Next Up: We The People Move to Amend. A Revival to Explore “Corporate Personhood.”
Details: Thursday, April 25, 7pm. Grace Episcopal Church. 819 Madison St., Syracuse.
Very exciting times at DFR, as we approach our last full Revival of our second season! Unbelievably, we will have managed since September to perform 8 times, with 7 full-scale revivals, all on a different theme. That’s 14 performances and 11 full Revivals in our two year history. Excuse us for saying so, but given the fact that every single show is unique and tackles a different theme — and that we are comprised completely of volunteers from the community — this is impressive!! What many of us find very exciting is the way that the twin engines of our company — art and activism — take turns driving our evolution. The last several revivals have seen both our art and our activism take significant leaps forward. Next week will be no different. Get ready for some giant puppetry and some cool FX! And yet another original song. But in addition to more high-level aesthetics, we will also be continuing to refine our post-Revival dialogue in a way intended to move us into concrete actions around specific issues.
As has been written on this site, our shows this year are being sponsored, in part, by the New York Council for the Humanities. One of NYCH’s board members was sent to our “Daughters of the Harvest” Revival in March to assess and report on what we were doing. Here’s what that person had to say (with names and email addresses excluded of course):
My experience last night, March 24, at the D.R.E.A.M. Freedom Revival performance and community discussion was outstanding. If it’s possible for an event to be both exemplary and innovative, this was it. I’m copying organizer/performer Dr. Kevin Bott, who deserves a lot of credit for making a four-hour evening engaging from start to finish.
As you recall, the NYCH funded a series of four performance/discussions by the DFR (Dream Freedom Revival), which purported to use theatrical performance as an entry to community discussion of social issues. This one was focused on women’s rights and empowerment, in partnership with the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. It was co-sponsored by us and by Imagining America (a national program based at Syracuse University).
The event met all of our criteria with verve. The “humanities” content was presented as a tent revival-style performance in which Matilda Joslyn Gage (portrayed by Professor Sally Wagner, who is also Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation) instructs the leader of the revival meeting (played by Kevin Bott) in how men should work with women in gaining not only universal suffrage but in forming a just society in all ways. These two characters were backed by the six-piece Freedom Revival Band and a chorus of 18 singer/performers, some of whom were regulars with the theatre troupe and some of whom were students in Prof. Wagner’s Women’s Studies course.
The event took place at Grace Episcopal Church, free for all. The hall was packed by the 5pm start time with about 150 attendees of all ages, genders, and colors. Through the lively performance, which included a “sermon” which was really a lecture by childbirth educator, Aimee Brill, we learned a lot about both the history and the current state of women’s rights. The quality and energy of the performance was impressive, the humanities content seamlessly integrated.
After the performance, the hall was re-set for a communal supper of tacos and apple juice (delicious but not by any means extravagant). Anyone who had attended the performance was welcome to stay, as long as they participated in discussion; a lively group of about 75 people stayed. We sat at tables of 8; each table had a facilitator, who walked us through three specific questions based on the topics of the performance. After supper and small-group discussions, we cleared the tables, created a large circle in the middle of the hall, and had open discussion, starting with reports from the facilitators and finishing with comments from anyone. My table included a disabled veteran, an unemployed mother/activist, a retired professor and his wife, and two other middle-aged couples.
The participants for both performance and discussion were a great mix of ethnicities, classes, and ages. Discussion was lively and focused throughout, and Kevin had to force the conversation to a conclusion at 9pm. My comments here are longer than I intended, but I really think that this event was worth describing! We can be proud to have offered our support to this series; two more revivals are scheduled for this spring.
Cool beans, huh? Join us next Thursday, 4/25, at 7pm! “Come for the Fun; Stay for the Freedom!” (and free coffee, tea, and dessert!)