Add Contacts, Congressional Edition – #PhoneYourRep

As you might expect (or know already, if we’re FB or Twitter friends), I have a lot of feelings about Tuesday’s election and its subsequent results. And maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to organize them coherently and present them in essay form.

For now, I’m trying to focus on concrete actions I and you can take to prepare ourselves for a long few years. Much of this will require getting in direct touch with our representatives in congress. Per this piece, by a former congressional staffer, the best way to do that is via phone.

Well, guess what. We all carry our phones with us 24/7. So if we have their numbers in our phones, we are already better prepared to engage our reps across congress in conversations about the issues that matter.

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The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bernie Sanders and others, including Schumer, Warren, Reid and Booker, as well as the CWA, have endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison for the position of new DNC chair.

I’m starting with my own senators (Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, both D-NY) and my House Rep (a republican who I have to look up again – see how much time I’d have saved if I’d whacked him into my phone the first time I called his office?) and the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. If you finish with those and want to keep going, think about adding regional DNC information as well.

So ask yourself, are you more likely to call your rep if you can just say, “Okay Google, dial Charles Schumer” and get a direct line to his office? Or if you have to go online, look up the number, and call from there?

If the answer is #1, and you want to help effect positive change in America, then take five minutes and put these numbers and more into your phone. Right now. Seriously. Cut and paste is your friend.

And remember, you can look up your reps and senators (links below), but think about looking up other reps and senators, as well. All of congress works for you. Your tax dollars contribute to all their salaries. You have a right to call and demand representation from any and all of them to address your rights and concerns, and you should do so.

And for Non-NYers:
Look up your Senator’s contact info here
Look up your Rep’s contact info here

Edit: Things are getting fun! A friend of mine has issued a #PhoneYourRep challenge to the internet! Once you’ve added your rep’s number to your phone, head to Dave’s Facebook and leave screenshot evidence – if we can get over 100 people to do it, he’ll be on the hook for a $500 donation to the Sierra Club (and given the person who’s in charge of their transition team, they’re gonna need it)!

Getting better at representative government AND saving the planet? Take part in this challenge and you’re basically a superhero. 😀

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Theater Review: “The Collector” at 59E59

You know that logline for “The Wizard of Oz” that circulates Facebook from time to time, about Dorothy killing a woman and then banding together with friends to kill again? Frederick Clegg (Matt de Rogatis) opens The Collector by pleading for the reverse shift in perspective for his narrative: self-pitying rich man in a position of ultimate power begs us to feel bad for him and blames everything but himself for his circumstances for 2½ hours, while we in turn watch him kidnap, torture and kill a young woman. Who he supposedly loves.

The source material, John Fowles’ novel of the same name, is thick with symbolism. It it would be easy to spend this entire review digging into the parallels between the butterflies Clegg collects and Miranda (Jillian Geurts), who he has kidnapped. But given that the book has been around since 1963 and the play was staged in Edinburgh around 20 years ago, I’ll set aside my desire to dig in on that side of things, and just talk about this production.

De Rogatis and Geurts achieve a deeply disturbing connection on behalf of their characters, one that develops and deepens over the course of the film. Of course, the question is always whether or not Miranda’s feelings are genuine – and Geurts’ accomplishment here is that there are times when Miranda’s attempts to escape shock even the audience – despite the fact that she has been straightforward with both her captor and with us: she will make the attempt every time she gets a chance.

While his accent initially seems unspecific, over time that becomes less distracting and de Rogatis’ real talent shows through: his ability to draw the audience into complicity through connections with individual audience members – some of whom I observed nodding and smiling as de Rogatis delivered a line to them here or there. What initially seemed like an awkward presentation became artfully intentional as the play progressed, transmuting the voyeuristic qualities of the audience into moral support for the monster at the center of the play.

Attempted, but flawed in its execution, is the horrific naturalism of novel and script. 59E59’s Theatre C is small, but the layout of the set and the script’s specific instructions regarding how to achieve its intentions mean that the weight of the set and action often felt imbalanced. Without enough space to really separate each level either physically or with laser-focused lighting changes, there were times when the sharply defined limits of Miranda’s world were blurred, lessening the transfer of her claustrophobic surroundings to the audience and intensifying the effect Geurts needed to have to keep the audience feeling that level of tension. While she more than made up for this loss of energy with one intense exchange with de Rogatis after another (and certainly it was helpful that in many of these exchanges de Rogatis was able to contribute physically to a claustrophobic atmosphere), the play requires the audience to watch a young woman’s terror and pain and take it in as entertainment. The script demands our complicity in its violence, with its treatment of Miranda as a character who wants to break out of the limitations and definitions imposed on her by others, but who is never able to transcend the boundaries and demands placed on her (as the damsel-who-can’t-quite-get-herself-out-of-distress) to achieve true personhood. We’re allowed glimpses into her life – she has a loving upper middle class family, a sister, some friends, a lover/teacher – but we have a far more specific picture of Clegg’s pathetic existence. Which is probably exactly as it should be, given that – again, requiring our cooperation in the narrative – we’re listening to Clegg’s side of the story.

As audience members, we are the reason for the theatrical snuff film that unfolds over the production’s two and a half hours (which, it’s important to note, doesn’t feel overlong at all). In any theater, after the play concludes and the lights come up, we reflect on what we’ve just been a party to. In the case of a production like The Collector, those reflections will be vast and sometimes disturbing.

The Collector plays at 59E59 in New York City, through November 13, 2016, and is presented by Nine Theatricals & Roebuck Theatrical.

When Voting 3rd Party Might Mean Voting for Clinton

The following is adapted from a Facebook post I made earlier today, which friends wanted to share.

I meant to write about this sooner, but later is better than never. So here goes.

wp-1474329232785.jpgLast Thursday night I went and met Bernie Sanders at the Working Families Party gala. Well, okay, I stood up against the stage snapping pics and then shook his hand (along with a bunch of other people) as he left the stage. (Okay. I stood up against the stage like it 2000 and I was at a Placebo concert at Irving Plaza. Shhh. Moving on.)

What impressed me (aside from OMG BERNIE SHOOK MY HAND!!!!) was the level of support that the party had from both local politicians and from more mainstream Dems, including people like Chuck Schumer and Bill de Blasio. Nina Turner spoke, too, and there were also WFP city council types and state legislature types.

Speaking at the Working Families Party gala.

Senator Nina Turner, speaking at the Working Families Party Gala.

One of my big issues (yes, there are more than one, we all know that by now) with voting for Clinton, outside of the issues I take with her positions and her campaign, has been thinking of voting for Clinton as rewarding the DNC for their choice —  and #sorrynotsorry, but there is no fucking way the DNC is getting my vote this year (and possibly any other year). Not in light of the way the primaries were run, the way the debates were gamed, the myriad of questions surrounding people purged from electoral roles, the behavior of their ex-Chairwoman and her subsequent reward of an “honorary” position, etc. Even if not doing *all those things* wouldn’t have meant a Sanders victory (and I would very strongly argue that a earlier and more frequent debates could have changed the Democrats’ primary landscape substantially), the fact that the Democrats did those things?

They don’t get my vote.

Period.

The end.

Well, going to the Working Families Party Gala  the other night gave me a new perspective – a new way of framing the workings of our political system.

The WFP, in NYC at least, has a very strong presence and has been able to help get laws like the $15/hour minimum wage and NY Sick Leave laws passed. In many cases, these smaller parties end up having a major party “nominee” in their candidate box. As speakers stressed over and over (and btw, here’s a link to the speeches, if you’ve got two hours and will excuse that I missed the first few minutes of Senator Turner’s remarks), many of the ideas that ended up in the non-binding 2016 Democratic Platform have origins in the WFP’s party goals.

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Senator Chuck Schumer at the Working Families Party Gala

 

Living in NYC and knowing what I do about my district, etc., I will likely be voting straight-ticket third party in November. HOWEVER. Up till Thursday night it hadn’t occurred to me that voting a straight third-party ticket could, potentially, include a vote for Clinton. And that, philosophically, I might be okay with that.

Whereas voters who vote Green or Libertarian won’t necessarily have a voice in the government after the election, Clinton will know how many of her votes came through local third parties, and even where she may not have success in major progressive domestic policies, at the local level I’ll know I’ve thrown my weight behind a third party that already has proven accomplishments where I live. As a party with deep roots in unions and activism, I can also be assured (to whatever degree one can trust politicians) that the party will advocate heavily for its agenda within the larger agenda, and that there are politicians at both the federal and the local level who consider this a party worth paying attention to. While I won’t know how I’m voting until close to November, after last Thursday’s gala I do know that anybody who shouts “a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump!” (or the reverse, as has happened once or twice in my conversations this election season) isn’t looking at the whole picture.

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at the Working Families Party Gala

I would strongly encourage other people who want to vote 3rd party, who do not want to support the current Democratic Party, to consider  strong local parties available near them.

At the very least, it’s a way of combining your voice with the voices of others in your area, pursuing a party whose goals more closely align with your personal viewpoint (because let’s face it: Dem, Repub, Green and Libertarian is still pretty damn broad as far as categorizing the political affiliations of +/-300M people), and ensuring that there will be a chorus of voices there to hold the politician at the top of the ballot accountable.

Upheaval

The blog has been quiet, but real life has been non-stop.

Back in…June? Early July? I was offered a job back in New York City. Since then, every day (aside from a few spent with extended family) has been a frenetic mix of packing, phone calls, errands, more packing, paperwork, finding basic necessities (a new apartment, for a start), working out transportation options, resisting the temptation to buy (pretty well) and eat (slightly less well) all the things, and problem-solving. So much problem-solving.

Oh – and starting aforementioned new job. Given that common knowledge rates marriage, moving, and starting a new job as the three most stressful events in a person’s life (I’m not sure why “having a kid” isn’t in there, but who knows), I seem to have the “do two of those three things at once” down pat.

With that initial mad rush of activity safely past, and the transition into my shiny new real life moving into the “time to decorate the apartment and get back to doing things like writing once in a while” phase, I wanted to stop and take a minute to say thank you to everybody who helped me make this huge change in my life. From the friend who tipped me off about a job opening to the friends who let me crash in their guest rooms and on their sofas, to the friend who dropped everything to come help me unload things, to the one who killed the first cockroach spotted in the new place (you know you’ve missed city life when your response is, “It’s not New York till you’ve got a cockroach in the apartment” instead of screaming and running into the next room…or in addition to screaming and running into the next room…), I cannot even begin to count the ways in which I feel lucky to have people in my life who support and help me when I need it. Being on your own can be overwhelming at times, and from small actions that alleviate minor stresses to feats of friendship that kept me from falling apart in the most stressful moments, my friends really stepped up and helped make this transition as easy as they could have been.

One of my resolutions when I moved back to NYC was that this time, I was going to be more deliberate about how I live here. I was careful not to jump on the first apartment I saw, I’ve deliberately picked different lunch places every day, and I’m not hesitating to suggest exploring places I’ve heard about. I’m trying to say “yes” when people invite me to do things I might not normally take part in (though I’m also balancing this with a significant commute, which can make things tricky). I’m hoping to find outlets in both politics and theater (you’ll note my most recent review), and really looking forward to when the weather cools off later this fall.

Mostly, I’m glad to feel, two and a half years after everything went sideways, that life is getting back on track.

REVIEW: Alice in Black and White at 59E59

L-R: Jennifer Thalman Kepler and Laura Ellis in ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE, written by Robin Rice and directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Holly Stone

L-R: Jennifer Thalman Kepler and Laura Ellis in ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE, written by Robin Rice and directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Holly Stone

Alice in Black and White
Looking for Lilith Theatre Company
Written by Robin Rice
Kathi E.B. Ellis
59E59, New York City

Casual fans of street photography may not recognize the name Alice Austen, instead favoring Bill Cunningham or Humans of New York. In Robin Rice’s account of Alice’s life, we see the life of a trailblazer in both the personal and public realms.

 

The play takes place in two times: the first, Alice’s path through life; the second, how two people in 1951 go about trying to locate this woman from the past and resurrect her memory. At points, the characters of Alice (Jennifer Thalman Keppler) and 1951’s Oliver (Joseph Hatfield) communicate; the latter is working on a book called The Revolt of American Women and longs to include Austen in his work.

As the protagonist, Keppler moves through a lifetime of relationships, personal values and socio-political changes deftly. Her initial (slightly distracting) exuberance tempers as Alice grows into her teens, though the character’s stubborn single-mindedness never falters.

As Alice’s mother (Shannon Woolley Allison) and indulgent grandfather (Ted Lesley) implore her to find a husband, Alice rejects their advice and forms a relationship with a visitor from Queens – Gertrude Tate (Laura Ellis). A flawed heroine, Alice fails to grasp the importance of supporting herself – and while she doesn’t realize the implications at the time, she also overlooks the impact the stock market crash of 1929 will have on her in the years to come.

Meanwhile, in 1951, Oliver arrives at the Staten Island Historical Society on the lookout for some photographic negatives that his assistant had pinpointed as being in a trunk in the basement. The problem? Sally Lally (Trina Fischer), volunteer receptionist and aspiring Curator of the collection, who refuses to go against policy and let him inspect the contents of the trunk. It’s difficult to trace the emotional line of their story, and if there were more chemistry between the two leads – or clearly not more chemistry – it might be easier to do so.

The production benefits from a sparing set, which consists of a table, some chairs and some props (mostly cameras, but some tea implements as well), and lighting is used mostly to emphasize moments when Oliver and Alice seem to communicate across space and time. The metaphysical aspects of the play don’t receive a lot of explanation, and the audience is left to wonder how Oliver and Austen shared this bond across the decades, but in the end those moments seem incidental to the plot anyways. My one major critique of the play is that the relationship between Oliver and Lally doesn’t feel as if it grows organically, instead feeling superimposed on the characters.

For those who were already fans of Austen, Rice’s lens will no doubt prove a delightful delving into a woman of historical import. For those unaware of Alice’s work, the play offers just enough of a taste of the photographer’s personality and approach to life to whet the appetite.

Alice in Black and White is playing until August 14th at 59E59 theatre in New York City.

Go High, Clinton Supporters

Originally posted on my Facebook, regarding the Democratic National Convention and the speeches given by both Michelle and Barack Obama.

I don’t think I got to say this last night but I want to make sure to say it.

One of the reasons the Obama speeches were so successful – and here I mean both Michelle and Barack – is that they understand that this is probably the last chance they have to bring Berners on board en masse to support the Democratic party’s chances of getting out the vote. To that end, neither of them shamed Bernie supporters nor did they call them ridiculous or selfish or anything else.

A lot of people have gone low in their attempts to sway Berners to the cause. Michelle and Barack went high.

They called on upset and disillusioned progressives to bring in more folks like them and change the complexion (no pun intended) of the party. The President said that if Berners stick around and join in the fight, then we’ll continue making slow progress, and if progressive Democrats can bring enough people in to support their cause(s), then eventually the tenor of the debate will change.

This won’t be enough for some. There is a hell of a lot of mistrust of the party by Bernie supporters, and there are a lot of Dem policies that simply don’t match their view of how the world should be. And just like he did in his state of the union, Obama acknowledged that there are real policy differences between Americans at different parts of the political spectrum.

But he also praised Bernie’s supporters as “the best organizers in the world,” and was – as far as I can tell – the only speaker so far to offer unmitigated praise to the people who worked so hard to take Bernie from an unknown to a serious contender for the presidency.

The Clintons, their supporters and the DNC need to go high. It will be hard. It might not be enough. But if they want people to rally behind Hillary in the general, it’s what they need to do.

A Moment of Sunshine

Went to the beach on Saturday. It was great. Here’s a photo. 🙂

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