Not so very long ago, holding a placard, bellowing the odd chant, and marching through a few neighborhoods stamped you with sufficient activist cred. But as the Republican National Convention and the presidential election approach, politically minded New Yorkers are searching for new forms of public protest, many of themremarkably theatrical—pacifist puppet shows, bell-ringing conclaves, Republican makeovers, even radical baton twirling. Artists and organizers involved in RNC protest planning spoke about fresh takes on dissent—costumes and/or props required.
Iraq: Naming the Dead
During the four nights of the RNC, participants in “Iraq” will stand in the cemetery at St. Mark’s Church, reading the names of both Coalition and Iraqi dead.
“The media have become very unresponsive to sign holding and the like, so we’re looking for new ways of seducing them. Giving them a show might get our message across, subversively or otherwise. Our primary intention is to honor the dead, honor the tragedy of war, to suggest that there have to be some other alternatives.” —Armand Ruhlman, coordinator
Billionaires for Bush
From August 17 to 24, the Howl Festival will feature more than 15 varieties of street performance. Billionaires for Bush, one such group, will arrive armed with plenty of bling.
“Performance with humor can disarm fear. When we laugh, we can listen, we can learn. Our audiences are not passive; we engage them. When people participate in a play, opportunities for new perspectives and transformation emerge. It will take a lot of theater to turn this country around from the negative to the positive.” —Paul Bartlett (a/k/a Robin Eublind), billionaire
Upcoming events sponsored by this neo-patriot group include a bicycle-mounted “Paula Revere’s Ride” and a “Crossing of the Delaware,” via the Staten Island Ferry.
“We’re following the connection between the struggles of our forefathers against a tyrant called King George III and our current struggle against the tyrant King George II. Standing with a sign is sort of a passive act; it’s not something that reaches people anymore. It’s time to find new forms that are engaging rather than confrontational, that bring people together in a dialogue. And there’s something wonderful about wearing a costume in a public place.”
—Elana Levin, reveler
Ring Out the Republicans
Bell ringers will surround the World Trade Center site on August 28 at 5:30 p.m.
“We want to pay our respects and make a memorial that shows that the site belongs to all of us, rather than just to the Republicans. For them it’s about terror and for us it’s about love. The victims on their cell phones, in those last few minutes, they called out for love, not for revenge.” —Christian Herold, creator
THAW (Theaters Against War)
THAW hosts workshops that will collaboratively create street theater pieces to be performed outside official RNC events, such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s With Libby Pataki.”
“People who attend a march or go to see a political cabaret are probably already on your side. But on the street people don’t necessarily agree with you. It’s performing for people who otherwise might not see your performance. Also, it’s a reclamation of public space. The Bush administration has a fortress mentality but we have a performance mentality. It’s a way to say, ‘You don’t own this sidewalk.’ ” —Jennifer Nordstrom, organizer
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2004