Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Last night, we were fortunate to do a performance of The Food Show for the entire host of incoming DePaul Theatre School students, and provide a 30-minute talkback about the process of the production and our careers in general. One of the students asked us how we’d each gotten involved with The Neo-Futurists in the first place.
I told these students something I’ve expressed before in similar circumstances and otherwise: When I first embarked on an attempt at a theatrical career, I spent a lot of time waiting for plays and parts that matched something close to my ethnic background, or auditioning for things I never expected to be cast in, because the conversations about authenticity and representation had only barely begun. I pursued participation in The Neo-Futurists’ ensemble because its non-illusory aesthetic meant that instead of having to prove I was the best choice for a role in somebody else’s story, I had to prove I could employ the most powerful version of my own voice.
Today I recall what’s-his-name in 8th grade, the guy who’d once sneered at me that the only thing my people were good for was cab driver and convenience store clerk. A guy who felt empowered and encouraged to say these things out loud because he was roving in packs of other young boys who believed the same things, who had probably picked up the statements from their dads, who were echoing their own fathers, cascades of prejudice that started somewhere so far upstream you could probably never find the source.
I think about the people currently being threatened by the removal of the DACA program, people who have known that their chance at remaining citizens relied on an exemplary legal record and their chance of even marginal acceptance relied on being extraordinary contributors to the fabric of society. People who have had to work at least twice as hard to make themselves essential because the circumstances of their arrival branded them as undesirables. People who have in fact successfully and consistently achieved their benchmarks, now being told by an ignorant and racist YES RACIST administration that it’s still not good enough, that if they really wanted to be American citizens they should have had the better sense to be born differently.
I’m a child of immigrants who is an immigrant myself and I make my living both putting words together into competent sentences and helping others rewrite their own words into sentences that help them build their businesses and support their families. I cannot begin to express to you how many native-born professional adults lack even a basic grasp of English spelling, grammar, and structure.
And I also know that in any new situation, I have to be ready for my name or my appearance to leave others assuming that my own facility with the language is less than their own. I wonder how many of them are quick and vocal to declare that only English be spoken in America.
I’m gratified to witness the ways that this has gradually shifted, over time. I might still be exhausted from the duration of time that it stood still.
I don’t have a finer point on which to end this thought. It’s one of those things I needed out of my head. Of course, It’s also one of those things that every time I pluck it from the soil of my brain, it slowly grows back.