Theater: “Tent of Dreams: An Occuplay”
|July 20, 2012||Posted by Janine Brune under Review|
Janine Brune reviews Tent of Dreams: an Occuplay, which portrays the rise and fall of the Occupy DC encampment at McPherson Sq. The play is being shown in the Capital Fringe Festival, and opened on July 14.“Mic check! Mic check!” So begins NuSass Productions’ Tent of Dreams, held in the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. The “Occuplay” depicts events that affected Occupy DC in McPherson Square spanning from its beginnings in October 2011 to its eviction in February.
“Occupy is a conversation,” said one character in the play (an aspiring preacher played by John Brougher), indicating that this movement is meant to create and inspire conversations, and to educate — not to project a solution. The mainstream media portrayal of Occupy DC was shown to be a challenge to the movement. Reporters refused to take time to interview and get to know the occupiers, but instead highlighted the occupiers as uneducated hippies, people with mental illness, and radical anarchists.
As a person on the fringe of the Occupy movement, I believe I have a different perspective from those audience members who are active in the movement, and I found this play inspiring and educational . I was unaware of the actual people on which some characters were based. This led me to be less critical of the playwright’s portrayal of the camp and more invested in the inspirational message.
Seven actors play ten different characters. Aubri O’Connor is the talented, passionate actress playing the facilitator. Her character represented the many people involved in Occupy DC who had full time jobs and lived outside of McPherson Square. Joanna Stevens is the newbie, who helped introduce the audience to the Occupy movement. Through this fresh set of eyes, the newbie educated the audience on the many issues that have drawn people to the movement. She also helped us learn how Occupy came about in McPherson, as well as understand the day to day organization of the camp.
Other characters included a homeless man who lost everything when his wife died and left him with a huge hospital bill; an anarchist who was angered by the death of her younger African-American brother, killed by the police who mistook him for a robber; a hippie who travels the world looking for protests; a Christian woman interested in the movement; a federal park policeman; and a mainstream reporter. All the actors were engaging and their roles inspiring.
The playwright did a good job of showing the diversity in Occupy. The only criticism I have is how the anarchist is introduced at the beginning of the play. Played by the talented African-American actress Dannielle Hutchinson, I thought it was a bit stereotypical to have an African-American woman portray this antagonistic character. As the play continued, it became clear that she was justifiably enraged: her younger brother had been murdered by racist police. Yet, ultimately, it seemed too predictable and cliché to make this particular character an African-American female.
The playwright’s stated intention is to encourage all to look at what they can do to help the movement. Tent of Dreams makes clear that Occupy is open to all who want to participate, and not only the few who have the ability to dedicate their lives full time and move to a McPherson Square or Zuccotti Park. The play was also able to cover many of the issues central to the movement, such as student loan debt, healthcare, lobbyism, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Committee, and home foreclosures, to name just a few. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and felt inspired to help Occupy in my own small way.