"We are here to understand the Words"
Based on a feeling
too large to be distilled
Based on a culture
long ago forgotten
"We are here to understand the Words"
Of a language too small for the center
A constant question
When I close my eyes,
"Will I die in sleep?"
But ever forward
odds sift away
I learn myself;
fear only multiplies
8: the dark
78: one light
Or will I welcome rest
like a remembered story?
grateful the scythe found me
while hiding between the pinks of your fingertips
Shaving in the car because my Mom said my 15-year-old beard was sporadic and mangy. A car filled with teenage girls laughed at me and the electric razor as we passed at an intersection.
Seeing you for the first time with your Jet black hair and thinking I saw a streak of lighting pass through your summer green eyes. A flash I didn’t understand but now know as recognition.
You, confidently wearing a tight, kelly green t-shirt while I slumped self-consciously in my army green thermal with sleeves that ended at my thumbs. It would be so many years before I knew that clothes could hug my softness.
Being shown our room (two twin beds in the back of a house somewhere in Orange County, California) by a host family whose son was supposed to join us but was working late.
Being on our own. You turned to me and you saw it all. Friendship inevitable, you asked what musicals I liked. I probably said Ragtime. You asked what musicals I didn’t like. I definitely said Phantom of the Opera.
Not much else until it happened the next night. You, 18. Me, 15. Both of us only pretending to sleep 2 feet away from another boy’s warm body in a secluded back room at a musical theatre show choir camp. Bound by cliché.
Days later a mother describing the difficulty of finding boarding for all the students in the choir “because we obviously couldn’t room boys and girls together.” She thanked me for being so comfortable with sharing my room. I smiled thinking about the stillness between us in the moments before it happened. Simple questions met with leading answers. Thinking, “ask me something else, please ask me something else.”
In soundless courage I asked, “Are you ticklish?”
Your answer lit a match at the end of dynamite. You had been waiting for the sign and no matter what happened, I wasn’t turning back. The blood left my head as your arm reached across the space between the beds…
You slid your fingers under my blanket and moved your hand to my chest. Simple and inevitable. You had done this before. You were my guide and I was eager to apprentice.
You were kind. You didn't ask if I was gay, you just gently leaned over me and calmly asked “may I kiss you?”
My choked response: “I have to take out my retainer.”
Our lips meeting and instantly learning that the sensation of flying wasn’t reserved for the birds and the bugs and the pilots and the superheroes.
Spending the next day at rehearsal thinking about you and making eyes at you and not stopping smiles at the thought of you and your ass in tight black jazz pants.
Both of us being approached by different girls who wanted to date us for the 5-day-long program.
Agreeing and loving our secret.
Going to the mall as a group and making out with the girls in a car parked at the top of a cement structure while we bumped back and forth past each other.
Learning that her flavor would never let me leave the ground.
Leading her on because the longer I lasted the less questions people would ask about you and me.
The phone call a week later when she asked to be in a long distance relationship and I blurted out that I was with you.
My heart breaking only to realize it was a crustacean merely shedding its armored shell.
You pushing me hard onto the twin bed and kissing me with freshly sipped lemonade on your tongue. At 15, I was only afraid of sending unwanted flavors through kisses, I didn’t realize you could send cold, wet, delicious ones too. We shared the lemonade so that you could taste it on me and I remember thinking that the ghost kiss I received when putting my lips on your can was nearly as good as the real thing.
I didn’t wear my retainer for the rest of the week.
Holding hands while walking up the stairs after our performance and dropping the finger lock just before meeting our fathers who had come to pick us up.
Promising each other that we would keep it going; hopeful and confident and grateful.
The emails you sent me with pixelated jpegs of yourself and small updates about school and shows. I melted with every word, feeling like I finally belonged to someone safe.
The nude you sent me; laying face down revealing the curve of your ass. I remember thanking you for being my first and telling you how much you meant to me.
My mother standing engulfed in flame outside the choir room and telling me to get into the car before the end of the school day and telling me that she had been tracking all of my emails for years and that she found the curve of your ass and that she was going to file statutory rape because you were 18 and how dare I because I was too young to understand and how dare I because she didn’t even know who you were and how dare I because she couldn’t do this anymore and how dare I because now she had to get my father involved.
Her outing me to my father in a wild rage of showmanship (my father HAD to talk to me about it HAD to tell me he didn’t believe me HAD to say it was just a phase).
My first symphony being turned into chaos. I had to sit there while she probed, diminished and ripped at our experience that was nothing but gentle and playful and kind. She taught me that kindness and intimacy and appreciation should be met with shame, terror, pain. Taught me that any sex, even the sweetest and most caring was akin to rape. That gay sex was a violent act. That gay sex was a crime. She taught me this. Not the men who would actually hurt and sometimes take what wasn’t theirs.
You reached over the 2 feet of darkness to where I was laying, in awe of you. When your palm met my navel, you squeezed the softness around my middle and told me how much you liked it. No other lover has decidedly taken fist fulls of the parts of my anatomy that make me wand to hide and I’m realizing now that it might not be because they didn’t want to but because I wouldn’t let them.
Ending my relationship with you. They told me what to say. Told me how to say it. You were too old. I was too young to know what else to do.
You are still the freest I have ever been. I dream about lemonade
and I remember.
strewn on the battlefield of
What should have been
My body spilt in two
The stillness of a river
And who I thought I’d be
orbiting the tinniest nucleus of
whispers from behind my retina
forced upon me
like a cloud of frankincense
ceremoniously mangled into
Tapped on my angelic shoulder
I wait for the psalm
I memorized before words had meaning
a frozen intake of air
you are not enough.
the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices.
“You grow up the day you have the first real laugh at yourself.”- Ethel Barrymore
Hey there, and thank you for coming to the theatre!
I would like to begin my Director’s note by acknowledging that this performance is taking place on the unceded lands of the Munsee Lenape people along the Mahicantuck River. I honor the Munsee Lenape of the past, present and future so that I may unwind myself from the consciousness that says “this land is my land.”
In the history of the American Musical, only 10 shows have been awarded The Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Yes, Hamilton is one of them but so too is the show you are about to see; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Revolutionary for its time, How to Succeed... pointed a finger directly at the corrupt and questionable practices of the men and women (but mostly the men) who walked directly from their offices on Madison Avenue and Wall Street to see this musical in the 46th Street Theater in 1961. It was a biting satire written for and about the business professionals of New York City; those who had made a lifestyle of having “dinner and a show” during Broadway’s golden age.
And yet over time, with subsequent star-studded revivals and countless High School productions, How to Succeed has fallen to the ill fate of becoming nostalgic, Once a hilarious commentary on sexism, elitism and corruption, it is now, at times, produced to feel a sense of “the good old days.” When I was approached to direct this production, my first thought was “it’s not the show I would have chosen right now.” Most storytelling professionals are awakening to the fact that representation really does matter and I couldn’t fathom staging depictions of sexual misconduct that would be laughed at or (scariest of all) applauded.
What I have realized through this production and the incredibly mindful work of the students, is that I had underestimated the initial intent of the show and the power of laughter. It is my sincere hope to position this show as a satirical battle cry so that we may laugh uproariously at the absurdity of human nature as an entry point into activism and change. Though satire is an exaggeration, I want to be sure to acknowledge that we are exaggerating practices that are still common in the workplace today. 38% of women have experienced sexual harassment in their place of work and 3 out of 4 cases go unreported for fear of becoming one of the 55% of victims who experience retaliation after speaking up (1).
Being that this still is a traditional musical and hoping that a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down, please let this performance be a dump truck of pixie sticks activating each and every one of us to make our workplaces safer, more equitable and more accepting. I know we can. In the words of our protagonist “I believe in you. I believe in you.”
You are an infant on a leash
I got you
I got you
Until I don’t got you
And I dig my heels
Until concrete liquifies
I built you a cradle
maybe you need a home
Stealing the air you need to fly
I got you
I got you
I got all of you
In an email exchange, I was recently asked:
What [are] your goals regarding audience engagement [in the theatre] and...how does theatre translate into a more educational role in the community? What does success in each area look like?
Here is my response...
Goals regarding community engagement:
Even though lockdown was a wild and mentally challenging shit storm, it brought me so much clarity. It was the catalyst I needed to leave an unhealthy cycle of subconsciously believing that the commercial theatre was the pinnacle of success (an ingrained belief from early childhood). It wasn't until I began my degree and started to learn about "The Arts" from a macro perspective that I realized I was fed up with the theatre because it wasn't serving ME and doubly fed up with myself because I had an expectation that it SHOULD serve me (not the community or greater good or anything else for that matter). I mean, for what?!?
I believe theatre to be the greatest tool we have for community-wide self-reflection and growth. And yet, in the face of capitalism, we have turned the theatre into an elitist past time where the barriers to entry are not only financial but cultural.
When talking about how to engage communities, I think most are coming at it from the wrong way. Through some work on decolonization, I learned that the simplest thing organizations can do is offer their resources (reversing the cycle of taking/hoarding/colonizing; reversing the cycle of "Development"). I think most organizations (white-led, white-run, white-funded) are constantly creating "new" programs in an attempt to bring "new" audiences into the theatre under the impression that the organization understands the needs of the underserved (or yet to be served) communities. The real underlying and self-serving intention of this work is to foster new ticket buyers to create return visitors and ultimately, supporters in order to meet a monetary goal. Instead of supporting this tired and inefficient practice, the work I would like to be a part of entails reaching out to under-served communities and asking "How can we help YOU?" "We have all of these resources, are they of interest to you? If so, how can we assist your actual needs?"
If this goes well, then the real work begins. The organization and the theatre as a whole will have to shift and evolve to fulfill the needs of the communities and constituencies they serve. What is the theatre then? Whose stories are being told? How are they told? With and by whom? I think then, the TheatER can become a physical center for all folks to convene and discuss societal issues through storytelling and the TheatRE takes a more important role as a community mediator and empathy educator.
With the above in mind (Theatre as societal changer, community mediator, empathy educator), the idea of "Theatre Education" explodes outward into endless possibilities of exploring and learning and understanding the intersectional human experience (sociology, empathy, wellness, policy, self-awareness, breathing, living, loving). With this being the new framework for theatre education; a community wide curriculum in existing, how does a theatre forward this work in every facet of its "existing" organization? The mission must be rooted in collective learning and accountability so that all aspects of administration and production serve as an educational trial-and-error practice in living, breathing, convening and including and growing. The theatre shouldn't simply share anti-racist practices on its stages, the theatre must be an anti-racist practice.
Success in these areas:
Has anyone yet to be successful in these areas? I don't know. I know change doesn't happen overnight. The reframing of the organizational mindset is where we start to make forward movement. Success is setting standards for the organization and sticking to them. It's being accountable to its under-served constituencies. It's transparency. It's offering resources continuously until those resources can be of service. It's sharing space. It's collectively breathing. I don't have a complete answer to your question yet.
From the height of a swing set
A boy of 9
With dark hair and
Ran out red cheeks
Looks down without thinking
Hollows his tongue
Pools his DNA
And fires his fermented sweetness
On a so-called friend below
And though aimed at my head
shattered my heart
Years later when I am told by another that by
he means he wants to pee on me
i sprout forth blooms
of wallflower so far down my spine
that Mary Lennox herself could not find
the key to unlock it
Of course, not long after
To the starting block of my own
own Mark Spitzery
I look down without thinking and
Onto a naked ski mask
Too afraid to reveal the face of a child who wanted to whisper
the dreams of butterflies
More than he wanted to see the color of his playmate’s blood
You told him he was wrong
And I told myself I was right to abuse him for it