"Now More Than Ever"
"The sort of big phrase that I see everywhere now is 'now more than ever.' Now more than ever we're needed, now more than ever we need to come together. Now more than ever. And I don't think it's untrue. We have our work cut out for us."
This statement was made by Founding Artistic Director of the Obie-winning Noor Theatre, Lameece Issaq, on December 19, 2016. Lameece was speaking at a Town Hall discussion organized by the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, called "Moving Forward with a New Administration," (which can be viewed in full here. Lameece's statement begins around 51 minutes in). Several Lark staff and community members were present at this discussion, trying, like so many others, to figure out what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for the arts community and for the world at large, and what the role of theater will be in all of it. While we may not really know the answers to these questions just yet, there are some things we do know.
"What I know how to do," said Lameece, "is get people in a room and create work that, hopefully, allows audiences to see themselves in us...so that we can see each other in a way that is full."
Inspired by Lameece's words, we decided to do some hard thinking about the things we believe to be absolutely necessary, and asked the members of our staff and community to complete the sentence, "now more than ever."
The response was overwhelming:
Now more than ever, we need to be honest. We need to be honest about what we see in ourselves that scares or angers us. We need to expose those parts of ourselves that we must change or destroy. And we need to be honest about what we love in ourselves. We need to show joy, and individuality, and weirdness, and courage, and empathy. Now more than ever, we need to resist the urge to obscure, hide, deceive, brag, and dictate. There are efforts to hijack the whole notion of truth-telling. We need to take it back. -Nick Gandiello (Playwright)
Now more than ever, open our minds, open our hearts (with a can opener if necessary) and figure out a way to work together to re-define who we are as a nation and to stand up and be heard. -Scott Johnson (Lark Board Member)
Now, more than ever, it's essential to connect with artists in other cities, other states, and other cultures, and to make ourselves available to other perspectives, here and abroad. -Catherine Coray (Program Director of the Middle East/United States Playwright Exchange)
Now more than ever, we need to talk less and listen more, specifically to folks we lump into categories like "middle America" or "liberals," categories that so easily allow us to discount people monolithically and not see our many complexities. -Michael Robertson (Lark Staff)
Now more than ever it’s time to be visible, to put onstage and onscreen the communities to which we belong - who have been badly misrepresented or under-represented - who deserve complex, well-crafted, nuanced narratives. We are in a political moment that seeks to erase nuance, while also refusing to recognize fact over belief, prejudice, and constructed narrative. I reject that. I demand nuance. Now is the time to construct narratives that undermine,
reframe, and complicate what our new leaders are trying to say about women, people of color, LGBTQ, and non-citizens. -Jen Silverman (Playwright, 2016-17 PoNY Fellow)
Now more than ever, we must allow ourselves the space to be whole in all that we do; we must allow ourselves to be seen. Specifically as artists and theatre-makers, now more than ever, we must take the risks in forming/shaping/taking space to present our whole selves on stage. -Nissy Aya (Playwright, Lark Apprentice)
Now more than ever we need to use theater to build bridges between different communities, cultures, and schools of thought to celebrate what makes us unique or similar and foster solidarity. Now more than ever we need to show diverse voices and faces on stage and screen telling humanizing stories that reflect the beautiful, multicultural world we live in. Now more than ever we must reject homogeneity, think outside the box, get uncomfortable, get our hands dirty, take risks, and be brave in our choices in theater and in life. -Kimille Howard (Director, Lark Apprentice)
Now more than ever, theater practitioners must continue to provide breathless, confusing, full, upending, surprising moments between characters that audiences don't often see onstage. Now, more than ever, theater decision makers must be braver than before. They must not try to avoid "controversial" conversations, they must allow for them. Theater decision makers must resist the desire to act out of fear; they must embrace the power in having an art form that brings human beings together in a room. They must bring forth work that engages and entertains and moves people even just a few inches over from where they were when they came in. -Mona Mansour (Playwright, 2014-15 Middle East America Fellow)
Now more than ever we need stories that are fighting to be heard. And now more than ever we, as audience members, should fight to be active listeners and not passive consumers of narrative. -Sasha Sharova (Playwright, Lark Apprentice)
Now more than ever it is essential that we recognize the absolute necessity of being champions and defenders of the underrepresented, for being each other's structural support in times of greatest need, for saying something even amidst fear. It is vital to speak up. VITAL. We don't necessarily have to form movements to be impactful either. It is often in the everyday moments when damaging things happen and take us off guard. When we least expect it. So vigilance is also crucial. We should be ready to stand up for friends AND strangers alike. The time of silence has passed. -Alexandra Gonzales (Lark Apprentice)
Now more than ever I have to practice radical transparency in my writing. The stories I tell must humanize Blackness and Queerness - it must show us in our fullness. We live in a world that denounces both, that makes it hard to exist as one let alone as both. Now more than ever I have to write us in our true softness. Our existence has constantly defied the rigid hate thrown our way, and has come out gentler and beautiful. -Donja R. Love (Playwright, 2016-17 Van Lier New Voices Fellow)
Now more than ever: “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” -Mahatma Gandhi (quotation shared by Roni Ferretti, Lark Staff)
Now more than ever, it is crucial to fight for public space where voices from all corners of our society are welcomed, nurtured, and valued. That is the role of The Lark, of course, but also of schools, local communities, businesses, cultural institutions, unions, the government, and each one of us. On another front, we must fight to ensure the safety and civil rights of all individuals, despite race, gender, sexuality, disability, economic standing, or legal status. We must open our hearts and minds to making the world a just and equitable place, by listening better to those whose lives differ from ours and imagining, in our aspirations and in our art, a world beyond fear, selfishness, and greed. -John Clinton Eisner (Lark Artistic Director)
Now, more than ever, we will be looking to each other for support. We will need to be generous in giving it, and open to receiving it, and it is the sincere hope of The Lark that the words shared above provide some of it. The Lark will always strive to be an environment that fosters support, not only of artists, but of the wide variety of perspectives that make our community great, including yours. We encourage you to share your own "now more than ever" statement in the comments section below, and, now more than ever, we are extremely grateful to you for engaging with us in this conversation.