Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nothing is better than swimming in a lake

We have settled into our final destination, McCall, Idaho. And it is beautiful. While every place we have stayed has luckily had a backdrop of mountains, for me, McCall somehow feels the closest to nature. Maybe it is the gigantic lake smack in the middle of everything, with the promise of cliff diving in our future. But this morning, I could have sworn I smelled the familiar fragrance of Cape Cod in the summer while I was walking down the path from my home stay. More likely, I have probably just become delusional from all the traveling.

Our journey to McCall from Salt Lake was not exactly smooth. Adam's car lost his tailpipe (sadly, I had to ask what a tailpipe was and why it was necessary) and AAA informed us that because it was Sunday, no mechanics would be available until the net day. So while the majority of up traveled onto McCall to set up the theater and keep everything on track, Grace, Nijae, Mike and Adam stayed in Boise to wait for the repairs. Thankfully, we were all joyously reunited last night. When you are with people constantly for five weeks, a day and a half felt like a very long time to be separated.

As I type right now in my third beloved coffee shop of the trip, Mountain Java, the rest of the cast and crew are doing a tech rehearsal at the Alpine Playhouse. Its taking some time, since all the lights have to be done manually for every cue. But hopefully we will have time for another dip in the lake before dinner.

I just wanted to end with an article about us in "In Utah This Week." I hope you are as tickled by it as my mom and I were.

Lifting the Fog
No Fog West Theater seeks to clear the mists of silence surrounding terrorism.
by Kelly Ashkettle

When Becky Katz’ mother heard that her 20-year-old daughter was going to be the road manager for a touring production of a play called “Talking to Terrorists,” she asked, “Why don’t you do something on gay marriage or abortion �" less controversial issues?”

In a red state like Utah, such a question is amusing, which perfectly illustrates the very point of the play: that cultural differences can vastly impact a person’s values. Katz’ mother wasn’t trying to make a joke: She hails from a liberal Jewish Brooklyn community where embracing gay rights and being pro-choice is part of the cultural norm, but it’s too traumatic to face the ideas of the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks that resulted in the deaths of so many of her neighbors.

“I witnessed the second plane crash from my classroom window,” Katz recalls. “It affects me every day and every year more and more. I was 12 when it happened, and I went to a Jewish day school. My teacher told our class, ‘Now you know how it feels to live in Israel every day.’ Originally I thought it was a cruel and unnecessary thing to say, but it always stuck with me that for America, for our generation, this was the big moment where we finally felt our safety threatened, and that in these places it happens every single day.”

Unlike her mother, Katz isn’t willing to shy away from the emotions behind terrorist acts. “For me, the fact that it’s controversial and that I have such an intensely gut reaction to this play means that I have to talk about it,” she explains. “Every time we want to change the world, we have to be uncomfortable. If something makes you uncomfortable and challenges you and makes you reassess the way you look at the world, then that’s something to pursue; that’s something worthy.”

It was much the same sentiments that led to the formation of No Fog West, the theater company Katz is working with. As a high school senior in Sheridan, Wyoming, Grace Cannon tried to convince her school to stage a production of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the 1998 hate crime murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Although the play is one of the most frequently performed in the country, it has only been staged a few times in Wyoming. Cannon’s high school refused to stage the play, but she took with her the dream of staging it in Wyoming as she went off to college at Vassar.

In her freshman year, she met fellow freshmen Max Hershenow of McCall, Idaho, and Madeleine Joyce of Denver, Colo., and convinced them to share her vision. The trio formed a board of directors, founded a company, rounded up some donors and some student actors, and performed the play for two weeks at a theater in Sheridan, Wyo. All by the age of 19.

This summer marks No Fog West’s second season. “Talking to Terrorists” is by Robin Soanes, a British playwright, and it is entirely composed of interwoven testimonies of ex-terrorists and their victims from all over the world. “What this play shows is that terrorism is a much older issue than 9/11 and it’s much more global. Only one of the five terrorists interviewed is from the Middle East,” notes Hershenow, the play’s director. 

Hershenow was speaking by phone on Monday after newly arriving here in Salt Lake City, where his aunt lives. She and her friends and neighbors are hosting the twelve young actors and crew members in their homes this week for the Salt Lake leg of their “Talking to Terrorists” tour. The troupe spent last week in Sheridan, Wyoming. Next week, they’ll move on to Hershenow’s hometown of McCall, Idaho.

Each performance of “Talking to Terrorists” is followed by a community discussion about the play, and Katz says she thinks the most useful of the Wyoming discussions was the one where she felt the audience was the least liberal. “It’s great to talk about these issues with people who agree with you and really talk about ways we can enact change, but the reason we wanted to do the play is to engage people who don’t think like us, to really have these interesting conversations from different points of view,” she says. “We want people with an open mind, no matter what mind that is.”

Hershenow says, “Our whole idea is creating theater about pertinent social issues that begins a conversation. There may be other opinions about the issue, or different ways of looking at it or just different ways or talking about it, but maybe there’s just not a forum in which these things can be discussed. Our idea is to create that kind of environment.”

The implication is that talking can lead to understanding of our differences, and that understanding can eliminate the need for terrorism. As Katz explains, “Terrorism has become part of our daily lives, both with the Iraq war and with Sept. 11, but I don’t think we’re having enough honest conversations about what terrorism means and what stereotypes we’re associating with it and how we’re using that word. We really need to start right now. It should have started seven years ago.”


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