nytheatre.com q&a preview by Darian Dauchan
October 4, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Poet and Playwright.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I actually majored in Drama at NYU, and had some amazing acting teachers who really opened my eyes to the possibilities of theater. Before that I was a teenager from Cali that was mostly into film and film actors, although I dabbled in theater, as most high school thespians do. But once I was exposed to classical work and how epic the stories were, diving into some really gritty contemporary work, and also learning how to create my own material I was hooked.
What was the last show you saw that really excited you, and why?
I actually just saw the Exonerated at the Culture Project for the first time last week. It's a piece that I had heard about for quite some time while at college, so I was glad I had a chance to finally catch it. It's just one of those life changing theater pieces, that really resonates with you, well after you've seen it. A big eye opener about an important aspect of the American System of Justice delivered with such honest simplicity. Delroy Lindo was reading the night I saw it along with the one of the creators of the show, and one of the actual exonerates, all three of them brilliant, which is a testament to the power of the words and the stories they were telling. And the thing I appreciated most, was that as heavy as the material was, there was still room for hope at the end of the play. I think we as artists are really good at creating work with doomsday scenarios that can leave an audience crippled into a depressing paralysis, but I think what's most important now at this point in time, in our current political and societal landscape is to create work that uplifts people and motivates us all to be better and not stuck in the gutter.
In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
Obamatry in my mind, at its core is a virtual rhetorical conversation on the subject of America between a Poet and a President. Its very much a "he said", "I said" format, that focuses solely on our words and the events that happen around us throughout Obama's candidacy and presidency. Ultimately I wanted to be able create a piece about politics that was both cool, innovative, and different, so with the mixing of multimedia, poetry, live vocal looping, and beat-boxing it serves as a piece I don't think anyone has quite seen before. The best way to describe the mash up is to think Daily Show meets Def Poetry Jam meets Reggie Watts and voilà you have Obamatry. And whether you're an Obama supporter, doubter, or skeptic, all are welcome, as we promise a lively, thought provoking night, with a healthy dose of praise, critique, and political satire at it's finest.
Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
Gotta go with Bugs for cunning cockiness and sly wittiness. Abracapocus!
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
I actually read a really good book called Rebuild the Dream by Van Jones not too long ago. And there's a great chapter on what he calls the Political Grid, which consists of 4 parts: the head space, the heart space, the inside game, and the outside game. In a nutshell, he argues that societal change tends to happen when a political movement dominates all 4 parts of the grid. As artist it's clear that we dominate the heart space, but it's only one part of the grid, an extremely important one, but still only one. It's only when all 4 parts of the grid are activated in a large way that legitimate change is manifested. The Civil Rights Movement is a good example as you have someone like Martin Luther King Jr. in the outside game, Harry Belafonte in the heart space, Lyndon Johnson in the inside game, and the Civil Rights Act in the head space. When artists, activist, and elected officials work in alliance toward a specific common goal and cause, and it's reflective in our culture and our laws, then often times progress is certain to follow. So if we occupy the heart space as theater practitioners or in whatever field of art we choose and in addition find our allies that exist on the other parts of the political grid, then I certainly think societal change is possible. If we do that, not only is it possible, but it's inevitable.