Art and emergency
Since the 2016 election I’ve kept asking myself how artists should respond in time of political crisis. I sat down with singer-songwriter-satirist Roy Zimmerman last summer to kick it around—he sure had known what to do, but then he had been doing it all along. Popping a demagogue’s balloon was nothing new for Roy.
I admire New York’s Public Theatre and others for having mounted productions of, say, Julius Caesar with thinly-veiled contemporary references, a brave act that cost them financial support.
But it took me until 2019 to find my own way, when I wrote my third children’s Christmas pageant for my hometown UU congregation, setting it in two venues: a Bethlehem stable and King Herod’s court. It’s been controversial. First a person of color took offense to some of the language (e.g., “boss-man”), intimating that even in a liberal and justice-seeking denomination there should be no room for politics. Then religious educators got hold of it. After I was forced to delete references to the Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16 ff), which children raised on the Brothers Grimm and Fortnight somehow can’t handle, we still had to smooth over any notion that harm might come to Jesus. Wait till Good Friday, I say. Meanwhile, my Herod threatens to put the Wise Men in cages since they’re not from around here.
So no, it’s not easy being real.
Why I’m here
I like to make people laugh and cry, so I play a fair amount of music and, however desultorily, write—plays, personal essays, stories, all sorts of stuff. On the cusp of early old age, I still read my drafts aloud, bellowing and howling up in my atelier, rather to my family’s dismay.
Why you’re here
Come look over my shoulder if you like, fall off your chair. I value an audience, and I need help to make something beautiful, terrible, or epiphanic. Give me your clear-eyed attention, your honesty. That’s all I ask. Note the “Contact me” page.