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February 17, 2017

Protest Cabaret: Ithaca’s Resistance

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Ithaca’s formidable history of activist theatre counters Trumpism with its own brand of resistance – protest cabaret. Not My President, happening February 20th all over the country, is an international event hosted by the activist collective Bad and Nasty. Ithaca’s cabaret rendition will play at the Kitchen Theatre Sunday at 6:30PM.

Co-producers Prof. Sara Warner in the Performing and Media Arts department and Ross Haarstad of Theater Incognita found space at the Kitchen Theatre and outreach progressed from there. Warner recounts, “performers from Civic Ensemble, The Cherry Arts, Ithaca College, and Cornell immediately signed on”, leading to a quirky but refreshing line-up of artists and academics.

The quantity and diversity of performers displayed on their Facebook event page signals a night of theatre that deliberately abandons conventional theatre norms. Radical inclusivity is a crucial component of this national initiative, which the production embraces as artists from across Ithaca’s often-disparate academic institutions and community organizations will collaborate. The tapestry of partners generates a performance list that is sure to represent a hodgepodge of resistance tactics and invent some new ones. The loose structure of the event is intended to democratize “the variety and multitude of voices and forms and modes of expression that are rising up in response to the election,” claims Lois Weaver, a trailblazer in the feminist theatre world and national organizer of the event.

The most vocal motive driving Not My President is embodied in the ‘cut the bullshit’ disposition of Jayme Kilburn grad, a Cornell theatre graduate student: “I am just plain fucking pissed off about this administration and need an outlet for my rage.” Nourishing these vibes, Kilburn will be performing excerpts from SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men). Prof. Rebekah Maggor, a new theatre professor at Cornell, woke up in Jerusalem the day of the election alongside a group of Palestinian theatre artists. She will share her experience with a performance piece entitled The View From Tahrir, about the Egyptian play Comedy of Sorrow, which questions how we react the day after a dictator falls. Godfrey L Simmons Jr. will perform Obama’s famous speech on racial tensions, known as “A More Perfect Union.” Decontextualizing the moment, it becomes shockingly re-purposed as a critique of Trump era racism.

As energy and anxiety rapidly stockpile across the country, the performance event will provide a space to grieve as well as to have fun by inventing with our bodies and minds. Maggor explains that “When we’re in a situation where we are constantly putting out fires, we also have to find a space to devise alternatives. Performance space, and art in general, play a role in imagining an alternative future.”Can we invent a new ‘what-if’ Utopia inside of the Kitchen this Sunday?

Sam Morrison is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]