On January 28th Promise Land opened at the Guthrie Theater. I worked as run crew. This was another Transatlantic Love Affair show, and followed their usual style and themes. (No props, no sets, no costume changes. I promise it is awesome, not weird hipster art.)
The show was a take on the Hansel and Gretel story as an immigration story. It started with the parents sending their daughter and son off to America, in hopes that they can build a better life. The brother and sister find jobs, work long hours, and still face abuse at every turn. Though the whole show doesn’t have the same gut punch that 105 Proof had, it had a slow burn. It is intended, and succeeds, in making the audience think about immigration.
Not that the audience needed a lot of help thinking about immigration. The day we previewed, Trump signed an ill-conceived, poorly vetted, and bigoted executive order to ban immigrants from six countries and limit immigration from others. An order that has been protested, received a partial judicial stay, and still been followed by Border Patrol.
I wanted to be at the protest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, but instead I was helping create art about immigration and the history of America. I wanted to raise my voice in protest against this bigotry, but instead was aiding in creating art that asks people to question their own views. I wanted to shout and scream and feel the press of people around me who agreed. Instead, I sat silently backstage, reading social media posts from friends and strangers about their actions.
Since then, we closed the show with sold out audiences and excellent reviews, and I attended a protest rally in downtown. The press of humanity and the rejection of a regime based on hate was good for my soul. I needed that.
On the other side, the time I spent supporting a show about immigration and the immigrant story is time I think might have been more effective. The audience was economically, ethnically and racial diverse, as theater goes. Which means it skewed towards white people who had been raised with money, and that demographic is part of the demographic that elected the Cheeto-in-Chief. The show asked the audience to consider this story, and because of current events, it asked the audience to compare it to the current immigrant story. Even in this liberal town, I think that is the demographic that most needs to be asking the hard questions of what does this mean for our society, our culture, and our personal relationships.
I guess what I’m saying is, art matters. Make art. Raise your voice. Art reaches an audience you might not reach through conversation. A hundred pieces of art might breach the walls in a way that a hundred political rallies might not. Because we do need to build bridges, and they need to be based on something other than fear.