Open any major newspaper and you will see a variety of stories that spell the doom and gloom of the nation. Whether it’s the debt ceiling debate, the idea that President Obama is a Kenyan-born socialist who may or may not have had a cigarette before breakfast, or our creepy fascination with the Kardashians and their hot pursuit of an Ivy League education, the media spends a lot of time on stories that really have no bearing on our daily lives.
You want more? How about corporations that receive non-stop bailouts, credit card companies who are looking to apply more interest to the interest, and corporations who run themselves into the ground only to be saved by the government. But all the while, the media might be focusing on the next comet that might land on our house in 2012.
And while there is plenty of ink given to an Oakland preacher and his end-of-the-world billboards, there are definitely things society should really be talking about – things that affect the working class.
That is certainly the contention of playwright Michael Gene Sullivan, who is leading the famed, Tony Award winning San Francisco Mime Troupe in their current piece of agit-prop commentary. Entitled “2012, the Musical,” Sullivan and five other performers are currently in the throes of the annual summer and fall tour of the show, which is being performed for free throughout the entire Bay Area. The show, which has been running since July 4th, will kick off the week on Thursday, Sept. 1st in Palo Alto, and continue its run in various locations through Sept. 25th
Sullivan is passionate about the show, and his energy and enthusiasm for the material are palpable. As someone who admits to reading lots of newspapers and watching plenty of 24-hour news channels, he is not shy in sharing what he feels is sending the country in a dangerous direction – the dependence on corporations to constantly create the working class.
“The show is about two things – on the one hand, we’re all being distracted as to when Jesus will return, as well as hearing about whatever amazing things that will happen in 2012,” said Sullivan. “The media is distracting us, and we are being blinded with fear and being distracted from the things that we can change.
“What do you do in a culture where it’s more and more corporatized? There are fewer choices about where you can work, but many end up working for corporate bastards who are making it worse. We can only work for people who are ruining our politics, ruining our lives, and there are fewer options to work for something that can make the world a better place.”
“2012 the Musical” is a story of corporate greed on many levels, focusing specifically on the commissioning of a new musical funded by a corporation. While a grassroots theatre company fights the ironic internal struggle to “sell out,” another plot point focuses on a corporation entitled “Rand Investments” and their quest to create the next president out of the senator they control. And the through line of the piece focuses on the media and their heavy-handed influence in creating the national dialogue.
“After watching enough of Shark Week and how meteors hit us, what we should be frightened of is our loss of our democracy, but we are constantly hearing the media hit us with all this other crap,” said Sullivan. “There are uprisings and strikes all across the country, but you never hear about them.”
Siobhan Marie Doherty is making her debut in the 52ndannual Mime Troupe show, and has been fascinated with what she has learned working with a company that is a true arts collaborative. Hailing from Palo Alto and having spent many years in the New York theatre scene, Doherty is thrilled to return home with the ability to perform for friends and family.
While the plot of the story isn’t always the simplest to explain, Doherty is clear on what the show is truly about.
“I tell people that it’s about the way that our media chooses to distract us from the more important issues,” said Doherty. “We get caught up in apocalypse or the Mayan calendar versus dealing with decisions that have a greater affect on our lives. And funding is a difficult issue for everyone. How do you stay true to your vision and make yourself financially stable? It’s not just a question for artists, but for companies too – Who do I take money from and what’s their relationship to my company?”
And while the show has not completely made Doherty believe that corporations are the anti-Christ, she definitely holds views that are certainly more pragmatic and reverential.
“I don’t think all corporations are bad, they serve an important function. We just have to be more of a watchdog. The Mime Troupe is really great serving that function.
“It’s great to be working for a company that I feel is doing important work, which is in line with my political views.”
EXAMINE IT FOR YOURSELF
The San Francisco Mime Troupe presents “2012 the Musical”
Directed by Wilma Bonet
Written by Michael Gene Sullivan
Through Sept. 25thin various Bay Area Locations
Most shows are free, except for those performed in indoor venues.
For a complete listing of remaining shows and locations, click here.
David is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Email him at [email protected]
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