Friday, January 25, 2019

Here On This Bridge—MediaRites—Boiler Room

     The Collective Good

    This World Premiere is part of the Ism Project of Theatre Diaspora and will go on tour later this year:  Six monologues based on real experiences by six authors, and all directed by Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly.  It is playing at the Boiler Room in Lincoln Hall at PSU (1620 SW Park Ave.) through February 10th.  For more information, go to their site at

    We are all here, for better or worse, together.  No one is going anywhere.  No waters, or deserts, or mountains…or Walls, will stem the tide of Progress and Diversity.  We are all part of the Collective Good…for better or worse…together…We are not going anywhere…!

    I’m reminded of the song from South Pacific which, in part goes something like this…we have to be taught to hate and to fear…we have to be carefully taught…meaning that it is not the natural, innocent state of Mankind to be prejudiced.  Evil will always be with us but it doesn’t mean we have to embrace it or spread it around.

    These six short stories are from real life experiences, which resonates, I believe, universally with all of us.  I won’t go into the actual stories, as they should be experienced rather than related by a third party:  The first one, Being Me in the Current America is written by Josie Seid and performed by Shareen Jacobs.  It deals with an African-American woman in a suburb of Portland, which houses wealthy, white people primarily.  It reflects her very real fear of feeling like a stranger in a strange land.  *A personal, true story of mine, that is a companion to this one will, follow these six.

    The second one is See Her Strength written and performed by Samson Syharath.  It tells of a young boy, uprooted from Laos and moving to the alien world of America.  Coming out as a Gay man defied all tradition of his parents but it is revealing of motherhood as to  how they eventually dealt with it.  The third one is Carmelita by Yasmin Ruvalcaba and performed by Sofia Molina.  It reflects on how such simple things, like moonlight and the cadence across endless sands, can be the surging powers and illumination for one to carry on an arduous and fateful journey.

    The fourth is Lockdown Drills by Heather Raffo and performed by Dre Slaman.  All to real are the shootings and abductions of children in what should be protected environments.  What is it that a parent needs to do to teach/protect their child, while trying to allow them to…just be children.  The fifth is The Diversity Thing written by Bonnie Ratner & Roberta Hunte and performed by Shelley B. Shelley.  This focuses on that constant question, why can’t people/organizations treat individuals as humans, rather than separating them into gender, religion, caste, orientation, color, etc. and use only the skills which they have and can offer to society, as their contributions.

    And, last story, “…that ends this strange, eventful history…” is Harvest by Dmae Roberts (Executive Producer of MediaRites' Theatre Diaspora) and performed by Jane Vogel and Larry Toda.  It tells of the value of land and of growing and nurturing things and not letting unfair and senseless acts deter or define one from their goals.  *And the addition I would add to the first story is, some years ago I was dating an African-American lady and we went into a chain-restaurant late at night, in the same suburbs as mentioned in the first monologue.  A strange hush quieted the room when we sat down and, although not busy, service was not forthcoming.  It fast became obvious that we were the objects of that uneasy hush.  We got up to leave and, at the door, I kissed my lady friend before we went out into the friendlier night.  I can only imagine the conversations that began after we left.

    The stories were all eye-opening, startling and quite amazing and poignant.  Immediate reactions were being struck by the mother in Syharath’s story; the frustrations felt in the Diversity Thing; and Molina’s moving performance in Carmelita.  All performances and tales naturally delivered and kudos to Duffly, the director, for keeping things so simple but so clear.

    This is a must-see for all, as there are lessons to be learned.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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