Monday, March 11, 2013

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

It's been a while since I have blogged about life over in the UK, but I had an experience that I really wanted to write about. It all started when I went to see a play called, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, last weekend in Newcastle. I was able to go with a group of people on our human rights defenders scheme at the University of York. The human rights defenders come from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds and have dedicated their lives to defending the human rights of others. They truly inspire me. Not only do they do such serious work, but over the past few weeks they have been participating in interactive artistic workshops where they explore story and express themselves through creative writing, drama and music. It's amazing to me what art can do when you have open, thoughtful people to participate in it.

It's interesting. So many theaters in Chicago are jumping through hoops to get a diverse audience, and here I was in Newcastle sitting with people from 15 different countries. That's a tangent really, but the play has so many themes that are important to a diverse audience, especially those thinking about the state of the world ( and who doesn't from time to time, right?).

The playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, is unable to leave Iran, so he sent his words abroad without him to many different theaters in many different countries. The play needs no set and no director. But it does need actors willing to do a cold reading on stage in front of a packed house, not knowing much about what could possibly happen to them onstage. I am certainly not going to spoil anything for those who will have a chance to see it, but the playwright challenges both the audience and the actor in various ways without being pretentious. There are many stories throughout the play that question our perception on history, our concept of identity, and even trust in the play itself. I mean, the actor is blindly reading this unknown playwright's story. The audience is trusting the story enough to interact on stage by acting like rabbits, ostriches, and mixing potentially poisonous powders into the actor's drinks. Well, obviously the producer liked it right? So someone has checked this play and knows that it's a message that their theatre is proud of, or have they? Obviously the bottle brought onstage isn't real poison, right? Those things seem obvious...sort of. How much do we trust this playwright? How much do we trust anyone? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this play in so many ways, but there are some key things that I left with. First of all, the past really does have a way of impacting our future. Once a rabbit is painted red it stands out. You watch his every move. Secondly, it takes a great amount of trust and openness for art to work. The audience in this Newcastle location were ready to play. They were open to hear what the playwright had to say and to the experience of interacting with strangers onstage. I think this is absolutely beautiful. There did not seem to be a lot of judgement, but people were taking it all in with laughs and quiet thought. Lastly, words have enormous power. They can travel from Iran to the UK by an envelope and a lot of faith. With the ability we have in our time to connect globally, our words can reach many different places and many different people. It makes me think that it is so important to be careful with those words. 

If you get a chance to see this play at some point, then I recommend it!


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