Along with a series of posts highlighting the original contributions and community efforts of producers involved in the Festival this year, I had intended to slowly work my way through the Plays for Presidents staff to focus a bit on the individual “why” that drives us to commit our time and energy to this project.
The opportunity to focus on my personal motivation came this week when my daughter brought home a book of poems she had written in class. I had forgotten how her teacher had mentioned the distinctive subject matter Ari had chosen, or how one of her poems stood out so much that all the kindergarten teachers had sort of marveled and laughed over it later that week.
As I read through her packet of poems, many of which focused on our dog Simon (When I wake up/Simon/I see you at my door/I love you/Simon/Good Simon), I realized how much this Festival and the focus of what Andy and I believe 44 Plays… is capable of as a piece of art has become woven into our family life as well.
I’ve written about this a bit before, but I never really thought twice about the Presidents or this country’s political history until being asked to help write 43 Plays… back in 2001. And I don’t think I had a full sense of how the play could become such a powerful vehicle until I really committed to supporting Andy’s idea for this Festival back in 2011.
But both have fundamentally changed me. Changed the way I see myself in a social, historical, and political context. Changed the way I listen to the news, political debates, election-cycle rhetoric, and ideological arguments. The way I see myself as an agent of change with a responsibility to participate in the process of governance… and the way I parent.
I want Ari to have a context for the great successes and failures of our nation. I want her to question the words democracy, republic, freedom, equality, and representation – and to consider her world and all her actions within it with an eye to the system within which she resides. I want her to be curious about the past and to consider her present and future with an appreciation for history.
And so I truly believe in this Festival, and the play around which we’re hoping to unite everyone’s efforts, because the discussions and passions and ideas and questions and frustration and laughter and curiosity it stirs have incredible power and value – not only as elements of an artistic event to be experienced and shared… but also as a catalyst for self-reflection and greater presence as a member of our collective political system.
I love that Ari wrote the poem below. I love that she will get to see The Neo-Futurists produce 44 Plays for 44 Presidents and that one day she will understand the full scope of what her mother and father have been working on this year—and how amazing it is that so many people joined into add their voices and visions to making a different kind of history.
Hopefully she’ll be as proud of us as we are of her.
A great president
Started a fight
More than 1,004 people died
Saved the slaves.