Going to Barbados for “On the Block”

April 26, I will be in Barbados as part of a week-long visit. I aspire to photograph the unique natural world of the island, to get to talk to locals.

However, the pinnacle of the trip happens on the last full day: seeing students from Barbados Community College participate in the first public production of “On the Block” by Glenville Lovell. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 6.01.40 PMLovell is perhaps the most noted writer/creator from Barbados. A playwright, dancer and novelist, Lovell grew up in a chattel house. These structures were built “on the block” and the entirety of the house, including the blocks, could be picked up and moved as landlord-tenant relationships changed or employers migrated their sugar cane operations.

I’ve been assigned a photo-essay about the production by a U.S. theater publication and seek more outlets for the documentary of this beautiful experience.

“On the Block” was the winner of the Frank Collymore Endowment Award in 2010, but has yet to be performed in public.

It has already been a beautiful experience communicating with David and Rosemary of The Gap Theatre in Barbados.

The play happens at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre in Queen’s Park, Bridgetown, which was closed for 12 years until its reopening in 2017.

#MaxFam @ Drake postponed

The students who make up Drake Theatre People and I have decided to postpone the reading of Maximalista #MentalHealthPlay until Mental Health Awareness Week in October, 2018.

With great love for their efforts, and their stated desire to house this play, the New York cast and I continue developing it in the interest of shining a light on what one person can do for people who struggle with mental illness.

This postponement does not mean you couldn’t go sign up for Mental Health First Aid class where you are and become part of the greater solution to the mental health crisis.

With gratefulness…

Extended run!

Maximalista, the #MentalHealthPlay, is having an extended run at Manhattan Rep Theatre on West 45th Street in New York City!

The cast became #MaxFam, and the show was full of miracles. Well-known punk rocker Rew Starr became our Star as Davi. The actors have said it was meaningful to them to be part of it. We were in Broadway World, and there may well be a review in a very well-known publication.

Director Cammerron Baits went beyond anything I had dreamed as far as an original and provocative interpretation of my script.

Here’s what audience members had to say about our first run:

“A Wonderfully Balanced show about a woman struggling with mental illness and hyper sexuality. With the strong Direction by Cammerron Baits and impeccable sensibilities of the cast led by Rew Starr that will have you laughing in all the right places.” Ken Wolf -Artistic Director

“Great direction and top notch actors” Nick Cartusciello- Another Director whose brilliant work in “The Latch Key Kid” is also featured in the festival

“What a great performance from the cast of Maximalista! Heartfelt and funny from beginning to end. A must see!” Rosselyn Alemany

With an extension, and it’s such an honor, but it comes with additional, unexpected expense. Hence, we’re running a quick (very quick — we go up again Friday and Saturday the 6th and 7th) crowd-funding effort here: http://gofundme.com/mentalhealthplay/

If you can help, we appreciate all the co-producers we can get. If you can share in your social networks, do that. Much love. We’re so grateful for all the support so far, and we sent much love.

On with the show!

#MentalHealthPlay has a cast!

Director Cammerron David Baits, who went through 389 submissions, called about ten percent of those, and cast 25 percent of those. So these actors are the top one-fourth of the top ten percent of all who submitted.

I’m so grateful that so many people saw something in this work and wanted to be part of it.

Punk rocker, host, composer, etc. Rew Starr is starring as Davi.

Cammerron said of the first rehearsal: It is always nerve wracking starting your “first day of school.” Today I began rehearsals for “Maximalista”. I am so proud of my cast. I don’t have a ” Normal” style of directing, but they are on this journey with me. In two hours we did two read through a and have explored two scenes to the point of it being on it’s feet we have a long ways to go but are off to a great start! Cannot wait for tomorrow’s rehearsal. There was even a moment between Lisa Goldin Rabinowicz and Rew Starr tonight that gave me chills, and this only day one! I couldn’t be more proud! Alex TaylorClaire Friesen Travis Schweiger Julia Neveu so happy to have you on board! And could not do this without my stage manager Elizabeth F Amato!

 

#MentalHealthPlay cast&directors

#MentalHealthPlay – Max is going to NYC!

It’s like going home, but your parents have moved.

Manhattan Rep was the gracious venue for The Feast of Jovi Bono on 42nd Street in NYC. They moved a few blocks to W. 45th Street to an upgraded space, and I can’t wait to see the new digs.

Ken and Jen, the movers and shakers at Manhattan Rep, accepted Maximalista for their Fall New Works Festival, and it’s going up September 29-30.

Auditions are Friday. THIS Friday. And director Cammerron Baits (the original Kevin from TFOJB) has had a lot of submissions for a part in this one-act. Nearly 300! I’m grateful to each and every one of those who wants to be part of this.

I’m stressed. I’m nervous. I think that’s normal as an indie playwright at this stage.

When I went to Hive Global Leaders program, I said in my life plan that I want to be known as the social justice playwright. That’s not necessarily achievable or fair — there are a lot of playwrights, many better known than I am, whose work makes a difference in the causes that are tearing up the world right now.

What we do here is intention. We will have 7-10 cast members, we have a casting director to help Cammerron find the right people (and we have some amazing actors who have submitted), and my hope is that each of them will feel cared for and supported as they reach the next level in their craft. From that base they will give phenomenal performances.

I will build the audience out of people I know or have connections to in NYC. If you’re one of them, please free yourself one of these nights to come see it. I promise it will be worth your time and stay with you.

And with every person who contributes, we have another level of hope, another possibility to make the show amazing.

The Gay Play

Here’s what happened:

I was accepted as one of 120 leaders out of 4,000 reported applicants to attend the Hive Global Leaders Program last week. I can’t believe it was a week ago this Friday night that we ate dinner under the stars and in front of the bay outside the Science Museum of Massachusetts. I traveled to Boston from Iowa, the first Hiver from Iowa, but by no means the last.

While there, I attended a breakout session with fellow participant, Salvadoran Herman Duarte. Just 29 years old, Herman has a law firm dedicated to the social cause of equality, and a life purpose to pursue marriage equality for all. Herman’s exceptional passion was noticeable from the start, even among a group of passionate global leaders, and I was fascinated by his giftedness and strong activism.

Marriage equality can be a divisive topic, and it’s been no more so than for Herman, who came out about seven years ago in a blog. His people in El Salvador (and they are in part his people as he comes from an illustrious political family — his uncle was José Napoleon Duarte, El Salvador’s president from 1984-1989) were horrified. Herman really lost a lot of social standing by coming out, and was separated from members of his family over it.

The alternative to coming out as gay, however, Herman said, would be, “denying what is inside of me…”

Just imagine this for a moment: have you ever had to hide who you are even from those you love most? Does that not seem like it would lead to a lifetime of pain? But it’s what we so often ask of our LGBTQ loved ones, and for our own convenience and comfort. So we’re in comfortable oblivion while they hide in pain? How can that be Christian? How can that be love?

These are questions I have struggled with. And no, I’ve never wanted a gay person to hide who they are from me. I’ve been an ally for a long time.

Herman said marriage is very important to him. His Catholic faith is very important to him. He remains a man of faith, a Catholic, despite the church’s teachings about homosexuality and marriage.

It was a year ago that Pope Francis said, “[gay people] should not be discriminated against; they have to be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

In 2013, Pope Francis said, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.”

How does the Pope enter into a creative work?

After Herman’s talk at Hive, I was emotionally overcome, and I found it hard to figure out why. I was so moved by the things Herman said, some words actually came out that were not things I normally say, nor ways I normally speak about the place I live, or a group of people in it. They were things buried deep in my subconscious, things which, unfortunately, some of my family members said in my presence in the past, which linked to how I was feeling about living in rural Iowa where I despair of equality on many levels actually ever happening.

No one confronted me on the words I said. If they had, I would have offered to do whatever it took to restore the community and alleviate the harm done. Evidently the community and its members are strong enough to take it in stride.

I sat down outside the lecture room, and collected myself for a moment. By the time I had, Herman returned and gifted me a pen from his visit to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, from a visit which had very much moved him. He quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. often in his talks. Herman gave me a big hug, which I returned in full.

“You ask what you can do, Amy?” Herman said, “you can write a gay play.”

A gay play. Could I? This was asking a lot of me. Not because I’m not an LGBTQ ally — I am! Not because I don’t believe in parity and equality — I do! But because it’s so hard. Because people believe so deeply in the conflation of Christian (and other) faith and being anti-gay.

Because people think freedom to marry will dilute the sanctity of their heterosexual marriages and cause moral decline (it hasn’t here in Iowa — we have plenty of other things that do).

It was also because of the Namesake brand, my ethic of taking the stories of women saints and a few other historic women and bringing their courage against great challenges to our century.

Who was a saint to stand up for equality for people who are gay?

I thought about weaving it into the story of Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez, as they answer letters from jail. No, Dorothy was very clear on her views on sexuality in general, and if I wanted to use Dorothy and Cesar’s words framed by today’s challenges, well I’d already decided to focus on wages, on workers’ rights, on refugees, on human dignity.

So, without much hope, I researched whether there were gay saints.

There were. Are. There are about 10,000 who have been beatified or named as blessed over the centuries, and if they are a representative statistical sample of our humanity, 1,000 of them were probably gay.

And they’re powerful and magnificent and loved with a ferocity that could set a standard for us here and now.

Galla and Benedicta. Paulinus. Sebastian. Perpetua and Felicity. Sergius and Bacchus. Even the iconic beloveds, Francis and Joan of Arc. And others named here. Men and women who were accepted for their greatness in faith until sometime after the Stonewall riots. After that, the church began to erase their memories, strip them of their glory and will them to fade away.

If the mark of a saint is to love God with every ounce of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, willing to be tortured or killed as a result, then these men and women qualify.

The story of The Gay Play (not its final title) is this: a brother and sister are, with their respective same-sex spouses to be, set to have a double wedding the day after the shootings at the Pulse club in Orlando, Florida. While the brother and sister await word from their sibling, the fragments of their dashed wedding show up as wedding cards and relatives register their feelings on gay marriage and the reality of three gay children in one family.

So it begins.