[su_label type=”info”]COLUMN: DEVIL’S ADVOCATE[/su_label]

Photo: Ekevara Kitpowsong

In the aftermath of the recent elections, we have been witnesses and bearers of many contrasting feelings and passionate reactions, from the extremely positive to the extremely negative. In a so-called “blue state” such as California, with the impending victory of p***y-grabber Donald Trump, the majority of people are indeed “singing the blues.” In California, specifically in San Francisco, many people are very unhappy with the new president elect. Fear, anxiety, regret, disgust, among other negative feelings, dominate the conversations and maybe even the dreams… when people finally fall asleep. What is going to happen? What can we do about it all? Will we survive?

The option of moving to Canada is raised here and there, but not in this column. Here, we advocate a different type of recipe: education and rising consciousness—with a large element of love in the mix. Let me clarify that recipe.

Some of you might know that this columnist is also involved in the theater. Actually, acting is what I like the best, but it is also what I do the least. There are so many other duties in the type of theater that I prefer, which is a community-based adventure that focuses first on the content of what we are producing, but clearly respects the quality of the final performance. Also, the final dish that we serve to our audiences has to have a good answer to a question that I first heard from a former theater professor at U.C. Berkeley: “So what?”

What is, “So what?” It means that, at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the creative journey, we have to ask ourselves: “Why are we doing this?” “Who are we doing it for?” “Are you doing this only for yourself and/or for your mom’s approval?” (You can replace “mom” with boyfriend, girlfriend, critics, etc.) “Are we doing it for a larger cause—perhaps a universal cause—maybe the cause of educating or healing through entertaining?” “So what?” “Who will care?” “Who do you want to reach?” “Who do you want to care?”

This past weekend, we (a big, fat “we” since we were many involved in the process) presented “El Son de la Misión,” which we announced as “a journey over the music heard, created and performed in the Mission District in the last 50 years, since the end of the 1960s until the present.” The music was arranged and largely composed by our friend John Calloway. We had started the process almost two years ago, so the fact that we presented it in the week of the 2016 presidential elections was a serendipitous occurrence. That is, a happy circumstance, a felicitous coincidence.

As it turned out for all involved, not only for the performers but apparently also for the audiences who filled Brava Theater during those two brief nights, “El Son de la Misión” indeed served to lift our collective spirits, at the end of a very trying week.

When we started the journey, we did not envision that Trump would be elected (although not elected by the majority of the people’s vote), but then, what can we expect from a faulty democracy? At the beginning of the creative journey, we were motivated by a desire to be inclusive and to try to present on stage the enormous human and musical diversity that is found in the Mission district over the past 50 years. We wanted the people coming to the show to see themselves (and their issues) reflected on stage. We had to answer that “So what?” question in the best possible and most collective manner.

With this column, I want to share our satisfaction with a job well done but also, more importantly, share the satisfaction of those who attended the show, and print some of the comments that we have received through social media. Verbally, in the lobby, some of you were moved, happy, your spirits uplifted, nostalgia was validated, a future was palpable, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was indeed visible.

As per some of the written quotes:

“What perfect timing to see this production in this very dark time of our history.” That is from Linda Luévano, former assistant superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. Then, from Mario Flores, a former student of mine at San Francisco State University, who is now an education activist and leader of Project Connect: “[the production] was very empowering and it gave us so much healing.” Finally, from Rasheeda Celesdanc, a weekend visitor from Los Angeles, who heard about the show from a friend: “I’ve done a few things since the election ended that have given me more hope and positive thoughts … one major one was attending a friend’s father’s show last night in the Mission District of SF. The media will continue to show protests gone wrong, hate acts being done, but there is [also] a lot of love being spread and great conversations about moving forwards together!”

In the absence of more formal reviews of the show and going back to the title of this piece, “Love trumps Hate, people,” I am including those quotes. I believe, happily, that we have passed the “So What?” inquiry. We are so happy that we served to make you happy! Again, I include that phrase, which should be the mantra of the Mission District: La Cultura Cura. Culture Heals!