The Living Theatre ensemble gathered to plan the tour across America. This is to be the first tour of the Living Theatre, after Judith has left us since 2015.
August 15, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble drives to Albany, New York, for the first street performance of the tour, Apokastasis, in front of the Capitol Building. At the evening, The Living Theatre performances Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism at Subversive Theater in Buffalo, New York.
Journal on the Performance at the Subversive Theater
-Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li
We arrived in Buffalo close to six o’clock. The theatre space is in a huge building that was probably a factory. The building has the antique touch that shows the history of the city, but the interior stays modern. We were to perform at Subversive Theatre, a theatre dedicated to protest, political theatre. The posters on the door of the theatre space embrace a very strong passion for social change. We know, we are not alone. We know, this is why we are here. The theatre space is not really big. It can accommodate around 50 people top. The set for the last show here, “Too Big to Fail,” remains on stage, with a label of a huge company painted on the floor. We know, we will have a very intimate performance. We used the black tape to cover up the label on the floor, turning the company label into an A, the symbol of anarchism. This theatre space with all the touches from the set, the props, the dressing room, reminds me of the small theatre in Theater for the New City. We are getting excited. At first, I thought it was all the excitement and nervousness that warm up my body, but it was also because of the lack of the AC. It is going to be a very difficult performance under the heat like this in the space.
The door opens, we sat in a circle meditating. We decided to sat through the audience’s entrance. It is about 10 to 15 minutes long. For the first couple minutes, I felt fine. But soon, my fingers went numb, because I couldn’t rest my hands on my knees well while sitting in lotus. I closed my eyes to focus all of my energy into the sitting itself. Audience at the time is just a big distraction. Finally, the door is closed, and the show began.
August 15, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble drives to Albany, New York, for the first street performance of the tour, Apokatastasis, in front of the Capitol Building. At the evening, The Living Theatre performances Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism at Subversive Theater in Buffalo, New York.
During the action we invited witnesses and passersby to participate by helping to stop the violence however they felt compelled to. Most people videotaped the action on their phones from a comfortable distance and only ONE woman decided to stop eating her lunch and immerse herself in the performance.
Another woman approached me aggressively, while I was drumming, and tried to grab the drumsticks out of my hand while saying "you are the violence, this is the violence!"
"We are the truth" was the reply.
August 16, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble drives to Niagara Falls, and after, to Detroit, Michigan, to perform Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism at Trumbullplex.
We drove to Niagara Falls, jumped out of the van and ran off to witness this force of nature. We blew a chord and soaked in Mother Nature, but only for a quick minute before we jumped back in the van and drove off from NF to Detroit.
We settled into our anarchist collective, Trumbullplex, and performed 7 Meds. After the show we processed with the audience to the garden in the back of this radical compound and invited them to do a chord with us. Trumbullplex had just won back their beautiful property during a battle with the real estate leeches. It was something to celebrate.
Tomorrow we prepare for an action, through Non-Violent Direct Action, with http://detroitevictiondefense.org
At the local FlagStar Bank
DAY 2 - DETROIT - TRUMBULLPLEX
The show ran as expected. I variated the jababa a little to make it softer, to have it line up as what “love master” embraces, after taking Ilion’s notes from his understanding of how Steve Ben Israel did it in the 70s. With this heat, we were like the hermits in the desert. We sweat, we chant, we scream, and we struggle. We ended up the show by leaving the chains in the center, inviting the audience to form a circle with us. We dedicated this performance to John MacKenzie, an incarcerated who has dedicated his life in fighting for the human rights for the incarcerated. He killed himself 11 days before tonight’s show. We sang the song in Not In My Name. “While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” We repeated this line in the song again and again, until we all feel connected to every soul that we care.
After the show, I was talking to a transgendered woman, Morgan, who is a PhD student of American Studies in UB. She wanted us to be on the street more. She said, there isn’t enough street performances or protests like this on the streets in Buffalo. People need to be awakened. She spent her past year working on reading. She felt disengaged. She wanted to reconnect what’s on the street. She came from the street. She wanted to address more on the transgenders right, indigenous people’s rights. She said, this country has named so many place after the indigenous people, but these places have nothing to do with them anymore. They are the queer space, in a queer time. How do we reconnect is all that matters. I said, that’s why no one should back up, but engage with all the local communities. We have to do what we gotta do.
We spent the night with a warm welcome at Latin American Cultural Association. Free food and free place to sleep. We had a warm shower, and a cozy night, with rains welcome us in the morning.
August 17, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble does a first action at a bank in Detroit, showing support to "Detroit Eviction Defense" for the case of Barbara Campbell.
Woke up in Detroit and had a collective meeting to start off the day. Doing this kind of work brings up a lot of different feelings for people, which has led us to initiate a daily check in with each other. Allowing for a space to let emotions and opinions be received and nurtured is essential to keeping your head on straight during a tour.
We followed up the meeting with some NVDA (Non-Violent Direct Action) training, led by Monica Hunken, in order to prepare the group for the upcoming street actions scheduled on this tour. Tips on what happens when you get arrested, de-escalation of chaotic situations and knowledge of our basic human rights.
After training, we said goodbye to Trumbullplex, and headed over to Flagstar Bank, a "community" bank that serves as the largest savings bank in Michigan. We did an action on behalf of Barbara Campbell, an elderly woman who was told that she wouldn't have to pay her mortgage during her modification review period. She qualified for the modification review due to a series of medical disasters in her life. During the period of her application review, Barbara was told she did not have to pay, but later because of these "missed" payments Flagstar Bank has proceeded on foreclosing her home.
After expressing solidarity with the cause, we visited:
An outdoor art environment, created by Tyree Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey, located in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city's east side. The project serves as a political protest after the neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots.
Then we got in the van for 6 hours and drove to Chicago.
DAY 3 - FLAGSTAR TO CHICAGO
August 22, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble travels to Salt Lake City, Utah, to do a street performance about love and equality.
August 23-25, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble travels to Berkley and San Francisco, California to perform Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism at the Finish Hall, and at the Great Star Theater.
Our journey into California began with an 11 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Santa Rosa, where we stayed with Living Theatre member Adam Finch Buxbaum, and other Rainbow Gathering friends. In the morning we ate bagels in the backyard, and a man named Badger just in from Vermont showed us how to make cowboy coffee.
From Santa Rosa we made the quick drive to Berkley, where we were sleeping in Finnish Kaleva Hall. This space was such beauty, and our hosts, Miriam Wolodarski and Andy Lundberg, graciously made available to us their theatre, a sleeping area, kitchen, laundry, and their joyous company. It was an amazing space in which to work.
The day we got to Finnish Hall, we rehearsed and then went into San Francisco for a rally against the North Dakota Access Line. The DAPL is an ecological threat to all people, and particularly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, through whose land the pipeline is intended to be constructed. That the government has instructed the police to come down on their protests, that their water access has been restricted, only serve to catapult this from an act of ecological warfare to one of broader warfare. Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty
That evening, we performed 7 Meditations in Finnish Hall, to a large audience, who we afterwards led to a local Shell Station in order to chant, create a tableaux on the violence of oil extraction, and perform a chord, in further solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota and with all people everywhere who oppose the poisoning of our water and bodies in the name of profit. #NODAPL, Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation
The next day was our first day with scheduled free time and we spread out into San Francisco to use it to its fullest. Some found new clothes, some got haircuts, some got coffee, some spent time with friends, some walked off to discover. Some napped. Self care is a radical act.
That evening, we performed at The Great Star Theater, in conjunction with The Beat Museum. It was an exhilarating performance, and afterwards we spilled out into the street and found ourselves at Specs Bar, across the street from City Lights, where we shared food and drinks with many who had seen the show, including other artists, other members of The Living, followers of The Beat Museum, and new friends, including Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Balitronica Gomez.
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August 29-30, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble travels to Arcosanti, Arizona to perform Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism and later to El Paso to perform a piece centered on immigration issue.
Excerpt of the first action on the border
A Conversation with Jill Stein
we went from Austin straight to BP Headquarters, where we read facts about their acts of violence against the environment and people, focusing on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the use of an untested chemical (Corexit) to rush cleaning the spill. This botched attempt at a cover up has led to the prolong sickness of many people.
After BP, we went to Super Happy Fun Land, another DIY performance space. It was a powerful show, for a powerful audience, and our connections afterward were electrifying. We went with some audience members for dinner, and met up with Gypsy, who performed in some of the original performance of 7 Meditations in the 70s, and currently runs the Children's Prison Arts Project.
We woke up early in Houston in order to perform actions in front of Spectra Energy and Halliburton Headquarters, fearlessly accompanied by Autumn, one of the audience members from the Houston show who decided to join us for our direct actions. Both companies profit off the deaths of humans, animals, and the ongoing death of the environment.
August 31, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble travels by Austin to Houston, Texas
From Houston we drove to New Orleans, hopped out the van, and straight into a workshop. During the workshop, we developed a new piece, conceptualized by Danielle and Equiano, with input from the company and from the workshop participants, who were inspiring, informing, and wonderful to work with. The piece is titled Black Body Radiation, and deals with the traumatizing reality of police brutality on black and brown bodies.
We went right from the workshop into our penultimate performance of 7 Meditations, at Art Klub. Reese Johanson, who runs Art Klub, was an amazing host, the audience was alive and active and giving, and the space was powerful to perform in. At the end of the show, we performed a Chord, and right as we finished, there was a single crack of thunder and suddenly, it was pouring rain outside. We talked well into the evening with the people who came to participate and later explored nighttime in New Orleans and were captivated by the mysticism and energy of the place. We are looking forward to our return.
September 1, 2016
The Living Theatre ensemble travels to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a workshop and a street Performance.
Seven Meditations on
The next morning we departed for Birmingham, Alabama. After a scenic drive and a few stops, we reached Birmingham Festival Theatre. This would be our final performance of 7 Meditations and we all felt the connection to one another strengthen as we reflected on the journey it took to arrive at this place. Three weeks had passed by quickly and it felt like there was still more out there to do. We said goodbye to another collective member, Mary Round, who flawlessly portrayed the victim in the torture scene during the 5th Meditation. A raw and vulnerable role serving as a vessel for all of those captured and tortured due to their beliefs and mere existence.
We said goodbye to the theatre and set out for a night spent out on a farm run by friends of Monica, Gaby Wolodarski. The land was beautiful and fertile, wide and gracious, and they also were in charge of their own beehives and honeymaking. We ate fresh vegetables from their garden and the next morning we stepped out to a
nearby creek inhabited by the most gorgeous cows you could imagine. We stood face to face with these magnificent creatures, all unique in their own right, and found a common ground as humans and animals, existing peacefully side by side.
We parted with our gracious hosts and drove to Knoxville, Tennesee where we arrived at The Birdhouse, an open community space with their own radical library, playing space, rehearsal rooms and radio station. Bryan Alexander, who hosted and participated in our Living Theatre workshop, also served as a great host of Knoxville. We ate dinner and were able to check out a little bit of the open mic event offered later in the evening. We devised the next day's plan for Washington D.C late into the night in Knoxville, discussing the different meanings and mysteries of the word Liberation. We had been looking to create a piece/happening around the meditation on Liberation, but as we discussed we found ourselves with more questions than answers in the end. Did we even know what that term fully embodied?
The Living Theatre ensemble travels to Washington D.C. for street Performances.
September 4, 2016
We woke up at 5am the next day so we could get to Washington D.C. at a decent time and catch the sun rising as we drove. The pink and amber sky greeted us kindly as we got closer and closer to the East. We stopped in Virginia for lunch, singing along to a live band and dancing in the cafe. We continued to discuss the notion of Liberation in the van as we finally pulled into the busy streets of D.C.
We were starkly reminded of the heavy police presence surrounding these buildings and monuments that represented the strong arm of politics. We drove to the nation's Capitol and performed Apokatastasis, a piece on gun violence, and afterwards walked the streets hand in hand chanting "All power to the people, to arm is to harm, there are stronger forces than guns, to make a new world" (Judith Malina).