How We As Theatre Artists Can Combat a Trump Presidency
The inauguration of President Donald Trump is at hand and for many of us in the world of theatre (and the arts in general) we are already feeling the storm of oppression that will most certainly engulf us. The announcement of Trump’s plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts has already given us a mighty blow. There is an uncertainty that sits in our hearts with the weight of a lump of steel as we wait to see how his policies and his parade of unqualified cronies continue to infiltrate our lives and affect how we live, love, and create. We, however, as theatre people shall remain undaunted, because we are the hopers, the dreamers, the visionaries, the voices that speak with confidence against oppression, the greatest optimists in the world. Theatre has taught us, through its challenges and against-all-odds circumstances, an optimism and drive to succeed that should frighten the powers that be. Theatre people are not afraid to use their voice, and I think our time has come to show this country both our resolve and our inherent value.
How do we, as theatre artists, find ways to utilize our talents to combat this Trump Presidency? I have been thinking about this and there are several things we can do. First: We need to treat this battle like an open-ended run and not a limited engagement. We are charged to remember, every day, the optimism we felt on the day before the election and the anger we felt the day after. Let that recall galvanize us daily to remain stalwart and in-the-moment so that we use our voices to combat Trump’s false prophesy and right-wing propaganda.
Let us be heartened by our predecessors. As much as certain people will say that celebrities should be muzzled and artists shouldn’t share their opinions, we need to remember that artists of all kinds are often the soldiers at the front lines of social and political movements. How many playwrights have used the stage to incite change? Authors have undermined political corruption with words of insurrection. Painters have proven radical by thumbing their noses as convention. We scare Mr. Trump and his ilk. There is a reason why he lashed out when Meryl Streep inspired us with her words at the Golden Globes. We are the people who are famous for speaking out eloquently and in words that capture the hearts of an audience. We have social media and many of us have a social media following. Use it to spread words of inspiration and a revolutionary thought of creation over destruction.
Finally, we should be compelled to create by example. We must use our art to transform, transport, inspire and reassure. Creating is the absolute opposite of what these fascist dictators want. In fact, the idea of building things for the betterment of the world is something they don’t understand, but something we artists do instinctively. It’s our greatest strength in times like these, and we have a responsibility to challenge Mr. Trump is the public arena. After all, he certainly used it to his advantage to lie and cheat his way to the presidency.
There is so much talk about healing and coming together as one country and I find this the lazy way to deal with this war that has been exacted on the American people. We, the artists, who have always been marginalized and downtrodden are under a solemn duty to build, create, and speak for the marginalized and the downtrodden who haven’t found their voice. We’ve been given gifts that counter the destruction coming our way. To quote Jonathan Larson “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation” and that war is already being waged against us. Those who create, please get to work. Those who have a voice, please use it. Those who make the world a better place, carry on the spirit of the Obama administration and all it stood for by painting the world in the boldest hues and filling it with inspirational and motivating thoughts. America is already great and we already know it. Let’s hold our mirror up to nature. Let’s reflect our greatness in its magnified glory until it blinds those who would seek to destroy it.