It’ll Soon Shake Your Windows and Rattle Your Walls: Using Theatre to Understand Ferguson

Spencer found this poem the other day.

And I found this.

Who is sad right now? Who is furious? Who is uncomfortable? Who is tired? We’ve been thinking and fighting and posting on our own about the events rocking our country right now, and we’ve decided we want to talk about it with you, as a company. We are a very young company with few resources, and we are (right now) a group of white people. This limits how much we can do, and there are other voices that must be listened to first. But we are committed to helping our community open up events, look carefully at them, maybe even take arms against a sea of troubles.

And we think one way we can do this is by speaking the language we spend our time learning—story-telling. Performance. So many of the stories coming out of Ferguson and every other city are being told to us in headlines. Incendiary headlines, click-bait headlines. Headlines about rocks through windows, headlines with pictures of bruises and children. Football players walk out onto a chilly field with their hands in the air, performing a short, silent piece of theatre, telling a story far faster and more effectively than Beckett or Bay or Wilson ever could.

Protests are theater. They are ritualistic, they require actors and spectators, they communicate using symbolism and emotional appeals. Courts are theatre. They even have a stage.

Why are some stories more gripping than others? Why do huge numbers of peaceful protests go almost ignored, and cars on fire occupy the ad space on the side of your screen? Why are some scripts more believable when they are called evidence? Why are they more believable when the person speaking has lost a child?

Should all theater being made right now be Theater of the Oppressed? In many ways, that is what The West is trying to do: build a dialogue with the community about what shakes, rattles, and rolls it. What sort of theater would you like to make right now? Should it be on the street in front of police stations? Should it be joyful, full of love and hope, to counteract the anger and violence? What is theater’s purpose at a time like this?

We think asking these questions and hearing your thoughts is a form of opposing the forced narratives, the ad space, the flood of inaccuracies and injustices. And by opposing, end them.