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.  duck and coverAs 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!another mother

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!  beyond warI worked hard to pass the 1984 California Nuclear Freeze Initiative, Proposition 12.  Those were the days that activism seemed to matter.


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!!!hope




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  • Jonna Gaberman February 20, 2014  

    You said it so well Diane! What a great inaugural blog. I love art that refuses to duck and cover, and I wish that I lived closer so that I could see the production! Good luck with all your great work.

  • Dianne Vapnek February 20, 2014  

    thanks, Jonna! I wish you lived closer as well! It felt good to get it out there.

  • Michael Seabaugh February 21, 2014  

    March on, Dianne! We are all with you.

  • Dianne Vapnek February 21, 2014  

    Always grateful for your support, Michael!!

  • Robin Staff February 21, 2014  

    Dianne –
    This was so refreshing to fall upon. Growing up in the same time period, I share your fears and frustrations – having marched on Washington more than a few times, wearing a black arm band, and believing we could change the world, I am so shocked that those ‘ boots on the ground’ marches and protests are just so few and far between. Bravo for taking on this great work with Mark – before I had read the entire piece, my first thought was of course do this – YOU CAN TRUST MARK! I wish we were not physically on the opposite side of this great country, which will hopefully find it’s way – we have much in common.
    Best –

  • Dianne Vapnek February 21, 2014  

    Thanks, Robin. I so appreciate your comments and support!

  • Heather Shea March 31, 2014  

    I love your blog post, Dianne, and especially your commitment to Mark’s new piece! We change the world one person at a time, one DANCE at a time. I’m proud of you. Thank you for being brave and responsible and inspirational!

  • Dianne Vapnek April 1, 2014  

    Dear Heather, Thanks for your kind words!

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