I receive mass email forwards from my right wing religious pro-military uncle in North Carolina every couple of weeks. Inevitably he has had something sent to him in a mass email forward that he feels he simply must forward to every member of our family, never mind that we may not share his enthusiasm for the insane topics that seem to permeate his mind. Typically these have irrefutable evidence that Obama (or any democrat) is anti-America; pro-military at all costs, no taxes at all costs, or something that involves God or Jesus with the American flag. At the end of each email there is a message: if you agree with this email please forward to everyone you know, if not, please delete. Nightmerica is my decision not to delete.
For the past three months my colleagues and I have been gathering as much patriotic propaganda as we could find, sifting through the images, sound files and videos to try and figure out just what message is being broadcast about our country to its citizens. It’s not just about current politics, either. It goes back to Columbus, the founders, the pilgrims, the revolution, the Louisiana Purchase and the war of 1812. First graders are still being taught about an unspoiled land full of welcoming natives who were eager to help the (superior) white colonists. Those same facts are what hopeful new citizens are quizzed upon when applying to become a citizen of the United States. So our performance is sort of like one of those coin operated binoculars that we have fixed on a fog of fact, fiction and folklore.
We have mixed video images with sound clips and merged them all with live actors working through short performances that range from talk show parodies, campfire songs, spoken word and movement. Spectacle is the best way for me to describe what we have come up with. Six actors, two sound designers a video designer and two assistants are furiously trying to pull these most disparate elements together. In the end we are not trying to promote any agenda; we simply are trying to embrace what is out there, floating into the mind of the public. As I tell the actors at each rehearsal, our objective is to create an entertaining performance; what the audience takes away is up to them.
For me, it’s all about not deleting. I don’t think it’s healthy for any group of people to continually whitewash their history to make it fit their political needs of the day. We are what we are, and what we were, and what we will become depends upon how we tell that story.
Nightmerica, Theatre Du Jour’s newest performance, dives headfirst into the American psyche and wrestles with the concept of ‘America’ that we have all learned from our youth. What is the reality behind the hype that we the people and the whole world have been sold for the last 200 years? Is it what we are or what we wish we were? Put your patriotism in check and join in the madness in this roller coaster ride as we loop the loop of Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty, Davy Crockett, manifest destiny, and immigration. Funny, satirical, and at times even poignant, this is the performance that asks not what you can do for your country, but what has your country done to you?
Venue: DC Arts Center (DCAC) – 2438 18th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For information, call (202) 462-7833.
Remaining Performances: Click on these performances to purchase tickets, or purchase them online.
Read Andrew L. Baughman’s review on DC Theater Arts.
This production is presented as a part of the 7th Annual Capital Fringe Festival – July 12 to 29, 2012. A program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.