May 17, 2018
The National Theatre | Washington, DC
April 24, 2017
When I first decided to write you a letter, I figured I would craft it in your favorite meter. After all, if you are writing a love letter to William Shakespeare, iambic pentameter feels like the right choice to make.
But here’s a reality check: I am terrible at it, though I will admit I really like saying the phrase because it sounds like something out of the Jabberwocky — familiar, yet completely made up.
(Jabberwocky is an amazing poem, the things you miss when you die in 1616.)
Happy birthday (a day late)! For being just over 450 years old you’re still breaking hearts, causing drama, and encouraging laughter around the world. As we wrap up marking the 400th year of your death (sorry!) I wanted to tell you how I felt.
Whew. I’m a little nervous, as I’ve never expressed my love to a dead playwright before. Continue reading “Dear William Shakespeare”
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. – Excerpt from Executive Order 9066. Signed February 19, 1942 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When I was in graduate school I was assigned Only What We Could Carry for a course on visual and material culture. This text used objects, poetry, photography, and art to reveal the wide ranging experiences of Japanese Americans (and permanent residents) that were forced, seventy-five years ago, from their homes into internment camps.
One of the first artifacts photographed is an evacuation tag. At first glance looks like a label you would place on an inanimate object with basic reference information. For the evacuees forced to leave their homes, this tag removed identities paring individuals down to a name, family number, and a time and a place to report.
Continue reading “75 Years Later: Allegiance and Executive Order 9066”
afraid. Folded in by the weight
of postcards and calls
links and 140 characters.
Always thinking about the invisible scales of equality
between the unborn, the refugee, the immigrant, and those not living in privilege.
certain that I have fingers
toes, a heart with blood pumping
slowly through my veins —
as do you,
and us, but those that lead find
different ways to say
You Don’t Belong.
my strength for this
Yet I know that one cannot expect miracles
And God cannot do all the work
And so —
Although I am afraid, I am certain. Although I question, I am ready.
I can be brave. I must be brave. I will be brave.
Whenever I begin writing my annual New Year’s post I take a look at what I wrote the year before. Here is what I said in January 2016:
I had intended for this to go up in the waning days of last year but found myself wanting to spend my vacation away from my computer rather than in front of it. So here we are, with some final thoughts on the other side of the new year.
A final post, one last time, on Hamilton: An American Musical.
In a lot of ways, this year has been the year of Hamilton for me. On some level it allowed some respite from the real world, while opening the floodgates on an already complex conversation about art, diversity, and our American past.
In 2016 I have been privileged to see the show on Broadway and like so many others devoured the Hamilton Mixtape, finished the Hamilton: The Revolution (henceforth the Hamiltome, the book about the making of the musical – with annotations!), and watched Hamilton’s America – the incredible PBS documentary that put the musical in its historical context. Continue reading “Hamilton: One Last Time”
In the first post of this series I wrote of how the miniseries Roots and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of the Earth and Sky tackled a simple question of individual identity amidst displacement – “Who am I?” But there is a second question that both the show and the book addressed that looks beyond the status quo and the present revealing active identity creation. “Who do I want to be?” is a question that is both aspirational and forward looking.
And so two other art/history pieces I experienced this spring – the Smithsonian’s Crosslines and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s District Merchants– demonstrate that not everyone wants or chooses to internalize their heritage in the same way. Rather they make it clear that answering the question “Who do I want to be?” is a combination of conscious and unconscious choices we make in the process of forging identities.
“And he, Marin Djivo, younger son of a merchant? What was his life about? Trade? Clever, profitable dealings? He was from a city state that flourished by letting no one hate them enough to do anything disagreeable. Where you are situated in the world, Marin thinks, digging a grave in a Sauradian meadow, shapes how you act in the world.
Then he amends that thought: It is one of the things that does so. Rasca Tripon and Danica Gradek might frame it differently. Or the old empress living with the Daughters of Jad on Sinan Isle might do so. They are all exiles, he thinks, taken from what they were, where they were.”
–Excerpt from Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (emphasis mine)
For those of you that are fans of musical theatre the title of this piece may prompt you to belt out a singular name. A man whose identity at the moment of questioning had long been obscured by a series of numbers.
Words have power. Fact. We live in an age where anyone can say anything and be believed. An age where fact checking is only reliable if it aligns with your beliefs. Words. Have. Power.
But power to what? To sway, to innovate, to encourage, to bring hope – and in their absence limit important forms of expression necessary for real communication. A few weeks ago two events brought these thoughts to the surface. And while both cases are based in fiction there are real world implications.
A quick anecdote. While on a road trip last week to Charlottsville I helped introduce my high school history teacher to the magic that is Hamilton. A few days later I received a Facebook message where he asked me if this was in retaliation for the forced repeated listening of Gary Owen when I was in his class.
My response: I do what I can.
Seriously though, everyone has an opinion about this musical, and I thought it was high time I shared the feelings of others (you know how I feel – in both parody and essay form). I also promise this will be the last post about Hamilton until I see it in August, because I got tickets that didn’t break the bank – Huzzah!.
In November of last year I asked some co-workers, and friends (one of which is an eleven year old) for their thoughts on this theatrical masterpiece. The responses I received were nuanced and introspective. So, on this blizzardy day here in Washington, DC here are the collected thoughts of Iris, Alison, Sarah H., Sarah F., Rob, Monty, Megan, Mike, Alex, and Renee. [Then read this great interview on Vulture.]