Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category
At the February edition of The Griot Show, hosted by Alexis Lambright, Dahlia Ramsay told a wonderful story about a late-night Halal cart run, white allyship, and how improv lessons can be translated to real life. That story is transcribed below. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Dahlia Ramsay from The Griot Show – February 13, 2017
So anywho, Imma tell you about my Friday night, last night. Cool? Awesome. So, I went out last Friday night and I stayed out way too late. Way later than I thought I would. And I knew it was gonna be some bullshit to get home. If anyone went out last Friday night you know that the trains were all messed up. So I said, “Let me get some halal first, for the ride.”
So, I go up to the halal cart. It’s the one on 1st and 1st in the East Village. And I go up to the halal cart, and I give the dude my order. And he’s a very nice man. Really clean cart. I definitely recommend it. The two other dudes there, these two Black dudes that were there. And we’re making small talk, and they’re trying to holler, and they’re lovely. And we’re just chatting all four of us. And then so after not too long, these three other girls walk up. These three Latin girls. And they are DRUNK. And hilarious, and adorable. And they’re up from Miami visiting. And the Black dudes, one was from New York, and one was from Houston. So we’re all just chatting. And they’re all drunk. I’m the only sober one. And we’re being ridiculous and bullshitting, and being loud, and the Halal guy is laughing.
And finally the dude from Houston asks the girls, “So where are you ladies from?” and one of them goes
“Nicaragua” (strong Spanish accent).
And he’s like “What?”
“NI-CA-RA-GUA! Say it!” She’s getting like… “Say my country!” [Laughter]
And he’s messing up, can’t say it. And she says “It’s in Latin America. Trump hates us too! Trump hates me!”
And the Black dude from New York is like “Nah nah nah nah nah, Trump hates ME. He hates us, alright? He been hating Black people. This Mexican thing is some new shit.”
And so, the conversation turns from like, bullshitting about bullshit, to bullshitting about politics. And finally after these people arguing about which group of people Trump hates more, the halal guy goes “Ah-hem,” clears throat, and points finger in the air, “Uh yea…I think I have you guys beat.”
And I fell out. I was laughing, I was dying, I was embarrassed. I was the only person there kinda outside seeing this go down and didn’t even occur to me either how ridiculous it was that we were arguing about this while homie was making our food, right there. So it got me thinking about The Griot Show, and solidarity more specifically, and allyship. And what that means.
‘Tis the season that we are honoring Black lives past and present. And honoring their stories, and complexities, and truths. And it occurred to me a while back, and it seemed appropriate for tonight, that there is a strand of stories that we don’t hear about. And I’m not talking about the Ida B. Wells or that one lady on the flyer for The Griot Show, where I was like “I don’t know who that is!” I’m talking about allies. White allies specifically. People of privilege. And how allies can become accomplices. And what that means and what that looks like.
I’m a pretty well-educated person. And here’s a bit of trivia. Can anyone name a white ally from the civil rights movement? Yes? One? Can we see if a non-host knows? You?
Audience: Bernie Sanders!
A: Shush! Is that what you were going to say?
A: Harriet Beecher Stowe?
Ohhhhh, no okay okay. History break, you guys. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So that was further back. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Alright, I give this tour on NYC gospel, I’m a tour guide, so we could go into that because she’s a very interesting lady, and her whole family. But anyway Bernie Sanders is a good one. Anyone else? What were you going to say?
A: I was gonna say the two guys who were killed… James? Morgan?
Okay, see my point? Thank you. So we don’t know. And that I think is a detriment. It’s a detriment to the Civil Rights movement, it’s a detriment to all current movements now, particularly a detriment to any person of privilege or a white person who has no historical models for what allyship and solidarity looks like.
So, in this post-Barack Shock, that we’re living in. What does this all look like? And before I begin to attempt to answer that question, there’s a few things you should know about me. 1. I am currently in grad school in a program called Applied Theatre. And there’s a whole ‘nother story about what that is. [Applause] That means something!? Applied Theatre means something?? Oh my gosh. That’s good for me. I might get a job. And we’re reading–there’s a whole lot of reading in grad school–and the book we’re currently reading now is Theatre of the Oppressed, and it’s based on a book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In T.O.T.O. Augusto Boal says that participatory theatre in and of itself is not revolutionary, but it is rehearsal for the revolution.
Another thing you should know about me is I’ve been doing improv here at the Magnet community that I love so much for about three years. The Magnet is my valentine officially. I’ve never felt unsafe. It’s always been a very safe space for me. But I’ve been more concerned lately with how we can take our safe spaces and turn them into brave spaces. Turn them out, into brave spaces. More specifically, how we can use these muscles and reflexes that we spend hours honing and exercising that overall support community and having someone’s back and making decisions and having emotions and taking action.
And I know I’m not the first person to take improv principles and apply them to life. But I thought it would be worth–and I’m asking myself, and I’m asking you–how we can translate some of these action principles that we’ve learned in our classes to help guide us in moments when we are called to action. And obviously, that’s not always foolproof. We’ll mess up, like we do in scenes. Some of us know. But I made a little chart. Is it okay if I fuck around with a chart? Cool. So this is an infinite list of improv principles. The list isn’t infinite, but it goes on. And you can do this for yourself. So this is an exercise I did for myself. I’ll say some of these improv principles, and I’ll translate some, and others I won’t. And you can just like infer what that might mean for you. Okay?
– Don’t lean completely on your scene partner.
Translation: Don’t expect people of color or other oppressed people to do all the emotional and intellectual labor for you.
Okay? Okay! We’ll clap. We’ll clap after each one. This is a Louis Kornfeld one.
– It is better to disagree to agree than it is to agree to disagree.
To me what that means is if you just agree to disagree that’s like the most intellectually lazy thing you can do and it’s basically very dismissive. But! If you can disagree in order to agree, in that there is something that you’re moving towards then you’re actually engaging.
– Start in the middle of the scene
Don’t reinvent the wheel. We have a history. We are somewhere in the middle of that arc that supposedly leans towards justice, right? So, know your history. Start in the middle of the scene.
– Group games. If you don’t know a group game is you basically establish a pattern early on, and like a pattern of expectation, but often in a group game, at some point that expectation is broken or subverted.
Translation: Systems of oppression can be broken.
– Beware of ironic indifference and apathy. If you’re an improviser you know this kind of tends to just kill a scene.
Translation: Silence is violence
– A character is someone who’s not you.
I’ll leave that one there.
– Check in with your scene partner at the top of the scene.
– What matters most is how we affect each other.
– Emotion drives the action
– If you’re standing on the sidelines and thinking “Uh, I’m glad I’m not out there”… get out there.
So if you’re someone who hasn’t done improv before but you’re curious about it, this gives you a little insight into what I do and why I love it. And I totally invite you to take the free class that Magnet offers. If you’re a veteran improviser and a person of privilege, and you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t know what to do or how to be in this world these days…” you DO. It just takes a little translation.
Transcribed by Francesca Hays.
GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL opened to a sold-out crowd last Friday, May 4th. The plot was full of twists and turns that we cannot divulge, and the action was so hot that we were unable to obtain pictures of the show from the actual opening night. Instead, an anonymous source supplied us with clandestine photos from a secret GAY BOMB dress rehearsal.
Here is Part 2 of my interview with GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL co-writer, Steve Whyte.
Magnet Blog: How do you and your co-writer, Chris Friden, know each other?
Steve Whyte: Chris and I met at UC-Berkeley. A couple of years after we graduated, we started a weekly comedy/sports TV show on Cal Football and Basketball. It ended up getting picked up by SportsChannel (now FoxSports), and going national. We ran for three years and won an Emmy, and since then we’ve both been involved in various aspects of video production.
MB: Did you find that your musical improv skills came in handy while writing Gay Bomb?
SW: Absolutely. I think it definitely guided the rewriting of the screenplay to fit the musical format. Additionally, before we started the rewrite, we ran several improv sessions with members of the cast. Almost everybody in the cast has come up through all of the Magnet’s musical improv classes. So improvising both scenes and songs was something that comes naturally to them, and something that they do every week. It was helpful to see what elements might work well by improvising them first, before sitting down to do the rewrite. It also gave the actors time to get familiar with their characters, so that they had a head start in that department when finally getting a chance to work with the book.
MB: Neither you nor your co-writer, Chris, identify as LGBTQ. As straight allies, what compelled you two to write GAY BOMB?
SW: Being a white, straight male, try as I may, I have no idea what it’s like to deal with the injustices that others go through on a daily basis. While both Chris and I have close family members and friends who are LGBTQ, and we try our best to empathize, we don’t truly know what it’s like to experience life as an oppressed minority in a prejudiced society. However, I don’t think that should stop one from trying, and I certainly don’t think it should stop one from speaking out and doing what they can to address these faults in society.
With regards to casting, I cast the people that I thought would fit the roles best, and who were exceptionally funny and talented. There was no thought put into trying to cast all straight or all gay or a certain percentage mix of cast members. As it turns out, I think our cast is close to 50/50. I think it has been nice to have this mix of performers, as it provides helpful feedback and input for the piece from various viewpoints. Interestingly, four of our gay actors play straight characters, and at least two of our straight actors play gay characters. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of funny, talented improvisers who have been performing together at the Magnet for years, and who are just looking to put on a fun, funny, entertaining, and perhaps even meaningful show.
Thanks, Steve! We’d like to think that GAY BOMB was one reason why President Obama finally decided to support marriage equality. Go, President Obama!
Catch GAY BOMB on select Mondays and Fridays in May and June at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here. Use the code “POTUS Felching” to get half off the regular ticket price, for all shows, including tonight’s! The code is only good for today, so buy those cheap tickets now!
Fridays: 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, 6/15, 6/22, 6/29
Mondays: 5/21, 6/11, 6/18
Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel, and book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte. Starring Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, T.J. Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.
If you are unable to attend the show, or wish to offer continued support, please consider donating to the GAY BOMB kickstarter fundraiser. The creators of the show have accrued significant debt to put this show together, for set design, costumes, rehearsal space, and many other necessities that arise as the show continues its run. The hope is to raise $2,000 more dollars in a week, for a total of $7,000. Please go to the GAY BOMB kickstarter page for more information on the excellent pledge perks.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my interview with Steve Whyte!
Photo credits: Steve Whyte and Woody Fu
GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL is landing on the Magnet Theater, with only a few seats left for this highly anticipated opening night tonight! Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel, and book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte, this musical comedy is inspired by an actual proposal by the U.S. military (in 1994!) to build a bomb that would make America’s enemies gay.
Starring Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, T.J. Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu, the show premieres tonight, and will run on select Mondays and Fridays in May and June at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.
Fridays: 5/4, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, 6/15, 6/22, 6/29
Mondays: 5/21, 6/11, 6/18
Here is Part 1 of my interview with GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL co-writer, Steve Whyte.
Magnet Blog: What motivated you and your co-writer, Chris Friden, to create GAY BOMB?
Steve Whyte: We often hear of absurd policies from our government, but this one really seemed special. It’s simultaneously hilarious and sad. Sad that a room full of educated, grown men (no one knows who was in the room, but I would wager that, yes, they were probably all men) would have a set of values and beliefs that could allow the serious consideration of a “Gay Bomb.” This didn’t happen in the 1950s; this was 1994. Hilarious, I suppose, for the same reasons. It’s low hanging fruit – easy to make fun of. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for some commentary about stereotyping, prejudice, politics, and power.
MB: Have you and Chris ever written a musical before?
SW: Neither of us have ever written a musical. We actually wrote a screenplay of GAY BOMB about a year ago, and then figured it would make a fun musical. I learned a lot about musicals and what makes them tick from the musical improv classes at the Magnet. Then, when we decided to do this, I read a shitload of books on the subject, took a “musical writers bootcamp” workshop at Davenport Theatrical, and bent the ear of fellow Magnet improviser and librettist Justin Moran (POPE!, Nightfall on Miranga Island).
MB: Any advice for folks who might want to write their own musical, but don’t know how to start?
SW: My number one suggestion would be: Get help. Surround yourself with talented people. Be willing to give up control and have others help.
There are several books on the subject, a couple of which lay out the fundamentals pretty well. I found The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide by David Spencer and Writing the Broadway Musical by Aaron Frankel to be particularly helpful. Watching and re-watching a lot of musicals helps, especially ones that resonate with you. For me, that’s anything by Parker and Stone—Team America, Book of Mormon, the South Park movie (there are also several South Park episodes that are mini-musicals). And again, the musical improv classes also provide a great foundation in what moves a musical forward.
MB: Any last words to end Part 1 of this interview, Steve?
SW: We’re honored that the Magnet has included us in their effort to showcase more scripted material at the theater. This production draws very heavily on the Magnet community. Everyone in the cast and crew has taken many classes here, and has been in many shows. Our director, Michael Martin, is the director of the musical improv program here along with Frank Spitznagel, who is our musical director and composer.
Please stay tuned to the Magnet blog for future installments of my interview with Steve. See you at Opening Night of GAY BOMB! Stay for the after-party at Smithfield, the new bar at 215 West 28th Street!
Meditating has helped my focus, mood, and creativity. When it comes to improv specifically, I think of a scene like a meditation session, with my partner (or perhaps the present moment in general) being what I focus on (as opposed to focusing on my breathing as I would during a regular meditation session). Any time I get in my head, I just bring my focus back to my partner and engage with as clear a mind as possible.
I remember when I first became conscious of what being “in the zone” felt like. My mind was clear, my focus was on the present moment, and my responses floated into my head. I didn’t need to think in order to know what to do. Continue reading after the jump… more
A good improv scene is a little like a game of 301.
You begin with 301 points, and throw darts to deduct their totals from that sum until you reach 0, on the dot. more