I spent the last three days in Ashland, OR, visiting some of my best friends and seeing some truly incredible theater. I went down because one of my friends who works at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival would. not. shut. up. about Party People, the show he’s running video for. It’s created and written by Universes and it’s exactly the kind of theater I want to do for the rest of my life.
I forget sometimes that I spent much of the last two years of college reading and writing about theater as a vital political community exercise, particularly in marginalized communities. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o wrote about the creation of theater at the Kamiriithu Theater in Kenya as an open and democratic community process in Decolinising the Mind, how necessary it is for people to be able to tell their own story - and how afraid of that power the state is. I wrote about this nonstop, whenever I could, in every class I could justify it in - the arts as a vital form of liberation. Party People is absolutely that.
My friend who’s working on the show told me about the Black Panthers who have come to Ashland to see the show, how they come up to him, the white video projection guy, to say thank you after the show, to express their gratitude for the unflinching truth in the telling of this impossible story. Throughout the entire show, all I could think was, fuck, what am I doing working on musicals?
I’m just another white girl who fell in love with an academic concept, except now I’m not an academic. I’m a working theater artist and I’m filled with the need to work on projects like this one. I want to make theater that engages with the community I’m in, theater that tells stories besides those of straight white males. This is so fucking vital to who I want to be as an artist. I’m infinitely thankful to Party People for reminding me of it.
give me land, bread, housing, give me justice, give me peace