#HereToo: stories of youth activism

S3 Ep. 01 The CoCreators

October 03, 2021 #HereToo Project Season 3 Episode 1
#HereToo: stories of youth activism
S3 Ep. 01 The CoCreators
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to season 3 of the #HereToo podcast. In our first episode, host Ashley Keys speaks with Jimmy Maize and Barbara Pitts McAdams, co-creators of the theater performance HereToo. They are joined by Andres Gonzales, creator of American Origami, to talk about the impact of gun violence on schools, the importance of youth activism, and to discuss the combination of art and activism.
 
Show  Notes

Please support this continuing series at https://www.patreon.com/heretooproject

American Origami/#HereTooColumbia College Chicago Theatrical series by students of Columbia College Chicago.  

Andres Gonzales American Origami photographs are currently a part of American Epidemic: Guns in the United States currently at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

 Tectonic Theater Project 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/heretooproject)

 

#HereToo Podcast
 Season 3, Episode 1: The Co-creators

Sat, 10/2 11:33AM • 30:40

 
00:00

(lively music as the intro plays)

 

Pennsylvania BLM activist  00:02

It wasn't riots itself, we started throwing tear gas. 

 

Speaker 1  00:05

By February, the United States has more gun deaths than any other developed country. 

 

Speaker 2  00:11

Race isn't true. But it is real.

 

PA Newscaster  00:15

Hundreds of people turned out in Lakeview to call attention to a serious topic, attacks on the Black transgender community.

 

Chicago "Wear Orange" attendee  00:22

What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

 

Reina, Chicago youth activist  00:28

No one has our community like we do. 

 

Shoana (Cast Member)  00:30

Welcome to season three of The Here Too Podcast. 

 

Gabriela (Cast Member)  00:34

We are the cast of Here Too Columbia College Chicago. 

 

Shoana (Cast Member)  00:38

This podcast accompanies a live theatre initiative, amplifying the voices of youth activists from all over the United States.

 

Lan (Cast Member)  00:45

In our episodes you will hear excerpts from interviews we conducted with Chicago based activists. Their stories are the foundation of our play. 

 

Caden (Cast Member)  00:53

We perform October 13 through 23rd at the Getz Theater Center on 11th street with another original one act play called American Origami.

 

Jackson (Cast Member)  01:01

American Origami is inspired by Andres Gonzales's photo essay book of the same name. His photographs can be seen at the Museum of Contemporary Photography through February 2022. 

 

Lan (Cast Member)  01:13

Both of these student-devised plays examine our country's gun violence epidemic from the perspective of survivors and activists.

 

Shoana (Cast Member)  01:20

For information and tickets to this and future productions, visit heretooproject.com and follow us on Instagram at heretooproject.

 

Alex King  01:32

I feel like it is good that it did happen, to wake the world up, to open our eyes.

 

Shoana (Cast Member)  01:38

Stories of gun violence survivorship. Stories of youth activism. They happen Here Too.

 

Pennsylvania BLM activist  01:45

We will exhale. 

01:51

(music ends)

Ashley Keys  01:51

Hi, I'm Ashley Keyes, your host of today's episode. I'm the Co-director of HereToo at Columbia College, Chicago, which performs October 13, through the 23rd at the Getz Theatre Center. I am a senior directing major, and a Chicago native and I've been involved with many shows here and I'm so excited to be here today. And also today we are talking to the co-creators of HereToo Jimmy Maize and Barbara Pitts McAdams and the creator of American Origami, Andres Gonzales. Hi, how are you?

 

Andres Gonzales  02:23

Hi, good morning.

 

Jimmy Maize  02:24

Good morning. 

 

Ashley Keys  02:25

So let's start with Andres, can you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell us about your book American origami and the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography?

 

Andres Gonzales  02:34

Yeah, American Origami. It's a photo book that I completed and published in 2019. And it's a six year project that looks at mass shootings in American schools. It's it's got a few different layers to it, it's landscapes, interviews, and a bunch of photographs of artifacts that were left at the sites of different school shootings by members of the public. And that I found in different archives at the different schools, cities, state archives, places like that. And the exhibition is at the Museum Museum of Contemporary photography. Yes, basically another form that the project took. The third aspect of it is that, um, we're doing a theatrical adaptation of American Origami with Jimmy and Barbara.

 

Ashley Keys  03:24

That sounds really fun and awesome. And I got to see part of the exhibit last night, and it was just so much that you could see and like that you're like, Oh, my gosh, I even think about all of the extra things that were left over and getting to visualize that really helps place everybody kind of in the headspace. So that was really interesting to see. So, Jimmy, can you introduce yourself and tell us about Andres' book essay? And  what became the inspiration for the devised play you're creating with the students at Columbia?

 

Jimmy Maize  04:00

Sure. So a quick history of mine is that I have 20 years working with tectonic Theater Project, which is a New York City based Theatre Company devoted to new forms, new theatrical forms. We are strongly associated with verbatim work. So one of our most famous plays, is the Laramie project, based around the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, and has been done. Often times the second most produced play in the country. So many people have an association with tectonic as a interview based documentary style Theatre Company, and that is part of what we do. So I mentioned that because when Andreas did his project, it's important to mention that he spent six years traveling around to these sites photographing but also doing countless interviews with survivors and families and people around around those events, so when he published the work, it had both the photographs and the interviews in the work. So we've been working simultaneously on a separate but very, very interconnected project called HereToo . So when Andreas reached out to tectonic and two artists, artistic director, he made the connection. Well, Barb and Jimmy, company members are working on a very similar project. And for the long Andreas is email, we jumped on it right away. It was like, This was kismat. So we got in touch. And, you know, I won't go into too much detail about every step along the way. But it turned out that a pairing between the gallery and theater space featuring HereToo , and an adaptation of American origami just made perfect sense. So it was really fate.

 

Andres Gonzales  05:48

Yeah, when I heard you know, especially because my my project ends at Parkland, and their's starts at Parkland. So it almost felt like a perfect extension of, you know, just this, this, the collaboration just felt really, really great.

 

Jimmy Maize  06:00

And the two pieces, I think, fit really well because as Andres just alluded to, you know, his project is all about mass school shootings, and really does delve into the aspect of trauma and grief, and how you go on after, after an event like that, looking at the ephemera and, and the condolences and a lot of those items, HereToo  really looks at the other side of that what you do with to get, you know, to work through that grief, how you can empower yourself, I can move towards activism, he can make a political change. And so we really felt like these two sides of the coin would would pair well as an evening because, you know, we're inundated with stories of mass shootings and gun violence, and it can feel very stymieing and almost like, you know, we can almost become immune to the amount of stories we hear. Both of our projects want to combat that. But we also really want to create an evening in the theater that that doesn't, you know, brutalize our audiences, we want to really create a lot of uplift, a lot of possibility, a lot of action that can come out of an event like this. And so when you hear I'm going to an evening of two shows about gun violence, we don't want to misconstrue that it's going to be, you know, really dour, sour, sad evening, it's going to have a lot of power and a lot of activism and a lot of possibility.

 

Ashley Keys  07:24

Yeah, and I already see that through the short amount of time, we've had in rehearsals already, that the show art itself is not going to be all of this heavy trauma sadness that we are so accustomed to seeing when it comes to school shootings, and that there's going to be something behind every word that is said, and every interview and every single person there has some sort of story that needs to be told that will help encourage people to, you know, say, hey, maybe I should stand up and say something, or just to get more involved in their own politics in their own city. So speaking about being in your own city, what made you say, Chicago is the place to come to next?

 

Jimmy Maize  08:11

Well, that's a great question. Because we have gone all across the country with HereToo , we, you know, wait, where we either reach out to communities that may want to produce a version or devise a version that tells the local story or the story of gun violence in their community. And so, we have had the opportunity to go to Washington State to Penn State University to Chicago, and we've done a lot in New York.

 

Barbara Mcadams  08:39

Hi, it's Barb, one of the CO creators of here, too, we're pausing our interview to invite you to consider supporting HereToo  on Patreon. For as little as $4 a month, you can help us amplify the voices of youth activists around the country. Through theatre and podcast episodes like this one, just go to patreon.com and search for hashtag, HereToo project. Also a reminder to follow us on Instagram at HereToo  project for podcast updates and ticket info to this and future productions. Thanks back to the interview.

 

Ashley Keys  09:13

When we're talking about the book, and being able to find that intersection between art and activism, Jimmy What do you think is like the intersection for specifically American origami with that show and the book as well.

 

Jimmy Maize  09:32

The intersection between art and activism? Yes. Well, as I mentioned a little bit before the activism thread really resides in the HereToo  half of the evening. So Andres, his book, is really delving into the, the human the really nuanced aftermath of these events. So talking to the people about what it how it affected their town. It's It's like the Laramie project in that regard. You know, it's really about the people who are left in the wake. And some of those are survivors are family of survivors, and some of them are more on the periphery, some of them work for media. So it really gives you a kind of pastiche of these of these reverberations. Yeah. And, and for that reason, the play is very, like Andrea said, very forensic, very quiet to some degree, very nuanced and very complicated. It might be an interesting story for others to tell, but he was almost completed, had completed the work when the shooting at Parkland happened on February 14 20 2018. And I'll let you tell the story.

 

Andres Gonzales  10:52

Yeah, no, I mean, yeah, just switching me saying the book was totally done, like I was done and ready to just start designing it and move on from the field research. And then and then Parkland happened. And I was, I mean, by that point, I think, you know, six schools or whatever and, and I was just it was, it weighs, it's heavy, it gets heavy, after many, many years of absorbing this type of story. And talking to all these people. They've gone through such horrible experiences. But then Parkland happened, and it was completely different response to, to a school shooting and those students just, I mean, it was just, you know, it woke me up. I was like, I have to go there. And it was the only school that I went to right after the shooting. I was there maybe a month after the shooting, all the other schools that you know, years have passed. So there's this quietness to the experience. But Parkland [unitelligible] kids, they were just out on the street, they were protesting in grocery stores, they were, you know, giving interviews, they were meeting every evening in these like community spaces, just, you know, talking about the plan and what to do next. And it was this energy that I hadn't experienced and, and I knew that I had to include those, those kids in some form or another. So yeah, so I ended up interviewing. Carlitos Rodriguez.  Carlitos, he was one of students who started the video group. Yeah, it's like, Yeah, he does, like video blogs and interviews and called stories untold. Thank you. Sorry, I'm just like about halfway through my coffee. Yeah, stories untold. And then Jeff Foster, who was the teacher, the civics teacher, who was one of the big inspirations for these kids to actually like, React politically and motivated, you know, the martial our lives movement and all that. So

 

Jimmy Maize  12:50

So I think, because those are the last two interviews in the book, and Barb and my HereToo Project really was -Parkland was the catalyst. And we were also in Parkland, we just missed Andreas, and did our some work with the students there. That's the jumping off point for HereToo. So really, another reason the two pieces work really well in the evening is that ours leaves off with a sort of lift of activism. And that's exactly where HereToo picks up.

 

13:20

And speaking of tier two, we now have Barbara Pitts. MC Adams. Hello. Nice to see you. So if you just want to tell our listeners a little bit about you and what you're doing here.

 

13:31

Oh, sure. Um, so I'm the CO director with you, Ashley keys, and I'm so appreciative and grateful to have such a great ally and co director and native of Chicago to partner with on this. I think that's so important. And as Jimmy mentioned, I was in the original cast and one of the CO creators of the Laramie project, which made its way to Off Broadway in the year 2000. So I have a very long view of the intersection of arts and activism. When we made the play. They actually rushed us off Broadway because producer types were afraid that the world would forget who Matthew Shepard was, and it wouldn't be relevant. And now our hate crimes bill is co named for Matthew Shepard, and James Byrd Jr. and Judy Shepard Matthew's mother and just for people who might not remember Matthew Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming college student who met two guys at a bar. And they somehow convinced him to get in their truck and they attempted to rob him and then they tied him to a fence and beat him with the butt end of a gun and left him for dead. So he was he hung on for almost four days. So the whole The world was watching in 1998. And it really was one of those lightning rod moments in our culture where, you know, no matter what your background was, it was so horrific the world. Basically it was like, that's it. You know, it was a real moment of reckoning about hate crimes, and it still took over 10 years for the National hate crimes bill to take effect. But on a more grassroots level. student groups started doing the Laramie project. And I over the last 20 years have watched people from the age of maybe 12, through college age, perform the characters who are the residents of Laramie, Wyoming, there's about 60 characters grappling with what happened in their town. And every time I go, talk to students or work with them on the play, they look so lit up and empowered and enlivened by being called upon to to engage with something that is so real, and about issues that they care about equality. You know, civics basically like what you know, how do we as a country, how do we as a society want to behave with each other. And so for 20 years, I thought, Gosh, I wish I could create an interview based play that had age appropriate roles for young people. And when the shooting happened in Parkland, Florida, and then I went to the New York march for our lives, March 24. I got that tingly feeling up the back of my neck that oh my gosh, this is the exact kind of thing that that Jimmy and I and our colleagues at Tecktonik have developed an expertise in doing sensitively. Jimmy and I actually had the opportunity to go down to Parkland and just offer some theater students a creative workshop. And that just cemented our feeling of wanting to respond to this gun violence epidemic in some way. And just as soon as we started working on it, we started hearing from college students that we were workshopping with from all over the country. Oh, do you know what's happening in Baltimore? Do you know what's happening with activism in our community, and that's how the name HereToo was born, that the by then the Parkland students story was being so amplified cover of Time Magazine, many documentaries already out there, that we thought, gosh, there's a lot of activism happening like in Chicago, that isn't as amplified. And some of that is, you know, the nature of the Parkland students being white and privileged. So we really want to take it upon ourselves to go to different communities and, you know, amplify these stories that are lesser known. And then part of what we're hoping to do is create an open source portal where you can engage with the full interviews that people were generous enough to share with us. Because that's always bothered me, too, about the Laramie project, we edited, you know, 800 hours of interview material into a two hour play.

 

Barbara Mcadams  18:21

And people are much more interesting and complex. And that's another reason for this podcast, it gives us a chance to hear a little more of unfiltered what our interviewees are about and share that with, with our audience.

 

Ashley Keys  18:36

That's so fun. And I just so far, just seeing all of the interviews that we have just for here, too. How do we, as just Pete, like theatre makers, ourselves, make so much information that we have into a one hour play? Exactly.

 

Barbara Mcadams  18:57

In some ways, it's like, oh, we only have to have an hour long play. Oh, no. How do we choose for you know, it's actually harder to make something short. Our method of devising theatre and for people out there who don't know devising theatre is kind of a catch all term for when you're co collectively creating something usually in the room together. doesn't mean there aren't like people writing in the background, but we come together in the room. And we really look at how, how is material, interview texts, theatrical forms, how are they reading from the stage. And one of the interesting challenges with interview based work now as opposed to 20 years ago when we made the Laramie project is we're also much more sophisticated about the idea of identity and who can speak for whom. And our, our devising technique is called moment work. And we have a book of the same name that I'm the co author of and Jimmy is also a contributor to And that method breaks theater into the utricle moments. So when we're trying to, you know, eat this huge elephant, we can only do that one one moment at a time, and discover the forms that are going to make sense. Jimmy showed me last night. He videoed some work he was doing on how he thinks he might theatrical eyes on dresses book, and I was like, Ooh, that's so exciting. And it's not a form that we're using in HereToo . So like figuring out how two different plays use the same set and use projections differently. I think it'll be a really exciting evening for the audience. And I think we're going to have to make some decisions, we start by really activating all the theatrical elements available to us the space costumes, props. And then we look at more esoteric ideas like the the element of representation? And how are we going to come up with the utricle forms that feel respectful of our interviewees and appropriate for this moment in our culture? And then beyond that, we have to really whittle down what we want to say in our hour long play, like what is going to be our central question, or as we call it, an organizing principle. I know that I really want to put the focus on Chicago, I think it would be really perverse to come here and make a play about march for our lives. But there will be elements of those stories because the connection between Chicago activists and the Parkland Florida activists is very strong. And that's very exciting to me, too. I've had the opportunity to interview some people who were activists here that went on the road to change, which was the bus tour the Parkland students did before the midterm elections, where they went to NRA strongholds National Rifle Association strongholds, where they give a lot of money to politicians. And they managed to flip a bunch of seats and register 100,000 voters, and there were Chicago activists who were along for that. So really making that connection, and looking locally, regionally and nationally about the amount of coalition building it takes to get progress. And Chicago is an incredible example of that, plus the kind of violence interrupter programs they have that really, you know, go to the root of violence in communities and police violence. So I think one of the joys of doing this work, is it yeah, it won't all end up on the stage. But we you and me the cast, we will be changed and we will be better citizens because we engaged in the work. What are you excited by or curious about or excited to start digging into?

 

Ashley Keys  23:05

Yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm just like a generally excited about everything. But I think devising is something I've never really tapped into, especially with like being director, and I've been so accustomed to the whole, okay, you have a script, okay, you follow the scripts, you can change a couple things here and there. But that's pretty much it. And I really excited to see what we can all collaboratively come up with together because I believe collaboration is one of the strongholds of theater. And what makes theatre so great is that we can get these voices in a room and say, Hey, what do you think about this? Oh, that's a great idea. Let's include that somehow. So I'm very excited to see how everybody's voices from interviews from the cast from design and production crews to say like, how do we create this entire story that all flows together between American Origami and HereToo , and create that together. So I'm really excited for that. And just in general, I love both casts so much. I think they're also amazingly talented that I'm so excited to see how they're going to present this and how we're all going to contribute to that.

 

Barbara Mcadams  24:26

The American Theatre is in a moment of reckoning right now. Some a coalition of 300 performers and writers, black mainly, people in the global majority created a document called we see you white American Theatre and are making some very strong bold demands of what the theater can and should look like. So in some ways, the devising process is made for this moment because the structures that oppress us also keep us comfortable. Yeah, you know, so we're already I think you and I are already experiencing, like the little bit of anxiety in the cast that's like, why can't we sit at the table and do table work? And then you tell me where to move? Right? So if we want to build a new world, that's gonna be uncomfortable, right? So. So that is a, that's the challenge, like, How do you stay open to it and just trust the process that by opening night, we'll have an hour of material that the audience will feel not traumatized by, but like, Wow, look at all this activism and coalition building and these young people stepping up. I'm very excited to share some of the new material that we've gathered in Chicago. Oh, yeah,

 

Ashley Keys  25:41

Me, too. I just so many, like little things that people have just said in passing about, like, oh, what about this, and it's like, Whoa, that's an amazing idea. Let's see how we can incorporate it. And I think just seeing all of that come together into fruition during our tech week and stuff will be really, really incredible. 

 

Jimmy Maize  26:03

See, this is Jimmy, again, I think just to add on to what you're saying, Barb is that the power structures that have pressed so many have conditioned us to feel comfortable, I don't think that that's our natural state. And I think that there's this threshold of trepidation of like, I'm used to doing it this way, I'm used to being told, but that actually isn't our, our joyous state, that isn't what we, I think, deep down as children playing in a sandbox, you know, we don't want to be told what our limits are. And I think once we pass that threshold, in the devising process where we get past the fear, the initial kind of calcification of fear, then we kind of become our natural artists selves and, and really take flight in that devising process. So I think we're kind of, you know, first week of rehearsal, hitting up against a little bit of that, that natural threshold. And having done this long enough, we know that like, what's on the other side of that is going to be complete freedom and expression and joy based on what's inside of these students, as opposed to what we, you know, pre prescribed or pre conceived for them.

 

Ashley Keys  27:14

For sure. And I think just in general, it will help make them just better actors and better theatre makers to say, Oh, well, when I did here, too, I did American origami, something that I took from that was etc, etc. And then, using that into their performances later in life, I think will also be really amazing to see as well. 

 

Jimmy Maize  27:37

The students are incredible. 

 

Barbara Mcadams  27:38

Yeah, they really are. And Alyssa Sileo, who is a project associate, she's an incredible digital dramaturg and a restorative and transformative justice budding expert. She said to the students, when we had our first workshop in May, as a little cap to the workshop, "once you've devised a play, you can do anything."

 

Ashley Keys  28:07

Exactly, exactly. But there's so much that goes into devising that you're like, Okay, I can conquer the world a little bit. Yeah.

 

Barbara Mcadams  28:14

Yeah, the skills really transfer. So that's the other thing I feel really great about, you know, sharing with people. You know, once once you've learned how to make something from nothing, work through your fear and anxiety, present it, you know, you really could transfer those skills into almost any arena.

 

Ashley Keys  28:31

Yeah, for sure. All right. Well, thank you so much to Jimmy and Barbara and Andreas, for joining us today for our first episode. And stay tuned for our upcoming episodes where we interview other Chicago activists with actors fromHereToo  you,

 

Jimmy Maize  28:49

thanks for having us Thank you.

 

Caden Marshall  29:24

Created by Caden Marshall,

 

Shoana (Cast Member)  29:26

Shona T hunt,

 

Gabriela (Cast Member)  29:28

Gabriela Molina, 

 

Ashley (Cast Member)  29:29

Ashley keys

 

Gisele (Cast Member)  29:31

Gisele Romaine-Easton,

 

Barbara Mcadams  29:32

Barbara Pitts McAdams,

 

Lan Gross-Roberts  29:34

Alani Gross-Roberts,

 

Moriah (Cast Member)  29:36

Mariah Gilman, 

 

Caden Marshall  29:37

Recorded and produced by Shelby Steele at WC RX on the campus of Columbia College Chicago. Special thanks to WC our ex faculty advisor Matt Cunningham for his immediate support.

 

Barbara Mcadams  29:48

The HereToo Project was conceived by Tectonic Theater Project company members, Jimmy Maize, and Barbara Pitts McAdams. Dr. Jeanmarie Higgins is our national project dramaturg. And special thanks to Dr. Rich Brown and the student creators of #HereToo -Western Washington University,  for piloting the first live theater version of HereToo  back in 2018.

 

Lan (Cast Member)  30:10

And we hope you'll join us for our production of American origami and hashtag HereToo-Columbia College Chicago from October 13 through the 23rd at the Getz Theater Center on 72 East 11th Street. 

 

Moriah (Cast Member)  30:22

For tickets and more information about the national #HereToo project visit HereTooProject.com and follow @HereTooProject on Instagram.