Recap of ICHH marathon reading

image1It snowed. It sleeted. There were 40 mph winds. If I didn’t believe in climate change, I’d say it was as if someone wanted to stop our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here. But we started with a crowd of 50 people, many of whom stayed for the first several chapters.

People came and went throughout the event. Friends showed up. Strangers showed up. Most stayed for 50-60 pages. A handful of people came at the beginning, left, and came back for the end. A couple said they went home and read some there, then came back for the finale.

One audience member named Alex stayed from start to finish.

Around chapter 29, I’d been awake for 24 hours.

We discovered the best way to stay alert was to move around. So people paced. Slow laps, circling in the back. We all wanted to hang in for as long as we could.

Shortly after the middle of the novel, Shuchi started streaming the reading via Facebook Live.

Toward the end of chapter 30, I was falling asleep. I took a 20-minute nap, and woke up not knowing where I was. Then, I heard Ann Leamon reading chapter 31. I remembered what was happening. I rejoined the reading and stayed awake through the rest of the event. After I read the final chapter, I reminded everyone of how we began.

The night started with a presentation, an overview of Lewis’s career, covering who he was and who he wasn’t (a writer who refused a Pulitzer Prize, and later was awarded the Nobel, Lewis never said “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”), also covering what the novel was and wasn’t. It wasn’t hindsight after World War II. It was a warning of the potential danger on its way. Lewis wrote ICHH before concentration camps were synonymous with extermination camps. He wrote it before Hitler’s capacity for malice was fully realized. Lewis wrote during a period of self-assured apathy—people were so sure that America had seen the worst there was of humanity (during the first World War). Of course, it could and did get worse. But that didn’t keep Lewis from rendering his warning.

I have a list of highlights from the marathon reading, but I need to be clear: it’s hard to say that any single amazing moment outweighs my amazement at the event overall. The book is rough. It’s filled with hateful, scared people carrying out orders and making decisions motivated by hate and fear. There’s personal violence and political violence. And, as the novel goes on, more people die by grisly methods.

And beyond that, of course, there are the parallel threats we face now:

The authoritarian in the White House. The constant distraction (Mexico, a dangerous religion, regular allusions to his election rival, etc.). The potential that the president has conflicts of interest (in the novel, he’s embezzling millions). The silencing of journalists, potentially by force. The hunting and killing of people who know more than the government feels they should. We’ve only seen it in Russia thus far, but it’s tied to our election.

ICHH is a difficult book to read just on its own. It’s harder still to handle with the current political climate. I was worried going in that people wouldn’t spot Lewis’s message, and the indomitable spirit of those who would resist attempts at silence. But I was grateful to be wrong.

One woman came up to me after the reading and said her book club had read the novel right after the election, but it hadn’t struck her as funny until she heard us read it aloud.

I laugh at all sorts of inappropriate subjects and times, so I blurted out, “Really?” She said it had been too soon.

More than one person in the audience said the relevance was hard to take. And I understand—I agree—but that’s hardship I think we need right now. This book is not easy, but neither is the situation we’re facing.

In the novel, the authoritarian government sabotages itself due to in-fighting. That could potentially happen to the current administration, but even before that, we’re still facing suppressed speech. Last week, the administration banned the words “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” and “Paris Agreement” in memos, briefings, and other written communication. What can we do in response? Lewis rendered a skeptical journalist who had to be faced with murder of someone he knew before he would speak out against an authoritarian regime. Let’s not wait that long.

If you’re a teacher, a writer, a parent, you can reach a community (even a community of two) who trust you. You can insist on remaining committed to facts. You can write about climate change. You can describe it, define it, make an easy-to-read overview of the Paris Agreement. You can write about how the lives of people of color are more adversely affected by climate change. You can explain to anyone—anyone, your neighbors, your kids, your family members who might be supportive of this administration—the dangers inherent in censorship.

This reading was fun, but it was also more than that—it’s a simple blueprint of what we need to do. Resist, despite the threats. Remain committed to facts, despite the dishonesty we’re fed on a daily basis. And remember that this doesn’t have to be a dour fight. We can fight and still experience joy. And just because we’re tired—and I’m speaking from experience here—we can still rally and make a difference.

And now, as promised, here are the highlights from the reading:

Aaron Devine’s decision to channel Drumpf through Buzz Windrip for the election chapter.

Simeon Berry’s rousing impression of Bishop Paul Peter Prang.

Nathan Gray’s quiet fury in reading the chapter when Lorinda decides to leave.

Tim Hoover doing justice for the Jessup daughters in two different chapters several hours apart—Sissy, still funny and lighthearted at that point, and then the sober fearlessness of Mary’s death

Ann Leamon’s astounding (and consistent) commitment to lending literal voice to every man at Trianon Concentration Camp.

Shuchi Saraswat’s dual dead-of-night chapters (the near escape to Canada, and the formation of the resistance publication the Vermont Vigilance), both read with the tension required by both the late hour and the content.

And every reader who pounded the podium with exasperation when the chapter seemed to call for it (Rob Arnold, Josh Cook, Randolph Pfaff and many others that I’m likely forgetting.

I feel so indebted to all the readers—Molly Howes, Kurt Klopmeier, Simeon Berry, Danielle Jones-Pruett, Maria Hugger, Ric Amante, Julia Kennedy, Rob Arnold, Aaron Devine, Josh Cook, Tim Hoover, William Pierce (who bravely took on another chapter!), Lindsay Guth, Joell Beagle, Travis Cohen, Currie McKinley, Shuchi Saraswat, Randolph Pfaff, Nathan Gray, Sam Cha, Catherine Parnell, JoeAnn Hart, Ann Leamon, Nicole Keller, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, and Molly Mary McLaughlin. A hundred thousand thank yous especially to the staff of Brookline Booksmith, and doubly (triply) Shuchi Saraswat and Lydia McOscar for helping me in innumerable ways to plan and shape this event. And so much gratitude to Randolph, who kept running to get coffee through the night. And to every single person who came, despite the atrocious weather, I thank you.

To watch some of the readings, check out Brookline Booksmith’s Facebook page, as they were kind enough to capture some of the readings via Facebook Live.

And for more photos and videos, head to our FB and Instagram feeds.

DigBoston interviews Carissa Halston for the ICHH marathon reading

ICHH_posterLess than ten days from our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here and we’re so pleased to announce that DigBoston is our media sponsor for the event!

They’ve interviewed our own Carissa Halston about marathon readings, the First Amendment, and the role writers play in defending democracy:

“The tenets of democracy speak directly to freedom, but US laws and legal documents have often been written (or interpreted) according to a privileged bias, so, for every right and civil liberty we’ve got, there have been at least two amendments that had to be introduced later to make it clear that women and people of color are also entitled to that basic human right. To that end, in any country where democracy is touted as the foundation of society, the writers of that country need to chronicle the many ways democracy fails. Who democracy fails and how often and why. It’s deadly important information, especially when democracy fails so many people on a regular basis.”

They also asked their readers to suggest more novels about fascism, so once we’re done at the Booksmith on 4/1, we’ll all have more to read.

(Isn’t that always the way?)

Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook so we’ll know to save you a seat—and some pizza and coffee and maybe some cake—and we’ll see you next week!

 

Boston Cultural Council grant + two readings at Brookline Booksmith!

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If you didn’t know, Aforementioned Productions is based in Boston. We’ve lived in a few cities now (Boston, New York, Baltimore), and Boston has our heart. So, late last year, we had immense pleasure of receiving news that we’ve received an organizational grant from the Boston Cultural Council for 2017. It covers a small portion (5%) of our operating costs, but it still feels rewarding to be recognized by this city that has meant so much to us.

The best part of that grant is that we’ll get to spend it on all the great authors and performers whose work we want to support, like Krysten Hill, whose galvanizing new chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, is already in its third printing. She’ll be reading next month at Brookline Booksmith with Ben Berman, so if you’re in Boston, and you missed her release party and her inspiring reading at the Boston Public Library for the GB Writers Resist event in January, you won’t want to miss this event!

Also, because we love the crew at the Booksmith, we’re especially excited to announce that they’ll be hosting our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here! So, please join us for an event of literary resistance when the fine crew at Brookline Booksmith will be hosting us overnight, March 31 at 7pm-April 1 at noon (ish). Readers include AP founders Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff, as well as Shuchi Saraswat, Josh Cook, Catherine Parnell, Kurt Klopmeier, Karen Locasio, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Aaron Devine, Maria Hugger, Julia Kennedy, Sam Cha, Simeon Berry, and more! This event is free and open to the public, and will involve resistance, subversive classic literature, a table of books you’re going to want to buy, plus free cupcakes (and probably wine). So, join us at Brookline Booksmith at the end of next month and stay up all night while we read Lewis’s sharp-sighted and sharp-tongued classic about one journalist’s fight against fascist America.

And if you need another reason, check out this promo image, designed by our ringleader and AP co-founder, Carissa Halston:

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AWP recap, an upcoming marathon reading, plus the 2017 AIDS Walk in Boston

It’s been nearly a week since we got back from DC for the annual AWP conference. We felt strange being in DC, happy to see so many friends while many of us feel unsafe in the nation’s capitol due to the current GOP administration.

But we found ways to act up and to resist. We asked apt contributors who stopped by the table to start a conversation [heart] with the administration. We were lucky to see so many apt contributors take part—Ray Shea, Glenn Shaheen, Suzannah Russ Spaar, Lucia LoTempio, Simeon Berry, Alex McElroy, Kurt Klopmeier, Elisa Gabbert, Andrew Bertaina, Aaron Brown, Gillian Devereux, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Lena Bertone, Yun Wei, Emily Jaeger, Shannon Austin, Danielle Evennou, Meghan Lamb, Kendra Fortmeyer, and Gregory Crosby, and you can read their Conversation Hearts at our Instagram page.

We also had the opportunity to host five great apt contributors and AP authors at a reading on Friday night at the Black Squirrel.

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Everyone was at the top of their game, and you can watch a snippet of Krysten Hill’s reading, specifically her poem “Prayer” from her recently released chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out.

We also co-sponsored a candlelight vigil for free speech on Saturday night across the street from the White House, where we heard so many heartening speeches and readings from astounding writers, including Literary Firsts  alum, Melissa Febos, whose speech ended with, (our paraphrase) “A vigil means staying awake and alert during the time when you would normally be asleep. Don’t go to sleep. This vigil is going to last long after we throw these candles away.”

In keeping with that sentiment, we’re committed to staying awake and continuing to resist. We’re working on two events in the Boston area:

First, a marathon reading of Sinclair Lewis’s satirical (though now potentially prescient) political novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which involves a journalist’s fight against the fascist regime of a new president in 1930s US. The reading will be free and open to the public and take approx. 16 hours, but we’re looking forward to it, and we’ll have more info on the date and location soon.AP_AW2017

Second, Randolph and I (Carissa) are taking part in the AIDS Walk in June. We’ve done so before as course marshals, but now we’ve assembled an Aforementioned team to walk and raise money and awareness for those living in Boston and Massachusetts with HIV and AIDS. If you’re interested in walking with us, we’d love to have your support! Just visit our page at the AIDS Action Committee site, and click “Join Team.”

And if you’re too far away, or you can’t make it, we hope you’ll consider sending a donation. You can read about where your donation goes at the AAC site.

We feel this cause is particularly important now, with the Affordable Care Act at risk of being eliminated. People with pre-existing conditions will be particularly vulnerable to losing their access to healthcare. We want to help them as much as we can, and we’d love to have your help. Even if you’re not in Boston, and even if you don’t have the means to make a donation, we hope you’ll spread the word and help us reach as many people as possible.

How to find us at AWP 17

Dear readers, AWP is just 3 days away.

During the book fair, you can find us at table 431-T. We’ll be there with copies of every issue of apt, as well as all our chapbooks and full-length titles. We’ll be giving away some readerly and writerly gifts every day of the conference, and there’ll be a special discount on subscriptions to apt!

Plus, on Friday night, we’re hosting a reading in the tap room at The Black Squirrel. Featuring Joanna Ruocco, Dolan Morgan, Tracy Dimond, Elizabeth Wade, and Krysten Hill! Free food (while it lasts), and blood and roses from our host and EIC, Carissa Halston, who is (more or less) the cat you see pictured below.

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And, on Saturday night, immediately following the conference, we’re co-sponsoring a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Square for the First Amendment. Check out more details on Facebook, and if you can make it, we’d love to see you there.

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Events, old and new!

Clockwise from upper left: Amanda Torres, Brionne Janae, Krysten Hill, and Simone John.

The brilliant poets who read for the HHSGO release party. Clockwise from upper left: Amanda Torres, Brionne Janae, Krysten Hill, and Simone John

If you weren’t able to make it to the How Her Spirit Got Out release party, first of all, we missed you. But secondly, you missed out. Obviously, we’re very familiar with the content of Krysten’s book. But it means so much to hear her read these poems. She shone and showed us all how absolutely necessary her work is. And Simone John, Brionne Janae, and Amanda Torres wowed us again and again.

And if you weren’t able to make it to the Boston Public Library for the first Greater Boston Writers Resist event, Krysten read there as well, and the whole room cheered her on. You can watch a video of her reading, courtesy of WGBH’s Forum Network.

And, if you’re in the Boston area and still haven’t had a chance to catch Krysten reading, you’re in luck! She’ll be at the following events in the upcoming months:

Friday, Jan 27 – 7pm
Belt It Out reading series
Courtside Lounge
Cambridge, MA

Thursday, Mar 16 – 7pm
Reading with Ben Berman
Brookline Booksmith
Brookline, MA

Poets and Pints reading series
Aeronaut (hosted by Porter Square Books)
Somerville, MA
(Date and time to be announced!)

And15940868_10154049971290689_3850647147929325445_n if you’re going to this year’s AWP conference, we’ll be there with you. From February 8-11, we’ll be in Washington, DC for the book fair and the readings. You can find us at table 431-T where we’ll be giving away writerly and readerly gifts, and there will be an assortment of AP editors and contributors managing the table. Stop by to meet co-founding editors, Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff, as well as Krysten Hill, and possibly other assorted AP writers. And don’t forget to come to the tap room at The Black Squirrel on Friday, Feb 10 for our AWP offsite reading, featuring Joanna Ruocco, Krysten Hill, Dolan Morgan, Tracy Dimond, and Elizabeth Wade! Lovingly hosted by apt EIC, Carissa Halston, who designed that poster with the idea that she was the lady and the tiger, and she’d be roaring these writers’ names.

And if you are in town for AWP, you can pick up a copy of our latest print issue of apt, featuring longform stories and poems from Doug Paul Case, Sonja Condit, Gregory Crosby, Krysten Hill, and Joanna Ruocco! We just got copies today, and we can’t wait for you to see them! Here’s a peek in advance. And for those of you who aren’t making the trek, you can of course order copies online.

And, finally, as co-sponsors of Greater Boston Writers Resist, we’re enraged at the latest news from Washington, but that’s been the case since late October. Nonetheless, we’re looking forward to seeing so many of our friends in DC, and to stand beside them on Saturday, February 11 to hold a vigil for free speech. Our EIC, Carissa Halston, wrote an impassioned plea to save the First Amendment in her editor’s note for the latest issue of apt. She wrote it in November, just as the censorship was beginning. And now, with the gag order on climate change, and threats to any White House staff who speak to members of the press, this is a violation of our freedom of speech and our freedom of the press. Violations to the Constitution. It hasn’t even been a week.

Which is to say, DC friends, Baltimore friends, Virginia friends…we’ll see you very soon and we’ll be protesting as loudly and as hard as we can.

HHSGO release party this Friday!

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Please join us at Lir on Friday, January 13, at 7pm to celebrate the release of Krysten Hill’s debut chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out!

Featuring readings from Brionne James, Simone John, Amanda Torres, and Krysten Hill! Hosted by Carissa Halston.

ABOUT THE BOOK
How Her Spirit Got Out is a lively, urgent song. Answering the writers whose voices raised her, Hill calls on Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, and Zora Neale Hurston to help her navigate the complicated landscape of selfhood. Hill’s speaker, wise and direct, open yet elusive, also sings for the women who brought her up: her aunt, her grandmother, and her mother. These spirits who’ve guided her life and taught her through example how black women persevere, have given her the means to bear witness to an age of racial violence. With intensity, audacity, and a darkly comic wit, Hill grapples with the question of how to fight “a city that knows you’re unarmed,” rendering each poem as a weapon and a shield, and using both for self-defense.

This event is free and open to the public.

RSVP at Facebook

 

READER BIOS

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Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Blacksmith House, Cantab Lounge, Merrimack College, U35 Reading Series, Mr. Hip Presents, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found in B O D Y, Muzzle, PANK, Winter Tangerine Review, apt, Amethyst Arsenic, Damfino Press, ROAR, and Write on the DOT. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. She is the author of a chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, now available from Aforementioned Productions.
(author photo credit: Jonathan Beckley)

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Simone John’s poetry brings her to classrooms, community events, and campuses to read and lead discussions. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, with an emphasis on racial identity studies and documentary poetics. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Wildness, The Pitkin Review, Public Pool, and The Writer in the World. Testify, Simone’s first full-length collection, is forthcoming from Octopus Books in 2017.

 

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Brionne Janae is a Southern California native who came to Boston to get an MFA at Emerson College. While in California, Brionne received her B.A. at U.C. Berkeley where she was a Student Teacher Poet in the Poetry for the People movement. Brionne is currently an instructor at Bunker Hill Community College. Her work as a poet has been published or is forthcoming in Plume, Apogee Journal, Toe Good Poetry, Redivider, Fjords Review, and others. Brionne is the winner of the 2014 Muriel Craft Bailey Contest from the Comstock Review judged by Kwame Dawes, and her first manuscript was selected by Michael Ryan for Emerson College’s Best Thesis Award.

 

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Amanda Torres is a mexicana writer, singer, teacher, and organizer. She’s received several awards for her writing and performance, including the Union League Civic Arts Foundation Award for Fiction and the National Brave New Voices Slam Competition. She founded the first Youth Advisory Council at Young Chicago Authors and co-founded L@s Eloter@s, a socially engaged Latino/a writing teachers collective. Amanda serves as the Festival Director for the Louder Than A Bomb Teen Poetry Slam, and co-founded Mass LEAP, the youth spoken word programming arm of MassPoetry where she currently serves as Program Director. Please give a warm welcome to Amanda Torres.

 

WRRR reflection, How Her Spirit Got Out, and apt 7

Readers, we’ve been subsumed by all the post-election news and the scary prospects for our country. We’re trying to find ways to hold our officials accountable for their choices in representing us, and making their voices reflect ours.

But, ultimately, the incoming administration is proving they don’t care about the integrity of a free press or free speech, so we’re going to have to get louder in our support of our ideals and our support of the work of writers whose voices are integral in reminding us what’s at stake: honesty, choice, truth, and our trust in communication.

Last month, we produced White Rabbit Red Rabbit at OBERON. The show was well received, garnering 4 out of 5 stars from Boston Events Insider. From Gwen Walsh’s review: “Jen Taschereau, whose amiable demeanor effectively put the audience at ease during a story which was driven by an oscillation between tension and playfulness…[displayed] true commitment to the act… I can’t stop thinking about this play.”

I (the ever-shifting pronouns–I here is Carissa, as always) have spent the past month thinking about Nassim Soleimanpour’s play. I performed it the first night, then watched Jen and Sam Cha perform is the subsequent evenings. Every night, audience members told me they felt the material was unfortunately timely, in light of the election, which had taken place the week prior. Every night, I watched the play and thought about how careful Soleimanpour was in choosing his words and crafting his metaphors. He told us, in the script, how careful he had to be. I’d originally scheduled the production as a potential vent following the election, as a combination cautionary tale for what we’d avoided and method of girding ourselves for the backlash (because I thought Clinton would win, but I was also aware that violence was coming either way).

But there we sat, too late for caution and its lessons.

Still, I’m thankful for the opportunity to perform and produce the work. Soleimanpour’s methods of coy address gives me hope for methods and means of retaining some semblance of free speech, even as it’s being threatened. And I’m so grateful to Jen and Sam for their bravery, especially in context.

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Other writing that’s buoying me through this wreck is Krysten Hill’s How Her Spirit Got Out, which is finally—wait for it—out, just this week. I’m so proud of Krysten and her collection. She asks the hard questions we need to pose to ourselves and our officials right now, and gives us possible solutions for how black women, indeed any women of color, can navigate a society that makes them feel simultaneously abandoned, controlled, fetishized, and disrespected. And Krysten approaches the work from multiple angles, meaning the book is as funny as it is serious, as artful as it is frank, as much an ode as it is an instruction.  And disarming throughout. Short version: everyone should read this book.

And, rounding out AP news, the seventh print annual of apt is now available to preorder. The issue features work by Joanna Ruocco, Krysten Hill, Sonja Condit, Doug Paul Case, and Gregory Crosby. Many of these long stories and poems speak to the various ways women are discounted and downplayed, and how they counterbalance that disadvantage, which has always been important to me, but especially now.

Since it’s mid-December, this is the time when I would reflect on this past year and mention all the things we’re looking forward to next year, but while 2016 has been a year for the metaphorical books, they’re not any I’d like to read, and though I’d prefer to savor time rather than waste it, the quicker we can reverse the damage of these upcoming years, the better off we’ll be. So, here’s to next year, but more so, all the years that will follow, especially those when we rise again.

WRRR Cast Interview: Carissa Halston

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Our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is less than two weeks away! We hope you’ll join us at OBERON to discover Nassim Soleimanpour’s top-secret show.

And in the meantime, we hope you’ll read on for interview with our own Carissa Halston. She’ll be performing on opening night, Monday, November 14.

 

So much of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a mystery. You can’t read the script, can’t memorize the script, can’t rehearse anything. We, of course, love the idea—but what makes this sort of risk attractive to you as a performer?

I’m coming at the show from a different entry point than Sam and Jen, in that I instigated the production to begin with. The first time I heard about White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Randolph and I were at the Philly Fringe Festival for my 33rd birthday. And as I read through the descriptions of each play, I was forced to choose between WRRR and a show called The Adults.

Obviously, since I’m performing, we did’t see WRRR that night. But the conceit of the production—performing a show you’ve never seen or read—was so memorable that it floated back up in my mind when I read about the New York production this summer. But, being the stubborn person I am, I thought, “I don’t want to go all the way to New York.” Then I realized one surefire way to see the show was to produce it here.

As for what makes it attractive to me as a performer—I’m a big fan of creative risk. I think every artist should embark on a journey to undertake work that truly scares them.

So, here’s the official word: this prospect of performing this show scares the hell out of me. Which is the main reason I’m doing it.

The possibilities that accompany performing a work you’ve never read or seen are wide open. What are you most excited about?

There’s a moment that happens when you’re performing a live show. You’ll hear actors talk about the way an audience changes the material. And they’re right—an audience makes a scene completely different than when you rehearse to an empty room. There are no rehearsals here, but it goes beyond the lack of practice.

The bond between the audience and the actor is the work. By that, I mean the play itself, but also the effort. The follow-my-lead of it all. The are-you-with-me-so-far? relationship. The moments when the actor is leaning forward and the audience is leaning too, and the thing that catches them is the material wed to the delivery.

That’s what I’m most excited about. The symbiotic relationship between the actor and the audience and the work.

On stage, you’ll be holding a script and reading the words as you’re about to speak them. This setup could be limiting. How do you connect with an audience when you’re constrained in these ways?

I’m big on eye contact. There’s a rhythm to most scripts that gives you room to maneuver. A pause for breath. And in those moments, I’m hoping I can look out and see that the audience is with me. I’m hoping to find the cadence, and find it quick, so I can adjust to the mystery, so to speak. So I can find a place to stand, even if it’s not the surest footing. And, if nothing else, at least I’ll know where I’ve been as it goes on.

Are there any other steps you’re taking to prepare to perform White Rabbit Red Rabbit? (Reminder: Googling is against the rules.)

I keep telling myself, “This is and is not a cold reading.” But since it’s a monologue, I’m also telling myself I have to carry it off without flubbing a line. I’m so concerned about mispronouncing or tripping over a word. So the thing I’m going to try to do is remember to take my time. Because the faster I’m going, the starker the interruption will be if I stumble.

Outside of this show, what else are you working on creatively?

For my own writing, I’m currently working on a novel called Conjoined States, which centers on our country’s dangerous fascination with morality, how it encourages surveillance and judgment, and how that constant monitoring results in different types of “passing” as a necessary means of survival. Racially (many of the characters are either mixed race, unaware of their ethnic background, or have a different identity forced on them that doesn’t match their ethnicity [e.g., a Middle Eastern philosophy professor grapples with the fact that she's targeted as an outsider, but she's "white" according to the government because that's how Middle Easterners are documented in the US]), religiously (mainstream Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Islam are all part of the book), and health-wise (mental health issues get denied or repressed, and disability and disfigurement [harder to deny] are acknowledged but not discussed). With all of that cheery material covered, the book is also about trust and abandonment and how we can learn to retain the former in the face of the latter, even if it involves destruction along the way.

For other AP work, I’m thrilled about the chapbook we’re publishing next month—Krysten Hill’s debut collection, How Her Spirit Got Out, which is such an important series of poems about the way black women cope when they’re confronted with personal and political violence, and specifically how one black woman walks many paths in order to arrive at selfhood. Plus, Jill McDonough recently had these choice words for the collection: “These poems are a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.” Plus, check out these covers:

 

 

 

Read more about Carissa and the rest of the cast at the WRRR page, and to see Carissa in White Rabbit Red Rabbitreserve your seats for opening night, Monday, November 14!

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WRRR Cast Interview: Sam Cha

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Just a few more weeks until our production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit comes to OBERON!

We recently checked in with cast member Sam Cha (who’ll perform on Wednesday, November 16) to see how he was preparing for the show.

 

So much of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a mystery. You can’t read the script, can’t memorize the script, can’t rehearse anything. We, of course, love the idea—but what makes this sort of risk attractive to you as a performer?

a) Performance is about being terrified and then turning that terror into something useful. (For loosely defined values of “use.”) When you can’t prepare for the performance, you’re even more terrified, and so, in theory, unless there’s a sort of terror-singularity thing happening, where you accelerate into terror faster than you can accelerate out of it, you’ll be a supernova of sublimated fright. This doesn’t attract me, per se, but it strikes me as something I’d definitely like to try.

b) Ever stand on the edge of a subway platform and think I’m definitely not going to jump, but what if my body has other ideas?

c) On roller coasters, I always envision the freak accident: the arm lopped off, the tongue bitten in half, the g-force induced heart attack, etc. I love roller coasters.

The possibilities that accompany performing a work you’ve never read or seen are wide open. What are you most excited about?

I’m not sure, so I’m going to be oblique.

I wrote in college. Then I stopped. It was years before I managed to write anything that wasn’t a close reading or an annotated bibliography or a prospectus. When, eventually, I did write a poem, I went to an open mic. I was feeling lonely. There’s this wonderful moment that happens and then passes—I think probably at the speed of sound–where the words leave your mouth and they haven’t quite registered with the audience yet—and you feel kind of weightless, like school’s been cancelled and you have the day off, like maybe you don’t have to be human anymore, you can just be a thin membrane, like the one in a kazoo, buzzing with air.

On stage, you’ll be holding a script and reading the words as you’re about to speak them. This setup could be limiting. How do you connect with an audience when you’re constrained in these ways?

I’ve never actually interacted with an audience in any other way.

I think of it as an opening-up, I guess. A signaling of vulnerability (which I guess in my head signals honesty signals authenticity signals look people something here is actually happening). (This doesn’t mean you’re actually vulnerable, of course, but you have to look like it.)

Are there any other steps you’re taking to prepare to perform White Rabbit Red Rabbit? (Reminder: Googling is against the rules.)

My friend Jade is feeding me these improv exercises. Also, monologues. Lots of monologues. Also, I plan to go to the Cantab and recite other people’s poems on the open mic. Will any of this help? I don’t know! I haven’t Googled anything.

Outside of this show, what else are you working on creatively?

Right now I’m working on a long poem that is sort of a riff on a couple of lines from Wordsworth. So far it’s about: the garden of Eden, procrastination, the sudden death of one of our neighbors, chessplayers in the Harvard Square Pit, and the shape of tragedy. If it sounds ADD, that’s because it is—when I write, I waffle between trying to leave almost everything out and trying to put everything in, but on balance I’m really mostly a collector, a magpie, going from shiny thing to shiny thing, in the hopes of making some kind of memorable temporary (slash temporal, I guess?) pattern.

 

Read more about Sam and the rest of the cast at the WRRR page. To see Sam in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, head over to OBERON and reserve your seats for Wednesday, November 16!

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