Friday, March 18, 2011

A touch of some dark optimism…

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Contributed by Jasmina a.k.a. JZ Bich

Photo by Dale Harris

As I listen to the sounds from the American Idol and contemplate the plethora of injustices in the world we live in, I can’t help it but feel discouraged. I wonder if there is a point in creating theater, if I should be more useful volunteering my energy somewhere where I can build houses and cook for the needy. I wonder if I am wasting my life creating art that reaches only selected few. I fear I am “preaching to the perverted” to borrow the phrase from Holly Hughes. My excuse for not taking up weapons was that I use my art to create revolution but where is this revolution I am creating?

Twentieth century was filled with consciously political theater, political performances and statements. Artists all over the globe tried to change the world with their art, yet the world is still in a pretty bad shape. People who are poor, or old or simply uninteresting to someone who gets to make the decisions are denied access to health, food and shelter. And what is theater doing while this is happening? Has theater, at least theater in the USA, become self indulgent? Are we either creating a beautiful spectacle of Broadway stages or making statements for those who agree with us and will pat us on the shoulder while we have a beer in some downtown bar and boast about how radical we are?

It is dangerous to assume that theater that is not intentionally political is less political. When money invested in a performance dictates how many people will see it and how successful it will be considered, when only selected few gain access to see most of contemporary theater and when main stream television can be more radical than some of the theater, I ask myself if theater has lost its sting?

It is also dangerous to assume that theater that is intentionally political is also radical. When politics are used as a way to boost one’s ego and segregate oneself from the realities of life around one, radicalism is lost in self absorption.

But then, there are those rare moments when you feel your work has changed something, has created that space where multitude felt empowered to make a difference in the world around them. There are those rare moments, when as an artist you don’t feel like a puppet of the system in which nobody has power any more. For those moments, I keep doing what I am doing. For those few who come to me after the performance and say they felt something, they felt like I spoke to them and they felt acknowledged and inspired and changed. For those few who feel enraged and offended because something I said struck the cord. For that I want to believe that we can make this world a more humane place and that we all still have a chance. I guess this is why even in darkest depths of my pessimism I am an idealist and I refuse to give up...

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Jasmina a.k.a. JZ Bich, "a border crossing, gender blending, international provocateurette" is the founder and producer of HyperGender Burlesque, a four year young queer post neo burlesque show hosted at historic WOW Cafe Theater. Originally hailing from the Balkans, she has been performing in New York since 2003. She has performed in many cities across the US and internationally. In 2010, Jasmina was one of the producers of WOW Cafe Theater's 30th anniversary festival, and in 2009 she has curated a series of lectures on burlesque for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. In 2007 she was an MC at Zagreb Pride Parade.

Jasmina has also written, directed and performed in a several Off-Off-Broadway productions and believes in using art for creating a change in the world.

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