This past Monday night, MTWorkers produced our first ever Re-Works. Antonio and I came up with this project last spring and I have to say I am surprised by the unexpected results.
We were most enthusiastic about commissioning new works inspired by art of a different medium—hence the title Re-Works. So we asked four talented writers whose work we previously presented as part of the Newborn Festival to take a photo, a piece of music, a work of art, or a poem and create a play inspired by that piece.
To tie the pieces together, we picked the Spanish Civil War period. We knew the richness and use of art during this period would fit the event and follow the MTWorks mission of diversity and social change. These artists were on the front lines—literally imprisoned and executed for fighting with their art.
What Antonio and I did not expect was the education the evening would also provide. This began with us and reached out to the audience. The cast of each play showed an eagerness to learn more about the subject, and together we delved into the history of the war and the men and women behind it. We wanted to understand why and how the Spanish Civil War was viewed as the impetus of WWII, and were fascinated to discover that it began with a group attempting a separation of Church and State. This attempt caused such a rift in the fabric of the county, that a fascist leader was able to slip through the cracks and turn families against each other.
To say that actors were seeing a parallel to what is going on in our country right now would be an understatement. And of course the writers hit on this profoundly. Kimberly Del Busto used photography to illustrate the disconnect between the people in the war and the people reading about it at home over coffee. The Spanish Civil War is considered to be the first instance of true War Photography, where the photographers themselves were shooting pictures on the front lines. Cody Daigle chose to write a modern day American story of a family dealing with the grief of a former soldier who has committed suicide, creating a moment of humanity and parallel that was quite moving. Carol Carpenter really got in there politically and tackled the Church versus State issues of the Civil War and attempted to make these archetypes of Communist, Anarchist, and Nationalist actual people who all had similar fears at heart. Finally Riti Sachdeva was inspired by the sounds and spirit of Flamenco to ask the question: why did so many foreign people come to aid the rebellion? The play's African-American character "El Rojo Negro" went to Spain to fight because, “When we fight fascism here we fight fascism back home.” He went on to explain that oil barons in America were funding Franco and Hitler. The audience really heard that moment.
So many people came up to us, thanking us for informing them of this event, asking about each writer’s inspiration in detail, and celebrating the diversity of each piece. I thank everyone involved for coming together on one night only to produce an evening of true art—as I see it. It was an evening that was actually about something.
Special thanks to all the MTWorks acting members and of course the directors Dev Bondarin, Isaac Scranton and Antonio Minino. We couldn't have done it without the generosity of The Theater at the 14th Street Y, our stage manager Rachel Denise April and the support of our Board of Directors.
The cherry on top to the evening was finding out our kickstarter campaign for DARK WATER reached it's goal while we were getting the shows ready during the day.
Pictured: Chester Poon & Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler in PHOTO SHOOT; photo by Antonio Minino.