Tag Archives: fight back bay ridge

Local politics & political playwriting

It feels like a lot of my posts start with some variation on, “Sorry it’s been a while!” But the fact is, as much as I love updating this blog, there’s a lot going on in real life – some of which I’ll talk about and some of which I won’t – and often, after waiting for more than a few days or a week to update, I fall into the trap of thinking that whatever I post has to be hugely significant.

Sure, it would be nice to have something huge to say every week. But I don’t, really. And right now, a lot of my efforts (in writing at least) fall into two or three camps:

  1. Social Media / news-based conversations. This shouldn’t be number one on the list, but it is, because how else do you stay informed?
  2. Writing to my Congressman and Senators using Resistbot (@botresist, text “resist”to 50409)
  3. Blogging and other forms of writing for progressive activist groups
  4. A play where I eviscerate several political figures with language.

Even though the play is 4rd on the list, it’s an extension of the efforts I’ve put into writing something about the state of US electoral politics for a long time. Every day, what with the news that keeps crashing out of Washington (and everywhere else government reaches), keeping a steady hand on the play gets harder. And I’m well aware of how precarious writing this kind of political narrative can be – one reason Electalytics  has been shelved for the last year or so (and to those of you who were reading it via my mailing list, I apologize) is that what initially seemed like it was going to be a wild ride of a primary turned into the flaming garbage heap that is our current political status. Staying on top of that changing, shifting landscape presents a lot of challenges. So I take them one at a time.

Last night, I went to see The Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar  in Central Park, and in many ways it was a first for me. I’d won the tickets in the lottery, so it was my first time at the Delacourte theater in central park, but it was also the first time I’ve watched this particular Shakespeare tragedy and not been bored out of my skull.

The last few times I’ve seen Caesar, it’s been a rote, stilted mess. It’s not a play with a particularly strong plot, and part of the 100-minute production benefits from that in that we see Caesar’s assassination, the manipulation of the mob, and Brutus’ suicide, while the rest is glossed over. It didn’t feel like we were missing much, and in fact the brief length made the uncomfortable seating far easier to bear.

One of the strongest points in this production was how deftly it was reskinned to incorporate the Trump administration. From the guy who played the Republican primary challenger to Mellie Grant on Scandal (I’m writing on a tablet, and this isn’t an official review, so I’m not going to go look up his name, sorry), who blustered his way through a performance of a truly loathable Caesar, to the emotional depth of Brutus’ soul-searching in killing his friend (Brutus being played by the alcoholic congressman from House of Cards), there were subtle differences in watching this play about patriots trying to defend their country from a tyrant when you’re actually part of a movement trying to defend your country’s liberties from a wannabe tyrant.

The fight scenes weren’t super convincing, but our sightlines were a little weird – maybe seats nearer the center of the audience would have improved this. The set was inventive, and the many sly design nods – Calpurnia’s blonde hair, pink dress and Slavic accent; an arced set that at one point turned into the window behind Melania in her official White House portrait; RESIST posters and pussy hats; riot police and antifa – brought laugh after laugh. Perhaps the most telling moment about how deeply this production cuts was the when Caesar made his first, triumphant appearance. Nobody in the audience clapped. Nobody cheered. Not a whisper. I’ve only seen the play a couple of times, but generally speaking there’s at least one or two audience members who try to get in on the action.

The play gave me a lot to think about, and for that I thank the deft touch with which Brutus’ character was handled. Truly human and truly honorable, it was clear from the first moments of his conspiracy’s taking place that he had high-minded ideals, and that he saw Caesar’s murder as necessary to the continued health of the Republic. (This being Shakespeare, of course, it quickly devolves into battles.)

As I’ve struggled with my own current project, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is that my hero is not just an antihero – he’s a character based on a person whose humanity I have a very, very difficult time seeing. If you’ve read my work, you know that antiheros are kinda my jam – so it’s a weird feeling to try and repeatedly get into the head of a character who actually repulses you. The biggest influence for me has, thus far, been anger – but watching Brutus on stage giving one soft speech after another about the need to protect the ideals of Rome from a man too ambitious to keep them safe reminded me that for Brutus, Caesar’s murder was the most humane solution he could think of. It gave me a different take on my own piece, and besides making changes to the beat sheet for the play, I wrote a 15-page scene as the subway brought me home.

The Progressive Coder’s Network is still going well, and I’ve joined Fight Back Bay Ridge to help me get more involved with local politics. While I missed the New King’s Democrats meeting earlier this week, where endorsements were voted on, I’m hoping to get to the Bay Ridge Democrats meeting, where one of the first Democratic challengers for Dan Donovan’s congressional seat will be speaking. Since Donovan still refuses to hold a legit town hall (I think we get a facebook town hall next week), it’ll be interesting to see how his Dem challengers might approach their discussions with the area’s political clubs and associations. Personally, I’d love to start seeing cross-party, pre-primary debates for any and all contenders – but if I got everything I asked the universe for, we’d have Bernie Sanders in the oval. Oh well.