ME: So, what are you going to see next?
POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the Martin Luther King thing. What about you?
ME: Oh, I’m going to see “I Voted for Gummi Bears.” I’ve actually seen it before — it’s really good.
PAM: Really? What’s it about?
ME: (enthusiastically) It’s a lecture about electoral disenfranchisement!
So, this is kind of a tough sell. Because it is a lecture. But it’s a visual, engaging, articulate lecture about a compelling topic. I don’t really know how to sell that to anyone — but I do know that it’s something that has consistently kept me on the edge of my seat.
I saw this several years ago, and enjoyed it, but I don’t know that it left a really strong impression. This time around — I don’t know if the difference is in how he’s telling it, or how I’m listening (I suspect the latter), but I found it to be much more layered and interesting.
First of all — for anyone who’s confused — this is a docudrama, consisting of interspersed videos of interviews, documents, and live performance. It starts out with the startling realization of the number of states that permanently remove the right to vote from anyone who’s been convicted of a felony — and trace the history of those laws back through the Civil War. Without going into too much detail, it becomes a kind of summarized history of institutionalized racism in the United States, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the War on Drugs. This is compelling stuff to me — I don’t know how to sell it to anyone else.
It’s fascinating stuff, detailed, complicated, as accessible as can be expected, and well-researched. I’m totally enthusiastic about the content of the show. The one hesitation that I will raise — and this is, by the way, something far outside of the content of the show itself — is that I’m a bit baffled at its inclusion in a spiritually-themed theatre festival. Sure, its message of openness and acceptance is one that is, perhaps, ultimately spiritual in nature — but spirituality that broadly defined applies to nearly every work of art, surely? Which raises the question of how to define the parameters of the Festival as a whole. Again, not anything that has to do with the show itself — but does leave me scratching my head as to how to define exactly what this Festival is trying to be.