Right. This. Very. Minute.
By Alisha Giampola (Writer/Performer)
It doesn't feel like Christmas yet in New York. There's only been a brief flurry of snow, nothing to stick, nothing to take a picture of. Even I, grumpiest of cold-weather persons, have not yet unpacked my heaviest winter coat. The overall feeling of sadness and dread that settled over the city after the election has not yet dissipated. Difficult times, corrupt leadership, war and strife, these things frequently nudge our greatest artists to produce their greatest art. Beauty is always best forged in the hottest fire. This week, I took myself to see a dear old friend in a play that I absolutely love, but have never had the opportunity to see. Jonathan Larson, of Rent fame, wrote only one other musical in his too-short life. The Keen Company's Tick, Tick...BOOM! is playing right now at The Acorn Theatre in Midtown, and if you have a chance before your flight home this holiday (it closes for good on December 18th), I highly recommend that you see it. Besides the fact that the three actors in it (including my amazingly talented friend George Salazar), are all phenomenal- this show resonates right now in a way that feels incredibly contemporary, despite being set in 1990. Disillusioned by friends having to sell out and work for soulless corporations, struggling with the pull between creating art and seeking stability, uninspired by Bush-era politics, wondering what the decade of one's thirties will bring, and set deep in the heart of the AIDS crisis, I had forgotten how relevant so much of the script is. The AIDS crisis aside, it's basically the life of me and like 90% of my friends.
This holiday season, it feels like we just voted in the Grinch, Mr. Potter, Ebenezer Scrooge...(just basically every bad guy from every Christmas movie ever but with none of the redeeming qualities rolled into one) into office. It felt good to take in art- challenging, beautiful, heartbreaking art. It was a reminder that there is always ugliness, and the job of artists is to shine flashlights into the corners and make the cockroaches scuttle. And there are a lot of dark corners right now. When bullies vie for other bullies to be put in charge, when refugees are being turned away and innocent people are ducking bombs, when an entire country has been conned, it's easy to feel like kindness and generosity are sorely lacking in this world this holiday season. But what George Bailey and Tiny Tim and Mrs. Claus and the Cratchits and Susan Walker and Buddy the Elf and all the Whos down in Whoville want you to remember is that kindness and love and art are the best and really only way to protest anything.
2016 has been a hard year for our world and this new year feels both promising and slightly ominous. So much rests on the small, everyday actions of all of us. The kind of person who assumes the mantle of the most powerful person the world stage, yet feels the need to write a tweet every time someone satirizes him, is the kind of person who requires attention, positive or negative, at any cost. That's the kind of person who will continue to surround themselves with yes-men and sycophants, regardless of their danger to others or to democracy in general. Journalists have their work cut out for them, as do all persons currently in or planning to run for office in this country and in other world democracies. What can artists do in 2017? What should our New Years Resolution be? We can refuse to bend our moral compass towards the closest, brassiest magnet. We can choose our ability to express ourselves to others as a platform for love instead of hate, for inclusivity instead of hostility. We can call the emperor out for wearing no clothes, in numbers too multitudinous to be retweeted. We can keep creating. Keep questioning. As the last song of Tick, Tick...BOOM! reminds us: "Fear or love baby? Don't say the answer: actions speak louder than words."
I've been thinking a lot about the finale of the operetta Candide by Leonard Bernstein. In college, I sang the role of Paquette in a staging of that final song we performed in a small cabaret of several opera pieces. It is a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics and when I try to talk about what I hope artists do with the time we all have in 2017, when I think about the words I would most like to be my New Years Resolution, if such things can be resolved, these are the words that keep playing through my mind:
Let dreamers dream what worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found
The sweetest flow'rs, the fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We're neither pure nor wise nor good,
We'll do the best we know
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow
And make our garden grow.
ALISHA GIAMPOLA is an NYC based actor/teacher/writer who would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Happy Hanukkah.
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