I Voted for Gummi Bears

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!


PAM: …oh.

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.


2 Responses to “I Voted for Gummi Bears

  1. Nancy Donoval Says:

    Hi Phillip,
    Allow me to rescue you from further head-scratching, if I can.

    I describe Spirit in the House! as being dedicated to exploring questions of inner life and outward action. Social justice belongs under the umbrella of Spirituality and Faith because those are not words to describe just what we feel or think — they must also be embodied in how we act.

    First I should say, I love this show. I saw “I Voted for Gummi Bears” a few years ago in the Minnesota Fringe Festival and it is one of my absolute favorite shows I’ve ever seen in the Fringe.

    That said, seeing that I Voted for Gummi Bears was going to be in Spirit in the House is the reason my show “Date Rape for Beginners” is also in it. I would never have thought that an Interfaith Spiritual Festival was a tent that this show, indeed most of my work, would fit into much less be welcome.

    Seeing that Gummi Bears on the roster nudged me to call Dean Seal and ask if a funny show about date rape would fit the bill. Don’t know when I’ve heard a faster or more enthusiastic “Yes!” — not the way this topic as a performance piece is usually greeted by most festival producers.

    Dean says very explicitly in his materials that Spirit in the House! is committed to performance about spiritual AND ethical issues. I can’t speak for Dean, but frankly, I doubt that he sees them as being separate issues. Working on this festival has also made me understand what he means by Interfaith. I usually interpret it InterReligion, but it is not the same thing. Specific organized religions are certainly all Faiths, but not all Faiths are religions.

    The more I work on/in this festival, the more I’m coming to understand that my Faith is being directly represented here –because my Faith is in Story and Storytelling. My world view is that tellng our stories and hearing the stories of others stories binds us and guides us, gives us community and ritual, tells us who we are and how to behave, shows us where we’ve come from and helps us imagine where we aspire to be.

    As a cultural Catholic, I’ve finally come to understand that “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” has little to do with what you FEEL towards your neighbor, it’s how you TREAT your neighbor.

    Those are my thoughts on why I Voted for Gummi Bears fits in Spiirit in the House. Nothing to do with Religion, everything to do with Faith and Sprituality. We just need to work on telling the story of Spirit in the House! better to make that clear and that’s going to take time. You know, like the neverending journey of trying to define and redefine what fits under the umbrellas of different art forms like Storytelling and Mime — or Spoken Word Art and Unspoken Word Art.

  2. philliplow Says:

    Okay, fair points all — social justice is an aspect of one’s spirituality, spirituality encompasses ethical issues as well as religious ones — all points that I personally agree with, but seem to be far too broad a criterion for defining a festival to me.

    I’m touring a show this summer called “All Rights Reserved: A Libertarian Rage.” It features, among many other things, a cast gallivanting about in its underwear, hot girl-on-girl action, zombies eating people, copious use of words like “fuck,” “nigger,” and “chink,” and a female priest stabbing the baby Jesus in effigy. I can say, easily and without hesitation, that this script would not even be considered for production in this festival. Yet I maintain that it represents as clear a statement of my social, ethical, and, yes, spiritual beliefs, as anything that I’ve written.

    I’m not articulating this well, but this is precisely the thing that I’ve been struggling with in the various incarnations of this Festival over the past several years: it face the strange challenge of having to be inclusive (as an inter-faith festival) and simultaneously exclusive (or else the festival fails to make any sense). That’s why its existence as part of the Fringe (a non-juried festival) never really made sense to me.

    Not that I have a great answer to that challenge; but I do wish that the festival had one that was at least clearer to me.

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