Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Acting, Politics, Growth, and Performers...

One of the communities I used to interact with over the years as an actor based out of the San Francisco Bay Area is the spoken word/poetry community and their respected activists.  The lack of diversity and representation within television, film, media (along with blatant whitewashing) and institutional oppression tend to create discussion and dialogue amongst us actors, writers, spoken word artists, poets, and activists.

But that's where I draw the line.

From the time I took my first batch of headshots back in 1999 until utilizing my lunch breaks for audition times nowadays, I recall first hand the frustration of being overlooked for a specific role, told to re-read the lines "with an accent," or simply auditioning for a role that was racially and ethnically (as well as ethically) questionable.  Eventually I felt that out of necessity, it's best to write and create my own work in order to maintain creative control over my own work.  I also took the time to learn other peripheral crafts to augment my skills in acting such as theatrical movement, voice and diction, dance, vocal intensive, writing, and long form and short form improvisation.

Meanwhile in the light of all the negative headlines regarding race relations and politics I found myself having lunch with a group of activists, writers, and spoken word artists who were venting about the various situation.  Finally the discussion shifted to the 2016 presidential election.

They had a laundry list on all Republican candidates. (Cruz, Bush, Carson, Fiorina, Kasich, ect)

They had a laundry list on Hilary Clinton

They had a laundry list on Donald Trump

They had a laundry list on Bernie Sanders.

So I asked them WHO THEN would they cast their vote on, and they immediately turned the question to me.  I told them I may vote for the same candidate I voted for back in 2012 if this person was to be nominated again because I thought it was important to vote 3rd party and create an additional voice to the bi-partisan "bi-opoly"  voting system.

I was then labeled as a "vote waster."  Funny part was, one of them bragged that she "doesn't bother wasting time to vote." Yet, she labeled me as a "vote waster."

I realized that I was too drowned out by the group and no matter what I proposed, they were dead set on why the system is "f*cked up."  Plus after so many years of voting, I still had not yet developed a comeback for the cliche "voting for the LESSER of TWO EVILS is still voting for Evil" default argument that they pull out of their asses every election time.

So they hide in their spoken word lairs with other like-minded victims while presenting their pain-pimping propaganda to a chorus of empathetic hisses.

The last time I was present at one of those events I had this moment of clarity:

They weren't committed to a solution.  They're not committed to any solution to the problems they present.  They thrive on the problems they presented.  If anything, they may or may not be aware that their identity is so intertwined with the social problems and victimhood, that they fear that they'll lose a sense of who they are if there ever was a healing and/or a solution.  Those hisses of allegiance is their rare experience of inter-connection and validation.  Their problem is spoken word and poetry to a room of 50-70-100, even 200 people and their accompanying hisses is not going to create a concrete solution for anyone.

For example, at a spoken word event, this artist began her twelve minute introduction to her two minute piece on human trafficking and sex slavery while her chorus of hisses began to build.  At the end of her piece, actually after the event when we gathered to eat, the artist and I had an additional "dialogue" regarding her performance.

Me: "actually, I've donated to Organization XYZ before.  They have several locations throughout Southeast Asia to rescue and house the women from human trafficking."

Her: "aren't they some stupid Christian organization?  Christianity and churches are tools of the colonizing oppressors."

So much for solution.

Ten years ago at a theater conference, there was a "mix and mingle" at one of the restaurants where one side of the restaurants were those who wanted to mix and mingle, while the other side of the restaurant was hosting an open mic section.  At certain points the performers at the open mic called out those who were there to mix and mingle, accusing them of lack of etiquette.  There was no dialogue or civil interaction between the two conflicting groups.  It was just a "you folks need to shut up while we're up here on stage."

Seeking a solution is to find the best case scenario of a "win-win-(win)" situation for all sides involved. Some people even call it "compromise."  For the spoken word artist and activists, it's more or less an "all or nothing" standoff, and then they perform more pain pimping propaganda on why their life is full of a "series of nothing" results.  Thus the cycle never ends.  Then they're neither an artist nor activist, just a victim of the never ending self perpetuating cycle of their own creation.

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