DFR in the News

21 Feb

Recently, The D.R.E.A.M. Freedom Revival held a performance and dialogue in collaboration with the Ida Benderson Seniors Action Group. Learn about the event and the causes it promoted from this news coverage.


“Former Ida Benderson Senior Center Members in Syracuse and political theater group Dream Freedom Revival took the stage at Grace Episcopal Church over the weekend. They expressed the need for a new senior center in downtown Syracuse. WAER’s Valerie Crowder has more…” Click here to listen to the audio.  

The Stand

In “Don’t Close the Doors on Them Just Yet,” The Stand’s Natalie Caceres reports on the “jovial, quirky and message-heavy performance.” Here’s a snippet from the article:

For Mary Carr, 64, who’s a member of the Ida Benderson Seniors Action Group and was a regular face at the center before it closed, she hopes that through events like these the eventual goal of bringing back the center will become actualized — and quickly.

“You took our freedom away again from somewhere comfortable,” Carr says about what the closure meant to her and others. “This event helps to let people know that we are not gone and we are still looking for a place to go.” Although the center closed more than a year ago, she’s hopeful that soon they’ll have a new place to call home.

Mary Carr (left) speaks about the Ida Benderson Senior Center during DFR’s Feb. 16 event. Photo by Joe Rial.

Thanks to Valerie and Natalie for covering the event, and to everyone who attended!

Snow on the Rooftop…

29 Jan
Next Revival: 2/16 at 3pm

Next Revival: 2/16 at 3pm

Busy, busy times at DFR as we begin to undertake our funding partnership with New York Council for the Humanities, which is funding a 4-performance Revival + Dialogue series through September.

There may not be more here until we’re through our first one, on February 16th at 3pm, at Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse. It’s a show we’re creating with The Ida Benderson Senior Action Group, a group of senior citizens who in 2011 were displaced by the city of Syracuse from their community center “home” of 35 years. This Revival seeks to provoke a discussion about the mayor’s actions, about ageism, and about the experiences of seniors in the city of Syracuse.

For more information, contact Kevin Bott at 315-443-8590. Hope to see you on the 16th!


9 Jan

273040_284707868306686_368990414_oImagine if you will, Ebenezer Abernathy, the lanky, moustachioed freedom fighter hailing from Syracuse, New York. He is wearing modest but tight-fitting, 19th century athletic gear. He is in the meeting hall where the much-anticipated January 9th Freedom Revival is to take place, putting on as good a game face as might be hoped for from any lanky, moustachioed song and dance man.

His thinking turns to pacing, which in turn turns to jogging, and then, like Ichabod Crane if Ichabod Crane were a prizefighter, you might imagine his larger-than-life silhouette projected upon the wall as he makes his preparations to the soaring strains of an inspiring medley by John Philip Sousa and Meredith Wilson*. He is working up a sweat, getting ready to whip himself and his famed band of musical liberators into an inspirational, educational, activational frenzy!

In the shadows of the hall, he shadow boxes the forces that would relegate The People to the sidelines of History! He is ducking the corporatization of government! He is weaving from the homogenizing and destructive forces of neo-liberalism and global capitalism! He is bobbing away from the privatization and commodification of the natural world and of the common spheres where people might come to deliberate upon and decide upon their own shared fates and futures!

Ebenezer is jabbing back with some Community! He is throwing a sharp hook of Inclusiveness and Equality! He’s connecting with a body shot of Enthusiasm and Song! And he finishes with a wild, barely controlled Left-Right combination of Freedom and Justice for All!! (Oh Yes, with Two (2) Exclamation Points!!)

Oh yes, my friends. If you think you can handle it. If you think you’re ready for a Freedom Revival the likes of which you’ve likely never seen or heard before, then come join us tonight — January 9, 2013 — for The D.R.E.A.M. Freedom Revival’s “What’s Your New Year’s ReVolution?” 

Coffee! Tea! Hot Cocoa!

Free of Charge. Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse. 7:30pm. Coffee! Tea! Hot Cocoa!

*Google it.

What’s Your New Year’s ReVolution?

2 Jan
Freedom Party Next Wednesday Night!

Freedom Party Next Wednesday Night!

Ebenezer Abernathy and The Sound of Freedom are fired up again! And we’re planning a party on January 9th, 7:30pm at Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse. It’s a freedom party. You need to be there. We want you there. Your voice and your face need to be there so that you can publicly make yourself accountable by answering the question: What’s your New Year’s Revolution?


And now… the blog…

The shootings in Newtown roused me from a half-slumber I didn’t even know I was in.

This project, The DFR, started with an eye toward using art as a political organizing tool, much in the same way that El Teatro Campesino in the 60s used its physical, comedic style of people’s theater to support Cesar Chavez’s nascent United Farmworkers Union. In my mind, the DFR was going to use the celebration of Syracuse and of local community to invite people into deeper conversations and actions about, among other things: 1) a new, local, 21st century economy, including a reality check about fossil-fuel dependance; 2) resistance to the privatization of public education; 3) the loss of public spaces where people can build relationships and plan collective action across borders of difference and boundaries of distrust; 4) the assault on workers and families; 5) the increasing militarization and corporatization of our democracy; 6) And More!

Both fear and anger fueled this project. But also a sincere belief in the ability (and desire) of human beings to organize on their own behalf, with the power to disrupt and overturn oppressive systems. Of course, the history of social movements tells us this is true. Drawing from Paulo Freire and his many descendants, I subscribed to a politics of hope. I subscribed to a politics of human agency. I understood that oppressive forces are counting on people being too tired, too divided, and too dispirited to come together in common cause. Further, progressive activists, working on so many discrete fronts, and on so many issues, seem always to compete for the time and attention of their natural allies. Rather than working collectively and planning strategically about when to take action on a given issue, all are working on their separate issues, diluting the potential for impact.

Couldn’t we find a way to bring everyone together — under “the big tent” — in a way that inspired, that educated, and that called people to action?

And when I heard the news from Newtown I realized how the act of creating and performing had cooled some of the fire that was this project’s early fuel. In that moment, I felt the relative impotence of what we were doing, despite our modest local presence and effect. What especially pulled me up short was not the actual killings. (That ,of course, is a tragedy that as a father of two young children is hard to wrap my head around.) What pulled me up was the discussion I heard among friends, and even within my own house, about the danger of public spaces, including schools, movie theaters, and places of worship.

Again, it was this assault on the public and on public spaces, so similar to the assault that was happening in Wisconsin that catalyzed DFR. Like Scott Walker’s campaign to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, this assault was fueled in part by the pathology of capitalism. More outrageously, it was also fueled by the cynical campaign that ties profit derived from the  manufacture and sale of automatic assault weapons to the 2nd Amendment. The old rage stirred in me. The feeling that if DFR was to do anything at all, if it was to mean anything at all and be anything more than a fun show, then it had to bring people together It had to invite people to tell stories together, and to see one another. It had to pull people out of their bunkers! It had to be a celebratory counter assault, on fear. It had to stand up, and invite others to stand up — in public — to the very notion that public spaces and public communion were dangerous. Or rather, to affirm that indeed public spaces and public communion are dangerous — for entrenched systems of oppression!

My wish for this new year is that 2013 be the year that the city of Syracuse claims for this generation its legacy as the birthplace of democracy. That 2013 be the year that we write and sing this city’s 21st century song of freedom, with ALL our voices singing together. In different languages and different sounds, but unified in the harmony of our shared humanity.

My New Year’s Revolution is to sing louder, to preach more passionately, and to think more deeply about our shared fates and futures. I promise to love and celebrate this city and all the people living in it. I vow to remember the words of Rosa Parks who told a young activist seeking commiseration about the grind of activism: “If you ain’t tired, you ain’t working hard enough!” (I also promise to take care of my mind, body, and spirit, and to nurture my family and friends, so that I have the support to do all the rest!)

So, like I said: Ebenezer Abernathy and The Sound of Freedom are fired up again! And we’re planning a party on January 9th. It’s a freedom party. You need to be there. We want you there. Your voice and your face need to be there so that you can publicly make yourself accountable by answering the question: What’s your New Year’s Revolution?

Two Grassroots Theater Performances This Week in NYC!

2 Oct

As anyone following this blog knows, The DFR is putting up its tent revival for freedom and democracy this Saturday night at The Performance Project @ University Settlement. 184 Eldridge St., in NYC. (See previous post for promo video and (cheap) ticket information.)

I also want to mention that I’m part of a grassroots theater performance this Friday night in NYC involving formerly incarcerated men and women. One of the pieces – A Ritual for Return — is once I conceived of and directed as part of my doctoral research at NYU. If you’re in the city, come to 66 W. 12th St, Tishman Auditorium @ The New School. The 90 minute event is free and open to the public.

Here’s the Reentry Theater Flyer with more information.

And here are….

Two very recent WBAI radio interviews — here and here —  about DFR, Imagining America, prison theater, and theater for democracy. (my part comes in at about 39:30 and 31:30, respectively.)

One Night! Two Revivals!!

6 Sep

Tickets Available Now! 

Two New York City Revivals!
Saturday, October 6.
7 & 9pm
The Performance Project @ University Settlement

Season Two is officially underway here in Syracuse. We performed a couple of weeks back at Onondaga Nation, at The Water is Life Music Festival, a Revival to stop hydrofracking in New York State. And this past weekend, we performed at a Revival to support the Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union , which is celebrating 30 years of providing economic opportunities for people that the big banks had no interest or incentive to support.

Next stop: NYC! Come for the Fun! Stay for the Freedom!!

What Are You Waiting For?

21 Aug

We set about the work again. We set about the work, again, of building and strengthening our communities and our cities. We set about the work of reclaiming our children and ourselves from lives lived passively, from lives lived watching others, from lives lived on the sidelines.

We set about the work, again, of re-imagining ourselves outside of imposed consumer identities. We imagine ourselves producers, creators, instruments of the gods. We imagine ourselves, extending beyond ourselves, moving toward “the other,” toward all others, claiming what is good and rich not only for our own good but for the common good. The greater good. We allow ourselves to actually see each other, the essential goodness of each other. We resist media-induced fear. We imagine we can build more together.

Who will join us in this work? Can you who bemoan and deride the fleeting brilliance of the so-called Occupy movement now take up its mantle in your own work? Or do you find it easier to point and laugh at what you perceive as “failure”?

Can you see that Occupy could only ever be a wake up call? Now it’s on us.

So here in Syracuse we’ve taken to singing. We’ve taken to playin’ instruments, loudly. We pitch gypsy tents and dress like punk-carnival freaks and say we travel through time fighting for freedom. At least once a week, and sometimes more, we act like fools and jump around like idiots.

What’s your Revival? What’s your work? Where do you shine your light? Don’t know yet?

Well I am the Dr. Reverend Ebenezer Abernathy and I run with The Sound of Freedom. And I invite you to come on and join up with us if you dare to. You’ll be amazed how much fun citizenship can be! I’d wager a bet that you’ll find yourself doing things that’ll amaze your friends and family! I assure you you’ll amaze even yourself! Your children and pets will begin to see you in an entirely new light!

Come on then! What’s holding you back now? It’s not a rhetorical question: I want to know what your excuse is. What does the voice say that keeps you from takin’ a part in this celebratory form of civic life?

Come on now, girls and boys. Come on now. Come for the fun and you might just stay for the freedom! Come for the celebration and I think we might keep you for the contemplation! Come stand up with us and we’ll make sure you get down with us!

If I haven’t said it before let me say it now — The DFR: It’s good for what ails ya! So be in touch. We’re waiting for you!



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