Two weeks until the second of our four (maybe five) performance & dialogue Revivals supported by the New York Council for the Humanities. Sunday, March 24, 5pm, @ Grace Episcopal Church (819 Madison St.)
This is a partnership with Sally Wagner, executive director of The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, and 17 undergraduate students in her intro. to women’s studies class. The theme is women’s power and understanding the contemporary relevance of Gage — the most radical of the suffragists. (And really, even applying the word ‘suffragist’ to Gage is exceedingly reductive!)
It’s been a wonderful example of “engaged humanities.” The students have been the best. They are truly the content experts in the room, helping DFR to shape the message and making sure what we’re including is the best distillation of Matilda’s primary concerns. The conversations between the students, directed toward us, have been fascinating. Several of them have expressed how exciting it’s been for them to see that what they’ve been learning about some 19th century “historical figure” can actually be applied to people’s lives today. And beyond that, they were eager to see an audience wholly unfamiliar with Gage be exposed to the same learning. They are feeling like contributors to knowledge, not just consumers of it!
The Revival itself will be yet another experiment for us. With the help of Dudley Cocke, renown grassroots theater maker and consultant, we made great strides with the Ida Benderson Revival last month. The idea of DFR framing a centerpiece focusing on real people testifying about one issue has clarified and simplified a lot of what we do. Still, each show has its own creative impulse, and the community organizer (this time, Aimee Brill) brings not only her or his ideas to the table, but also the ideas of the group being featured. What Dudley imagined with us was the idea that DFR could simply do the opening song (The DFR Song), Ebenezer’s monologue, and the closing song (Change). The entire center would be dominated by the work of the community organizer and the featured group, which would vary from show to show.
The idea was that this would make things simpler and the workload would be much more evenly distributed. And in many ways that’s happened. But the unique backstory of The DFR compels us as a group to create narrative arcs into each of the shows, to fit the group within the context of the “time traveling liberationist” story. Interestingly, the simplification seems to have given us space to focus on aesthetics and our fictional narrative, which I think in turn is only going to help the overall impact of the performance.
Last month we alluded to having traveled to the future, thereby anticipating the city’s closure of the senior center. This month we’re starting back in the past, in the 19th century — actually showing ourselves in a different period for the first time — where Ebenezer is confronted with his own ignorance and arrogance attempting to be an ally to the women in his community. And after that confrontation, Ebby recedes into the background and the women essentially take the show over. It’s pretty great, especially considering how much Ebenezer had dominated the stage time until very recently. This new model is truly pushing the group into a lot of new directions, and giving a lot of folks opportunities to express who they are and to showcase their own passions.
We hope you’ll join us on March 24th.
Oh! And Syracuse’s wonderful The Mission Restaurant will be catering our post-Revival facilitated conversation at around 6:30.
Should be great! See you there!