After fifteen months of Insight Design Labs, collaborative discovery, and artistic exploration for There’s Something About America (TSAA), the TÉA Company took a month off. Needless to say, we couldn’t really get away from the polarization of America. No one can. Not when political news reporting reflexively divides us against each other and impels us to choose sides in the heated conflict over the Michael Brown tragedy in Ferguson: white – black, police – community, violence – nonviolence. Not when our polarized states of mind become the wearable art of our t-shirts: “Want to piss off a liberal? Support Israel.” I saw that one in Central Park today.
We can’t get away from it, and in one way we don’t want to. The polarization of contemporary American culture is the grist for our Insight Design Labs and the source of inspiration for creating There’s Something About America. As Anne Bogart remarks in her excellent book, What’s the Story: “The theatre, normally chock-full of heat and passion, generally concerns itself with conflict, confrontation, and defiance.”
Of course, TÉA is specifically concerned with the transformation of conflict, confrontation, and defiance – and bringing that to the stage. As TSAA co-director John Rubin puts it: “Our aim is to create a theatrical experience that will enable our audiences to gain at least a momentary liberation from the constraints of prejudgment and certitude – and to experience first hand the transformation from certainty and righteousness to curiosity and that empathy is intrinsically dramatic, entertaining, and compelling.”
Amen, John. Polarization casts a long and troubling shadow over America, and our goal is to create a theatrical performance piece that both awakens and fulfills the yearning of Americans for what seems virtually impossible today: a dramatic experience that enables them to credibly imagine the possibility of transforming America’s social, political, and cultural polarization precisely because they have experienced the possibility of this transformation in themselves.
I look forward to seeing some new styles of wearable art in Central Park some day. How about: “Get curious. Certainty is overrated.”