Sunday, November 04, 2018

Theatre: Our History is Now

A People's History  created and performed by Mike Daisey, Seattle Rep, Through 25, 2018.

So, you know that dream where you show up for class and its the final exam and you realized you haven't been there since the orientation session? I had a similar experience here. But let me back up a moment.

Monologist Mike Daisey is doing a show on American History. In 18 parts. Based on what he (and likely you) learned in school, compared with Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and shone through the lens of his own personal experience. For the past few weeks he has started with Columbus and moved through American History to the present day.

Eighteen different shows. And he has made them available as audio files to those who were willing to talk about them. And I took on the challenge. So around here you'll see a lot of write-ups where HIS monologues have taken ME. But his stuff is better, so you should check him out. Also, it is probably going to get to Christmas before I finish this particular task.

But, as fate would have it, the show my Lovely Bride had tickets for was the LAST show of the first 18. Daisey has moved through the entirety of American History (I just got past Washington in my follow-ups), and this last show concentrated on Obama and Trump.

So I feel like I missed a couple beats here.

Daisey, pulling from Zinn distills American History into two basic founding principles - Genocide and Slavery. We wiped out one group of people to get the land, and enslaved another group of people to work the land, and that's why we are here where we are today. And he makes a good case, right up to today with the election of Obama, a representative of a race we enslaved, and with Trump, who has benefited ultimately from the relentless decade-long dogwhistling of the Republican Party against those people and the targeted marketing of Fox News.

And he does it well, and I'm not going to compete with him here, even in summary. There's a lot of good crunchy stuff in here on how the Republican Party is now a zombie, controlled by its "Freedom Caucus" and well on its way to becoming solely a White Nationalist party, and how the Democratic party, triangulating and big-tenting to the point where it has no meaning itself, is a fuzzy ally to humanists. But I'm going to save all that for when I get to the end of the audios.

But he does it all better, live. He lectures and jokes, he yells and he cajoles. He connects. He engages. He convinces. His journey through American History is a very personal one. Daisey never met Zinn, just as Dante never met Virgil, but the writings of the two earlier wroters informed their later authors as they guided them through the inferno.

I always mention the set. The set is for a monologue. Table. Chair. Class of water. Apple and name plaque. A map directly behind him with red lines streaming out like blood, or lancing in like lazers. You choice. Whatever, it rivets our attention on Daisey.

There are a number of threads throughout Daisey's epic presentation, but one of the important ones is - the world is changing, and the histories of the future will reflect on how we reacted in the rise of global climate calamity. And given our history, a house built on two pillars of genocide and slavery, is a house built on sand, and we will be swept away by the rising tide.

A People's History, having completed an 18-performance tour de force, now starts again. "This time, I might even get it right," he says. He gets it right. If you saw a performance already, tickets cost only 25 bucks. Go see it (unless you're a big fan of Hamilton - he just hates that guy).

More later,