Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
On occasion, a member of the ensemble will bring a play to Tuesday rehearsal based on “found” text or images, and then use music, movement, or other text to draw some greater meaning out of this random bit of off-the-path information. I’m not sure how much of what I’ve seen presented in this fashion has actually been “found” and how much of it has been “searched for,” but I don’t think it really matters. If you search for something and discover it, it’s still “found.”
I’ve never written a “found” play, and wanted to set that challenge for myself in this coming year, as a way to prod myself into paying closer attention to the world around me.
I had an idea a few weeks ago to see if I could locate any of the news articles from 1947 that spoke out against Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball. The parallels between Robinson and our President-Elect have been explicated a few times now by writers of more distinguished pedigree than me, so I wasn’t planning to go into all of them here or within the play I was planning to write. My intent was to focus on the people who had no real reason to hate Robinson other than simple bigotry, to observe the logical and rhetorical acrobatics that they engaged in to mask or avoid that truth. I was fairly certain that they would appear almost identical to a number of arguments that were leveled against the possibility of an Obama presidency, and that creating a play based on that repeating pattern would be fairly easy after that.
I’ve been searching for about a week, now, and every article I’ve found about Jackie Robinson from 1947 on has been positive about the “noble experiment,” as Branch Rickey referred to it, and glowing about Robinson in particular. I am not naive enough to believe that the press, somehow, was uniformly behind the integration of baseball, especially considering the vicious reactions from some fans and baseball players. Nonetheless, whatever anti-Robinson articles there were seem to have been scrubbed from the historical record (or, at least, were not considered fit for inclusion on the Internet).
The part of me that believes in a society where no knowledge has been lost–I call it the “information junkie” sector of my brain–is a little appalled by this, and not just because this lack of racist archiving has robbed me of a potential TML play. I hold fast to Santayana’s prophecy that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and the easiest way to forget history is to misplace it.
On the other hand, knowing that the Internet has also been a new frontier and refuge for racist organizations like the Klan and StormFront, it’s a little heartening to know that these writings are not readily available as bases for recruitment or other vile hatemongering. I imagine that many of the sportswriters who were not on board with Jackie Robinson’s entrance into the majors might still have their articles somewhere, but have decided, either out of shame or spite, to hide these from the world after it moved along without them.
Today you can watch a baseball game in which Carlos Zambrano throws a pitch to Ryan Howard, who then hits that ball over the head of Ryan Theriot only to have it land in the glove of Kosuke Fukudome. Baseball is better for it.
The people who spoke out most virulently against Jackie Robinson are annoyingly similar to those who spoke out against Obama’s election.
But eventually, these people will either change their minds, shrink into obscurity, or die, and perhaps not even their voices will survive in the echoing caverns of the information depository. And America will be better for that, as well.