Duck and Cover!?
I have spent what feels like a lifetime coming to terms with the reality of war in our culture. As a frightened child I lived through the terrifying height of the Cold War. I lived in Miami Florida as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded, certain that we could face annihilation at any moment. The dark side of the Fabulous Fifties was that the revved up nuclear arms race walked arm in arm with the absurd and ultra scary Duck and Cover years. As a young adult, I quickly became convinced that the escalating Vietnam War was not justified. The television images that were projected on nightly newscasts left no illusions or moral justification for the slaughter and bombing taking place in our names. For the first time in my life, I understood that my government could lie to me and would sacrifice the lives of their young warriors for highly questionable motivation. I joined the protests, marching frequently while pregnant and pushing a baby carriage. I eagerly canvassed neighborhoods and voted for the pacifist George McGovern for president. I proudly joined Another Mother for Peace. Their poster still says it all!
In the early 80’s I worked with the non profit organization Beyond War, educating people about the dangers of war and nuclear proliferation while attempting to inform people in our Ventura County community that nuclear weapons made ALL war obsolete! I worked hard to pass the 1984 California Nuclear Freeze Initiative, Proposition 12. Those were the days that activism seemed to matter.
FAST FORWARD TO 2014
Recently, I’ve been outraged, discouraged, frustrated and saddened by our seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the pain and chaos that accompanies them. The days of large protests seem to have passed. Letters to the Editor seem so last century, Facebook friends barely respond to anything more catalytic or controversial than a cute baby photo or a humorous video.
There have not been many artistic responses to our prolonged current period of warfare. I could not find a suitable way to satisfy my own need to respond. I looked for other outlets to no avail.
When NYC choreographer Mark Dendy told me he wanted to use his DANCEworks 2014 residency to make a dance theatre piece about war, my first thought was “at last!”
My second thought was “how brave of him!”
My third thought was “how brave of me!” That last thought precipitated insidious self -doubt. As presenter, I became concerned about the sale-ability of tickets. Would audiences come to see the work? How strong a statement could we make? How would we market it?
After spending several days with Mark in Santa Barbara, after long conversations discussing his vision, after watching him tenderly rehearse the children and adult community participants who will perform with his dancers, the correct response revealed itself. Bottom line: I trust Mark.
I cannot/will not hold myself or an artist hostage to ticket sales! Change and evolution in our culture cannot come from fear of speaking out or of making waves. Mark’s message, which I believe strongly in, will be there for all of us who are willing to look at the truth of our times, while still maintaining hope.
I was unexpectedly challenged to consider my own role in being an agent of change. For now, I’ve found my role in supporting Mark’s work and vision. By the time I took Mark to the airport to return to NYC, I was able to say that I am comfortable with my supporting role as well as thrilled to be in on the process!
How will we market it? By looking straight at it. By not shirking. By seeing war through this brave artist’s eyes.
I am trusting Mark to do what he does best; to hold a mirror up to our culture, to make a provocative work of art, and to make a work of art that refuses to Duck and Cover!!!