We the People

creators & producing directors: Kimberly Atkinson & Amir Levi
producers for Sacred Fools: Marianne Davis , Reena Dutt & Edward Hong

Next: Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 @ 7pm PST
Streaming online (link TBA)

Theme: "Our Posterity"

This monthly theatre action is a curated staged reading series of new works theatrically exploring Ė sometimes loudly, sometimes quietly, and everything in between Ė the social and political concerns facing our country today. We The People: Where artists and audiences come together to Resist, Persist, and Express It. To find hope, unity, and to take action. Every month, artists receive a prompt and a deadline. The 3-5 minute pieces are then curated into a night of theatre. All proceeds go to a related non-profit.

Follow WE THE PEOPLE on Facebook and Instagram for poetry slam challenges and other web installments!

WE THE PEOPLE: "Our Posterity"

Our charity for the Sept. 24 show is Water Drop L.A., a community organization whose mission is to provide clean drinking water to people experiencing homelessness. By distributing 1,000+ gallons of water during weekly water drops, Water Drop aims to support existing organizers and groups and to meet the immediate needs of the community. Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right, and Water Drop believes that legislative advocacy must be accompanied by a swift response to critical necessities. Donate here.

This month's pieces:

"Artronika: Acid Jazz Lounge"
Composed and Performed by Ireesh Lal

"Propogation" by Rachael Carnes
Joe - Rafeal Clements

"Under the Thumb of the Mad Orange King"
Written & Performed by Stephanie Dawn

"Nine Generations" by Sheana Ochoa
Performed by Marta Portillo

"zoom DEI townhall" by Peter Pasco
Ashlee - Brittney Wheeler
Tenoch - Richard Azurdia
Petra - Stephanie Dawn
Bob - John Wuchte
Steve - Garrett Botts
Gary - Tyler Bremer

"What Google Couldn't Do?"
Written & Performed by Shari Elizabeth Walker

"Sharon's Prayer" by Peter Pasco
Sharon - Natalie Nicole Dressel

"The President is Trying to Kill Me" by Jen Huszcza
Performed by Garrett Botts, Tyler Bremer & John Wuchte

"To Break Free" by Tamara Stroeble
Performed by Richard Azurdia

"The Girl You've Been Thinking Of" by Natalie Nicole Dressel
Natalie - Natalie Nicole Dressel
Girl- Marta Portillo

"Tomorrow..." by Desiree York
Performed by Brittney Wheeler

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon & J. Rosamond Johnson
From the Musical PEARL by CB Murray, based on the life of Pearl Bailey
Reimagined to support the Black Lives Matter Movement

Further credits for "Lift Every Voice and Sing":

VIDEO CREW:
Tiffany Jackman - Director/Producer/Editor
Dominic Delrusso - Co-Producer
Orion Phillips - Co-Director / Director of Photography / Colorist
Christopher Howard - Director of Photography
Elijah Georges - Camera Operator

MUSIC:
Produced, Arranged, Mixed and Programmed by Charles Czarnecki

CHOIR:
Jennie Harney-Fleming
Kecia Lewis
Starlett Brown
CB Murray
Charles Czarnecki
Thaddeus McCants

VOICE OVER - Ben Harney
PRODUCER Ė CB Murray
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Ė Theresa M. Collins

Special Thanks to Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church - Jersey City, New Jersey

New Verse By CB Murray

Other Credits

Logo Photo - Magdelana Calderon

Inspired by Missing Bolts Productions' "After Orlando"

Want to start a We the People Theatre Action at your theatre or in your town? We'd love to help! for more details and personal guidance from the producers. Here's to artistic activism!

Archives

Click here for information on past installments!

Photos

Feature Articles

RachaelCarnes.com

Meet actor/director/producer/activists Kimberly Atkinson and Amir Levi

Hi, Amir! Tell me about We The People: The community of artists, its place in the L.A. theatre scene, what your goals are, with productions 0 Anything!

Amir: We want to start a revolution. I co-produced an After Orlando night at Sacred Fools, and after that process and seeing all the new faces coming into our space, and people being hungry for relevant art and having their stories told... I felt that After Orlando needed to be just the beginning: There needed to be more done. We The People [WTP] has a goal to not only make sure weíre reaching out to different communities to see if our prompts will inspire them to write for us, but also to bring more diverse faces and voices to our theatre community.

Iím tired of seeing cis het white men be the only ones on stage or having their voices heard. Some theater companies have been great about working hard for representation... while some have not. We of course want to bring more diverse voices to our home base of Sacred Fools, but our eventual broader goal for We The People is that other theater companies throughout the country will start chapters there. We want dialogue and we want theater to make the impact it has the potential to make. We had the opportunity a couple of summers ago through Celebration theatre to teach teenagers through the LGBT Center. We worked with them to create their own We The People style show, and I think having more of those opportunities in giving blossoming and hurting voices more tools to express themselves could really have a ripple effect on their communities. Iím rambling here, but basically I want us to be a virus of revolutionary dialogue and art.

What inspires your individual creativity?

Amir: Pain? Ha. It varies. As a performer, I love roles I can sink my teeth into and that work me over completely physically and emotionally. I love shows where I am utterly exhausted at the end of them. I also love being a part of a great story. Really smart and captivating storytelling inspires me. Iím also completely taken with moments or scenes that Iíll watch where a performance is so nuanced and brimming, that itíll give me goose bumps. Iíve been bingeing The Morning Show, and there are so many amazing moments and relationships on that show, AND it's relevant, I feel like I'm learning so much I'll be excited to unpack at some point.

These are pretty challenging times. Why do we need to be making art?

Amir: We need an outlet. Art brings people together and allows the frustrations and buzzings around in our head to be put in more tangible forms we can look at and experience together. Art touches people in ways that civilian (non art) interaction does not. In giving people chances to see themselves reflected on stage, on film, etc., weíre giving them an opportunity to process different possibilities or to finally see themselves reflected in a way they couldnít fully express themselves.

It makes sure that the screaming going on within us is not into some void, and that we are not alone in this horrendous chaos.

Hey, Kim! Thanks for chatting with me. How do you work within the limits of time, money, space etc., as producers?

KIM: Frantically. Our production schedule is pretty insane because each show is a curated selection of BRAND NEW, FRESH theatrical scripts based on a prompt we disseminated roughly a month before the show. Fortunately, our producing theater company and its members, Sacred Fools in Hollywood, are huge believers in WTP and what it not only does for the community at large, but what WTP has done for the company itself. We get new volunteers every season wanting to be of service and help us create each show. And we created WTP to be low cost so it wouldnít have the same risks expensive ongoing productions face - ie cancellation, and, also, in the hopes that its manageable format and cost could eventually be carried on by other theater companies around the country and beyond.

It's not easy to produce under budget and time constraints like ours, but the purpose isn't production value related. It's so much more than that. Artists get to use their talents for a great cause, audience get to donate and be provocatively entertained, and we all get to be part of a conversation that will hopefully bring about change. You canít put a price on that.

One of our next steps is to create a WTP curriculum and a WTP HOW-TO to pitch to high schools, colleges, and other intimate theaters.

What is it like, making theatre in L.A.? Iíve been down there a couple times this year, and the theatre community seems pretty neat. Tell me about the landscape.

KIM: The landscape is varied and dense. There IS theater in LA - thatís not an oxymoron. The community is positive, supportive, proactive, determined, and extremely talented in my experience. Iíve performed all over the states but Sacred Fools has given me the most amazing opportunities to create, perform, produce, and administrate. Itís been my artistic home in many ways. And while much of my time is spent working with Sacred Fools Iíve been very fortunate to work with writers and artists from all over Los Angeles and the country, chiefly through WTP.

Whatís the earliest memory you have of the arts? Music, dance, theatre, visual art - Whatever!

While Iím sure there has got to be something earlier than sixth grade this stands out: I played Puck in a very, very adapted and abridged version of Midsummer. My mom made my costume, of course, and my teacher/director had to feed me my lines from offstage. Very Shakespearean honestly. I canít say that that was when I got bit by the performance bug though. Writing is what really propelled me into the arts - Poetry was my first artistic love.

Looking back on 2019, what do you feel most proud of that We the People accomplished?

Good lord I canít remember what I ate for breakfast today...

How 'bout family and friends? Who's in your inner circle, and how do they support your work?

My husband is an actor, writer, and goal setting coach. He is endless inspiration even when he doesnít mean to be. And my daughter, while only 4, has an idea of mommy's work - she understands I have 'auditions', 'rehearsal', 'do shows', have 'students' etc. Most importantly she sees me doing what I love and I know that will have a lasting effect.

What art knocked your socks off recently? Could be a play - Or an album, a movie, an exhibit, a novel, anything! - What made you connect with the art and the artistís work?

Billy Eillish is killing me right now!!!! Her music reminds me of the dark femininity I personally feel and write about.

What's next on the horizon? Tell me about the performance that's upcoming later this month.

The January show will actually be our season opener. And for that reason we will be staging, with full tech and costume, some of our favorite pieces of the last two seasons. See, our shows are usually staged readings but we thought we'd take it up a notch with our first show of 2020. And we are benefitting an amazing organization called Integrated Schools.

Any advice for someone writing plays for your audience?

Don't make Trump a character. We will not put his semblance on our stage. Otherwise, have fun and enjoy the ride.

How do you relax and unwind? What are your self-care goals in 2020?

Writing more. And I love yoga, running, and long baths. So this year, more of all that.

Dogs, cats, or both? (Iím both.)

One 14 yo Chihuahua named Angus Whitefoot Young. And our family is thinking about adopting a kitty into the clan. So we may be both soon!!!

--Rachael Carnes
Ⓒ 2020 RachaelCarnes.com

Footlights

How often have we heard some say, ďWhy do actors have to give us their political opinions? Theyíre paid to act, not tell me what to think!Ē Thatís a paraphrase, but Iím sure weíve all heard something along those lines. Aside from the fact that actors are always making a political statement by the very way they create a role, itís inherent in the process. Itís a little sad that anyone should be denied their freedom of expression, no matter if we agree with them or not.

While there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Amir Levi and Kimberly Atkinson, both members of Sacred Fools Theatre Company, decided to take a different approach. In their own words,

Who

After the 2016 presidential election, we Ö saw a need in the community for artistic expression, an opportunity to meld art and activism. Kimberly founded the Diversity Initiative of Sacred Fools, Ö After a successful and deeply meaningful production of the nationwide theatre action, After Orlando (benefiting the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting), which was produced by Amir and Natalie Rose at Sacred Fools, Company of Angels and Celebration Theatre. Kimberly and Amir wanted to continue this kind of community building and healing work. From the meeting their minds and hearts, sprang We The People.

What

The basic idea is that a notice is put out to as broad a community as possible. The call is for the creation of new works, based upon a prompt. The first effort was A MORE PERFECT UNION, two months later it was DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY. And now repeating the two months cycle the newest is BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY.

Here are the basic rules:

PIECES MUST BE BRAND NEW AND MUST BE BORN FROM THE PROMPT
Ė 3-5 MINUTES LONG
Ė PIECES CAN NOT BE PART OF A LARGER PIECE
Ė TRUMP CAN NOT BE A CHARACTER IN THE PIECE

Once pieces are submitted, Amir and Kimberly go through the submissions, select the ones that speak to them the most, and go about producing selected works for a one night performance, which takes place at the Broadwaterís Black Box Theater (one of three stages that are the home of Sacred Fools). This includes casting, producing and publicizing.

Incidentally, while theatre is the genesis, any creative effort is welcome.

The goal is then to take the proceeds of the evening and make a donation to a local non-profit. At the same time, itís a focused effort to reach out to a broader community of artists, hoping to expand on the concept of diversity.

Why

The results have been remarkable. First, there is the interest by other companies in other cities to replicate the effort. Itís a practical and real-life network development. Second, to date, two different non-profits have received additional funding, nearly $500 each. Tanenbaum and CARECEN-LA are both organizations providing assistance to under-served members of the population. The third, is that the notion of diversity has been put into action, and the real-life connectivity of artists is being expanded.

For both productions the houses have been sold out, which begs the question, what next? More than a single performance? Bigger houses? Travel to other theaters?

Now it would be an act of omission if we didnít note that there was a distinctly progressive agenda behind all this. In the notes for each show, we see the following:

ďHere we are in this space together. In action. However small it may seem against the backdrop of injustice and ignorance that pervades this country. How can we collaborate as artists and audience to do more? In this short time together, what difference will it make? How can our art and our presence have some greater impact in the world? Can we keep it from flickering out when the lights go up? We can. We can create art that moves out of this room. Art whose consumption creates currency that can help other organizations of like-minded activists. Art that connects us with a tangible way to be of service. Yes, you are an activist tonight. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for bearing witness. Thank you for being part of the conversation.Ē

But the opportunities are diverse as well. Both Kimberly and Amir talk about the fact that they want to hear all voices. Solutions are in the dialogue, not in the shouting. Each of the prompts is a phrase from the preamble of the US Constitution. Itís a clear demonstration that regardless of opinion, the basic goal we all want to achieve is a nation and a world we can be proud of.

Whatever the future holds, there are a couple of important takeaways from this. Artists exist because they have a need to speak out. It is the foundation of art, the drive to communicate. And here, We The People has created an opportunity to do that in a community responsive fashion. The focus of each production seeks to hear voices from across the entire human spectrum Ė political, racial, sexual, religious Ė to respond to soul searing ideas.

We should applaud, nay, participate, in the opportunity that has been created. How tired are we all of the seemingly endless shouting that goes on in all aspects of our lives? Our news sources are becoming unwatchable, our social media seems to be an endless source of propaganda and misinformation, our daily lives are replete with the anxiety of whatís next. Here are people saying we need more, we need to understand, we need to hear beyond the shouts.

And furthermore, certainly not finally, we see the birth of creativity. Not just in the work, but in the causation for the work, the process to reveal the want, and the methodology to share it with the rest of us.

Where

Want to get involved? On Monday, January the 15th, at 8:00 p.m., we will see the latest contributions based upon BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY. Reservations can be made through the Sacred Fools website. Be a part of the solution. Attend, contribute, and revel in the resilience, ingenuity and boundless hope of humanity. If you donít see BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY, youíll have to wait till March for the next installment.

--Peter Finlayson
Ⓒ 2018 Footlights

- Sacred Fools Company Member