Down With Trump/Up With Women

A special blog feature from Artistic Director Jordan Bean:

This post was originally published to Facebook along with this article, inspired by the Trump campaign and the presidential candidate's deeply held misogyny. 

I have always been very wary about the prospect of having children. One of my earliest adolescent memories was of watching terrorists fly planes in to the twin towers. I watched the close-up shots of human beings throwing themselves from windows to escape fire. I read about the chaos in the street, the incredible loss that so many experienced that day. In sixth grade I became crushingly aware of how dangerous the world was. I had been fascinated by travel, I had photos of Paris and Rome and other beautiful foreign countries on my walls. I wanted to go to all of them. I wanted to learn French. I watched foreign films more often than American films. My mother took me to Europe ten years after 9/11, and I fell in love with the whole ordeal of boarding the plane, hearing the different languages, learning about new cultures. Two days in to our trip to Paris there was a major terrorist threat to the city and half the places that we had planned to see were either closed down or swarming with police carrying machine guns. It was the first time since 9/11 that I had been that aware of terror, and I'd forgotten what it was like to feel unsafe. But here it was again, like an old, sick, leech of a friend. In my adult life it feels as if no week goes by without a national catastrophe. My generation's world has never been a safe place, and I have no interest in creating a new person only to subject them to this constant stream of horror and bad news. But because I am human, the instinct remains.

If Donald Trump is elected president, I will reject this instinct for the rest of my life. I do not want a child in his United States, or his world. The most basic human desire: to create a beautiful little version of yourself, to explode your heart with love for another person, to nurture, has effectively been ripped from me because there seems to be no hope left. Donald Trump has always been a monster, but now not only is he a spoiled, inarticulate, uneducated, angry moron with no political knowledge - he is proudly and aggressively the most immediate threat women face: a sexual predator. No kid deserves to be ruled by a predator. Nor does any adult.

My life and the lives of all the women you know are teeming with predators. We spend every waking second calculating how to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time because it is a guarantee - we have not just been told this, we know this from experience - that at some point in life ALL women WILL be assaulted, whether it be with words or with a body. If we haven't already, we will. We are taught from a very young age how to cover up, be polite, avoid the dark, avoid being alone, and on and on - to keep ourselves safe. We are taught that the world is looking AT US at all times, sizing us up, deciding what to do with us, where to put us, what to call us. We are taught that we don't have a say, that the world will do what it likes and we can only try our best to slip quietly by, under the radar. We can only attempt to avoid predators, for there is no controlling them.

Donald Trump is a predator. He is the man who sits outside of schools and waits to snatch kids up in his van. He is the bro at the party who won't stop pressuring you to drink. He is the friend who tells you to chill because catcalls are compliments. He is the family member who compels you to lock your door at night. He is the shadow that may or may not be following you home. He is the reason you carry your keys like a shiv. He is dangerous, and he wants to run your country.

While I have grown to love Hillary Clinton, I know that many people still see her as problematic. I understand that completely. But please do not allow her to be defeated by someone who BEGAN his campaign for president as problematic and has since become a snake, slowly suffocating what small sense of security we had left.

For the women you know and love, vote for Hillary Clinton. For the generation that's on its way, vote for Hillary Clinton. There are elections to come where your protest vote may actually be an effective form of protest - and when that time comes, more power to you. But this is not one of those elections. No one will notice Gary Johnson's loss, they will only see Donald Trump's win. And the women you know will suddenly be in very extreme and immediate danger.

Women are in a unique and beautiful position to - for the first time in history - take control of our country. So let's do it. If you are a woman, if you care about the lives of women, if you love women, please use your vote strategically. Please help us defeat Trump.

And please read this article. It matters.

#NEVERTrump

Happy Pride!

Happy Pride, everyone! In honor of LGBTQ Pride month, I decided to write a bit about what Pride means to me.

Pride Is Identity

I am a sister, a daughter, a New Yorker - these are three identities I have. I am also a Black bisexual woman - three identities that I fight for daily. When I say fight, I mean this: I fight for my personhood to be recognized, I fight microaggressions, I fight images filled with Eurocentric beauty standards, I fight an abundance of conscious and unconscious signals that say, “You are stupid, ugly, angry, dangerous, invisible.”

What does this all have to do with Pride?

When I was in high school, I came home from GSA one day and I asked my dad, “Why do you define yourself as Gay? Why don’t straight people define themselves as straight?”

“Because I had to fight for that identity,” He said. The lesson was, there are identities we inhabit and perform without thought and there are identities we fight for every day. It’s that fight that creates the need for Pride.

Pride Is Recognition

It’s hard to thrive or even exist when surrounded by messages that tell you you’re worthless, or worth less. So when the world won’t recognize you, you learn to recognize yourself.

“We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,” a chant popularized at Queer Nation NY demonstrations, might sound trite now but at its heart Pride is about standing up and recognizing your identity when others laugh, scorn, and deride it.

Pride Is Reflection

It’s not that identity is only legitimate through pain - far from it. But as an LGBTQ person, introspection often accompanies identity. I think that’s incredible.

To be LGBTQ today is to say, “I don’t think I’m like all of these other people. Why is that?”

I don’t believe identity should have to start with a negation but I also don’t think to be “other than” is a bad thing. Otherness is not synonymous with loneliness. In this case, what you “lose” is a world that dismisses your identity or ignores it completely. What you gain is a world of understanding and, yes, Pride.

Pride Is Remembrance

The first NYC Pride March in 1970 commemorated the previous years’ Stonewall riots.

Pride is recognizing that you are a part of something larger than yourself. It’s political and personal and it’s a history of discrimination and blood and apathy and hard-won battles. Pride is about remembering those who came before you, who gave their time and their lives for freedoms we now enjoy.

This June you should absolutely celebrate yourself, your community, your friends. While we celebrate, let’s remember those lost along the way.

As human beings, we have incredible reservoirs of empathy and compassion even when faced with our warring capacity for violence and hatred. We must all tap into those reserves to make sure the events of June 12th are never repeated. In the wake of Orlando, the LGBTQ community came together in a beautiful show of love and support. And this Pride, whether you need to mourn, remember, or celebrate, you do so with a whole community by your side.

Pride Is Progress

Lastly, Pride is about learning from history and looking forward to a better future. We can always do more and do it better. Our story isn’t over and we have a lot of battles still to fight.

 

Winter Miller Talks SPARE RIB Benefit and Play, Feminism, and Working With Gloria Steinem

How did SPARE RIB and this benefit come to be?

Spare Rib has been in the works for four or so years, it took a fair amount of research as well as a few residencies, including The Lark, Blue Mountain Center and the Civilians R&D Group. The benefit came about because after Gloria Steinem met Dr. Parker, she knew I was friendly with him and sent me an email that basically said, we have to honor him. I said yes we do. I've never thrown a celebration or benefit to honor someone so I figured I'd go to something familiar--using plays to galvanize. It's the best way I know to attract a crowd--get really phenomenal actors in a room and people show up.  

What is SPARE RIB about? How does it touch on the issue of abortion/reproductive rights?

You should probably come see for yourself. 

You are providing women who've had abortions with free tickets to the show. What do you hope to accomplish with this?

The complimentary tickets are indeed for people who've had abortions as well as those who have volunteered or worked in abortion clinics. For too long there's been a stigma and acts of violence around abortion and that must cease. We have a legal right to reproductive freedom. And I believe we have an obligation to protect and secure that right and to stop punishing people for their decisions over their own bodies. 

How did you become connected with Willie Parker? How has he influenced you/your work?

I read about Dr. Parker in an Esquire article last summer and bookmarked it--I felt an admiration and love for him instantly. I went to the opening screening of Dawn Porter's Trapped documentary and Dr. Parker, who's featured in the film was there for a Q&A with the filmmaker. I geeked out. One of the producers, a woman named Diane Max knew of Spare Rib and invited me to join them for celebratory drinks. As luck would have it, I was seated at Dr. Parker's elbow. We talked the whole night and exchanged emails. I'm just a big fan of who he is--he's got great politics, a great feminism, he quotes bell hooks and he's a really radiant man. 

Why are you/the event interested in specifically providing support to southern communities?

They need it. Here in NYC many of us are unfamiliar with the obstacles women in places like MI and AL and TX face--it's brutal--there are few clinics, mandatory wait periods and it's expensive and prohibitive. It's just to look out for those who need help the most. Also, these are the clinics where Dr. Parker works and the clients he serves, it was a logical way to pay tribute to him. 

What role will Gloria Steinem play in the event? How has she influenced you/your work?

Ms. Steinem will present the award to Dr. Parker. As an icon and a feminist, she's someone who embodies the fight for equal rights and the quest for justice. If she sent me an email that said, we have to dig a hole to the Pacific with a plastic fork to honor Dr. Parker, I would have pursued that--there's certain people in my life when they say jump, I say, ok, now? 

As an influence, Gloria Steinem has been a generous mentor to me and to hundreds of others. Her IQ and her EQ are among the best. She has integrity, humor, heart and a lifelong commitment to transforming women's lives. She doesn't name drop; she connects. She writes beautiful books, I can only begin to imagine what's archived in her memory. She's the real deal, though and through. I feel a tremendous love for her, and a deep respect for the way she moves through the world. She's a unifier, a maven, an inspiration and I'm thrilled she signed on to this nutty plan. Any minute now she's going to realize how green I am at producing an event, but it's too late, her name is on the invitation. One last thing--seeing Gloria Steinem and Dr. Willie Parker in conversation is like what I imagine two planets orbiting each other would be like--chemistry, charisma, radiance and a mutual genuine respect. I think this is a truly special event with these two--and that's before we add in the incredible actors who will be reading from Spare Rib--Elizabeth Marvel, Marin Ireland, Mamie Gummer, Vella Lovell and more I can't announce yet, plus cabaret superstar Lady Rizo. I don't know much about event planning, but thanks to my co-producer Rachel Karpf Reidy and director Adrienne Campbell and with some generous fiscal sponsorship from New Georges and the Society of Ethical Culture, this event is going to be extraordinary. I feel it, and it makes all the sleepless nights and hours of playwriting worth it, because this is the power of theater--to open us up and to create the potential to connect. I hope we raise a lot of money for these incredible providers and people open up about their personal stories. The personal is political, and of course, the political is personal. 

Very Messy & Very Beautiful

In honor of Tourette Syndrome awareness month, May 15 - June 15, I wanted to write about my personal experiences living with the condition in order to bring attention to the stereotypes and misrepresentations associated with it. For those of you who don’t know what Tourette Syndrome, it is defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as "a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics." 

However, I recently found out about a documentary that has inspired me, and would like to use this platform to tell you about that instead. It is an extraordinary story that, in my opinion, is a wonderful documentation of courage, determination, patience and most importantly never ending love and support.

Filmmaker Aaron Lewis started the project Very Messy and Very Beautiful three years ago when he became acquainted with Zach Lamb, a fourteen year old boy with one of the most severe cases of Tourette Syndrome in America. Aaron has been closely connected with Zach and his family throughout the last three years. Aaron was also present during the dangerous experimental brain surgery in which surgeons placed a rod into Zack’s brain in an effort to lessen his tics. After the procedure Zach’s tics almost disappeared. I do not know what it was like for Zach, but I can imagine a great sense of relief and overwhelming happiness.

I often wonder what my life would be like without Tourette Syndrome, and whenever I think about it I realize that my TS is what makes me who I am. Every case is much different, and though mine is not nearly as severe as Zach's pre-surgery, I completely understand his desire to go through with the operation. I have had many thoughts about the what-ifs of me not having this condition and, idealistically, it sounds great. This would mean no more gawking and snickering from strangers, no more feelings of worthlessness that come from subway goers changing seats due to my noises and movements. There would be no more terrible feelings at plays while I try and enjoy the show knowing that everyone around me is annoyed that they can't enjoy it in complete silence.  I would no longer get filled with anxiety at the thought of having to stay silent for a long period of time. But then, all of these situations have opened my mind to so much and forced me to see things from the side of someone who has literally no control over their own body. I can not control my tics, but I can manage them for short amounts of time. Zach cannot. I am positive that because of my condition I have a more open mind, am more empathetic, and always think twice when I have an opinion about a stranger because I don’t know their situation. 

I am lucky enough to have an amazing fiancée who was motivated by my experience enough to write an article explaining TS after seeing the effects that living in NYC have had on me. Please take the time to read it here.

In conclusion, I hope that, when you are in a situation with someone who is confusing or strange to you, you are able to take a moment to evaluate before judging them - you never know what they are going through. And if you have questions then ask! Personally, I love it when people ask me about my Tourette’s because it gives me the chance to spread the word and share a piece of my experience in hopes to spread empathy.

You can learn more about Tourette Syndrome here, and learn about Aaron Lewis’ documentary Very Messy and Very Beautiful by visiting their Kickstarter Campaign here. Please consider making a donation to their cause.

Best,
Patrick Taylor
Co-Producing Artistic Director
 

Getting To Know: Laura

I grew up in Bakersfield, California and left the sunny best coast for the alternately freezing and humid climes of Ohio, where I received my BA in Theater  and Music at Denison University. Besides falling in love with the intemperate weather - or what non-Californians call "seasons" - college is where I found a passion for activism, raising awareness for sexual violence & assault on campus and promoting a climate of conversation & consent.

I moved to New York City in January to pursue my career in acting (like all young hopefuls), and earn my daily keep as a personal assistant and bartender (like all jaded actors). I thought that when I moved to the city I wouldn't find the time or the outlet to serve my passion for service and female empowerment/equality, which is why I'm so glad my work has led to my involvement with the Born This Way Foundation and Dark Matter Productions. I love that DMP has a shared investment in women's stories & women in theater, but even more that they have a heart for telling under-served and ignored stories.

With my background in PR, social outreach, and marketing, I begged DMP to let me come on board, which just proves my long held theory that whining can get you everything you want in life. In short, I drive myself a little bit crazy running around the big apple trying to do all the things I love, but theater pieces like the one's DMP focuses on are my true passion projects.

FUN FACTS:

  • My jaw hinges and snaps back like an alligator

  • The flying squirrel is my spirit animal

  • My ability to binge watch is UNPARALLELED

  • Stanley Tucci is my dream man with my dream career