Nu Sass Occupies Fall Fringe with "Tent of Dreams"
The revolution was not televised, so Nu Sass Productions decided to perform the untold story of people “united by a shared vision of equality for the common good,” to cite the Declaration of Occupy DC. Like the Occupy movement, “Tent of Dreams: An Occuplay” grew beyond the expectations of its members and is expanding to new cities. The show depicting the dramas and dreams of characters living in the McPherson Square Occupy camp through the fall and winter of late 2011 returns to Fall Fringe after an eventful few months.
Since debuting during Capital Fringe in July, the cast was invited by protesters who occupied Zuccotti Park to perform the play during the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement in September in New York. Also in September the “Tent of Dreams” cast performed a free show for the protesters of Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza as a way to thank them for sharing their stories to do an honest depiction of what producer Aubri O’Connor called “the primordial soup of social change.”
Returning the play to Fall Fringe was emotional for director Emily Todd after attending the September 17 anniversary of Occupy in New York City, where she said she was disturbed by random arrests but also inspired by the peaceful determination of protesters.
“For me personally I believe even more strongly than I did over the summer that this work is an incredibly important conversation that we should be having with as many people as possible,” Todd said. “I did believe that in July, but I think I believe that to a whole other level having had the experiences that we did in New York.”
After sleeping at McPherson Square and reporting on Occupy for Campus Progress, Emily Crockett took her first foray into scriptwriting with “Tent of Dreams.” As a journalist and poet she said she hoped to show a picture of a movement she felt the mainstream media overlooked in favor of coverage she said sensationalized people as sleeping in a park, rather than organizing to start a discussion about inequality in a First World country.
The resulting play is a well-rounded depiction that ranks among great ensemble performances about protests such as the films “Battle In Seattle,” about the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, and “This Revolution,” about the 2004 protests of the Republican National Convention in New York City.
“This was the first original play Nu Sass had commissioned,” Crockett said. “We cast fabulous actors who were really good at improv and we had rehearsals that were general discussion.”
Drawing on Crockett’s experiences sleeping in the park and spending weeks with the protesters at Freedom Plaza after the camps were torn down, the characters began to understand the people beyond the stereotypes and improvise accordingly. Archetypes abound when covering the protest movement or a subculture, but the cast was instructed to grow characters from perceptions such as “Dirty Hippie,” “Homeless Guy” or organized “Facilitator” who gives out information at the camp.
“We did manage to capture a lot of overall well-rounded opinions about the movement,” Todd said. “One thing that our show is missing is the everyone else, the people who just hang out.”
Even before researching and portraying Occupy, Nu Sass was founded with a socially conscious agenda of advancing the role of women in theater.
“Theater is still an old boys club. It’s very difficult to get ahead,” O’Connor said.
The company does “gender-blind casting” for its roles, and its first play in 2009 was a seven-woman show of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” which is originally written with no women cast members.
“We’re trying to encourage people to come up with interesting and compelling roles for women that aren’t just about our babies or our vaginas,” Crockett said.
While the tents of McPherson Square, Zuccotti Park and Freedom Plaza are gone, the cast feels even more passionate depicting the lives of people who want to inspire a better world. Looking ahead Nu Sass invites people to submit scripts for their company to consider for performance next year
“We are having conversations about doing a sock puppet musical in February,” O’Connor said of their brainstorming in progress.
While they are ready to tell another story they plan to copyright the play so that other theaters will act out the hopes, the fears and the determination of McPherson Square’s and Freedom Plaza’s live-in protesters.
“We have reached the limit of people who are going to listen to this story here in D.C., and I want to see other theaters all across the country, all across the world doing it,” Crockett said. “It’s time for Nu Sass to start telling another story. There are so many things going on. But this story does need to continue to be told.”
November 8, 6:30pm
Venue: Fort Fringe - Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar – 607 NY Ave NW DC
Short URL: http://bit.ly/XgzCly