2016 was a year of learning from the world around us and applying the lessons to our lives. The 2016 presidential election cycle was long, nasty and grueling, and much of our thoughts and actions revolved around this very disturbing process and outcome. For many of us, the election raised many questions about the American democratic process, civic engagement, and the responsibilities of citizens.
What is the role of government? What responsibilities do citizens have if government moves towards authoritarianism and fascism? In London this past summer we experienced an excellent, thought-provoking and painful production of a theatrical adaptation of the novel 1984. Have we arrived at 1984? Is the new post-truth, especially Trump-speak, the same as in 1984? "War is peace," "black is white," "freedom is slavery," and "ignorance is strength" now have such familiar rings. Is the cyber spying practiced by our own intelligence agencies against us the realization of Big Brother? And everything about each of us is harvested every time we make a phone call, get on the internet, click around on Facebook; and then our data are used to sell things to us. What will our world be like in 2020?
Themes of "the other," including how we view immigrants and people of color were the focus of numerous productions we saw in 2016. Vietgone at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hold These Truths at Portland Center Stage, and How I Learned What I Know at the Portland Playhouse dealt with these issues that have been a focus of the hate and fear made so visible by the Trump campaign. These wonderfully written and powerfully acted plays also put into question the things we think we know, and made us understand that every issue has more than one narrative. The narratives of immigrants from Viet Nam in the 1970’s, Americans of Japanese descent during the 1940’s, and Americans of African descent at all times sometimes confuse and contradict what we think we know, what we know we have learned, what is perhaps post-truth.
In the production of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, we were confronted with issues of wartime, including the fracturing of families, the displacement of people from their homes, the acceptance of "others" by honest and open-hearted people, and the tragedies of military actions. We saw people portrayed simply as people, and the common ground that was between them was solid enough to walk towards each other. Strangers, friends; friends, strangers.
We attended 35 theatrical productions during 2016. We enjoyed almost every one, and many provoked long discussions afterwards. Some were simply fun; others were heavy with life’s often painful realities. For us, theater is a mirror, a window, a door and often an invitation to a different dimension. It keeps our minds elastic, it expands our experience, it allows us to share with others.
We have choices as we travel through life and the world we live on. We can choose to simply be tourists and check off the must-see highlights and day-to-day shoulds on a list, either away from or at home. Or we can immerse ourselves, with every sense attuned, into the cultures, art, architecture, food, customs, language and people of each place we visit, whether it be across the street or across an ocean. When we stay intentionally attuned we are rewarded with so much beauty, so many thoughts, and numerous challenges to our various comfort zones. For us, this is growth.
We hope to see all of you at the theater in 2017.
Here is our theater list for 2016:
Book of Mormon - Broadway in Portland
Great Expectations - Portland Center Stage
Mr. Kolpert - Third Rail
The Setup - Cygnet Theatre at Shaking the Tree
Sense and Sensibility - Portland Actor’s Conservancy (Sherry and Sophie)
Mothers and Sons - Artists Repertory Theater
Forever - Portland Center Stage
The Call - Profile Theater
Fiddler on the Roof - Cleveland High School
Each and Every Thing - Portland Center Stage
We are Proud to Present - Artists Repertory Theater
Nostrana/Devita’s Harp - Jewish Theater Collaborative
The Pianist of Willesden Lane - Portland Center Stage
The Wonder of Will (Shakespeare scenes) - Portland State University
Grand Concourse - Artists Repertory Theater
The Skin of our Teeth - Artists Repertory Theater
The Wiz - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Yoeman of the Guard - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Roe - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The River Bride - Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Sherry)
Richard II - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Great Expectations - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Pensionista - Hotel Miro, Bilbao
1984 - London Playhouse
946: the Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips - Shakespeare Globe Theatre (London)
Little Shop of Horrors - Portland Center Stage
Hold These Truths - Portland Center Stage
How I Learned What I Learned - Portland Playhouse
Vietgone - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Twelfth Night - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Timon of Athens - Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Oregon Trail - Portland Center Stage
Les Miserables - Cleveland High School
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin - Portland Center Stage
Venus and Adonis - Shaking the Tree Theater