starved bellies, and love in the heart for our fellow traveling circus family members.
A final thought about our process and what will make it splendid:
Politics and artistic collaboration are both relationship based.
Our relationships matter. How we negotiate this collaboration will depend on the sensitivity of our kinship, each of us to each other – how we honor and pay heed to our hold on the material – as we bring this story to Washington to share with our DC community – a deeply divided and alternately distant and intimately tied community (with regard to) the subjects at hand.
We’ve made this play into more of an argument than it was. It’s now a dialectic. We’re still calibrating the alignment of forces. But we think the ingredient are in place.
We’re hoping for the right alchemy to discharge a powerful light of many colors – a flare into the night. Solidarity across divide.