On January 20, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of these United States. I’ve been spending a lot of time since the election working through all my feelings on the subject. And I’ve managed to boil all my rage, disappointment, and shock into two major thoughts: “We have to do better!” and “F*** that guy!” (Obviously the former is a more actionable frame of mind to be in, but I’d be lying if I said the latter thought didn’t help fuel my desire to follow through on the first.)
I’ve also been doing a lot of writing…and not in the “Wow, I’m making some great art from this!” kind of writing (yet). More like, “Umm, I think I’m writing a mission statement” kind of writing, and it’s based on the following:
1. We need to heal our divided nation.
2. We need to make our objections to Trump’s policies seen and heard.
I’m working on strategies for the first statement, which will be shared in a future article, but my theatre company Little Black Dress INK already had a jump start on the second— and we’re inviting other impassioned artists and theatre companies to join us.
Little Black Dress INK (LBDI) is a female playwright producing organization. For the past several months, we've been sharing plays by female playwrights in our We’re Not Playing initiative. This initiative began as a way for us to support female voices who were speaking out on important issues through their work as playwrights—but in the past six weeks, it’s picked up steam as a place for theatrical action to take formidable shape.
On January 20, 2017—Inauguration Day—theatres and theatre practitioners across the nation are invited to hold royalty free readings of these short plays. Our artists only ask that all monies raised be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, and/or Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)—organizations we believe will be integral to fighting the dangerous policies that the incoming administration intends to implement.
The LBDI website currently has twenty-four socially-conscious/politically-inspired short plays/monologues hosted on our site for host theatres to choose from—plays written from places of anguish, passion, and incredible concern. I can’t tell you how awesome it has been to read and share each of these plays, not only as a means of sharing actionable art, but also because of the connections our playwrights are creating. These writers from around the country are putting their words to work, and it’s incredibly inspiring to be a part of the connective tissue delivering their stories to new audiences.
In addition to the plays we’ve shared, we have invited theatres to challenge their own circles of passionate playwrights to write plays about today’s issues. Our hope continues to be one of helping artists and audiences channel their rising tides of panic into theatrical action. Action that can spur continued creative conversation and create further opportunities to organize. It’s my belief that theatre that sparks action and activates empathy is vitally necessary in today’s times. Going forward, it’s my hope that artists continue to write work that challenges and motivates audiences to engage in civic issues. Obviously we want to continue to entertain, but putting energy into theatre that inspires activism is not only worthwhile, but necessary.
Of course, LBDI isn’t the only organization making an effort to take action through art. Writers Resist is another nationwide organization effort aimed at bypassing “empty political discourse” in an effort to “focus public attention on the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate society.” They had nationwide events scheduled on January 15, 2017—Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
The Ghostlight Project is another nationwide event, scheduled for January 19, 2017. Its mission is for theatres to “stand together to face the darkness with light.” Participating theatres “pledge to be a place of diversity and inclusion; acknowledge if this hasn’t been true, and listen to the communities and organizations [they] want to support.”
Through each of these efforts, artists are taking a stand against the vitriolic and reckless rhetoric used by the incoming administration and it is inspiring. Artists are powerful. We spend a great deal of time observing humanity, commenting on it, and hoping that our work has an impact on its audience. As artists on the precipice of an incoming presidency unlike any America has ever seen, we are uniquely poised to make art that matters.
LBDI is proud to spearhead one of these efforts, and hopes you will join us. Let us make our objections loud and clear, and let us put our humanity center stage on January 20, 2017, and beyond. We can be better. Let’s be better. Let's invite our audiences to be better with us.
You can learn more about our Initiative and read plays written by participating playwrights, at www.LittleBlackDressINK.org