Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NO SECOND ACTS Interview: August Schulenburg (“All Good Ending,“ Bill A)

My one-act play provides a definitive American experience by going way back to before this country was called America.

I am proud to be an American because... I wish I could think of a suitably witty answer to this. Truth is, the very real pride that I have in America is so intermixed with anger and grief over the actions of some of my countrymen and my own inaction in the face of their cruelty and indifference that it's hard to express any feelings about our country simply. I'd like to be a citizen of the America where Walt Whitman is our first real founding father and president; and so, like everyone else, my America is as more a creation of my own striving mind than anything tangibly real. More and more, I long for a universal system of governance that puts the rights of conscious beings far ahead of state or sovereign rights, and I think the arc of moral justice is bending its slow way in that general direction. I wish I was doing more to help it along that path...boy, looks like you touched off a nerve with this question!

For me the defining moment in American history is the Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address. While it took him awhile to get there, Lincoln's decision to link emancipation to the promises made in our nation's founding was essential. We still have not fulfilled that promise, but the circle of equality continues to expand and encompass more and more people every day. It is because of this act, these words, and the immense courage of those who fought (and continue to fight) for abolition and true equality that what happened in North Carolina weeks ago puts that state so clearly on the wrong side of the tide of history. While justice ebbed there for the moment, the waters will rise again, in  part because of Lincoln's enduring call to the living to continue the great, unfinished work of a more perfect union.

True or False: Theater will save America. Oh, I wish that could say true! But technology is changing so rapidly, and with it, our sense of self and community, that I have no idea if what we call theatre now will look anything like what we call theatre 50 years from now. What theatre means to me - collaboration, creativity, compassion, the sacred Yes of Here and Now - these things need to continue their advance until all peoples are empowered with the right and charged with the responsibility of artistic, communal expression. But it certainly saved me, in that old-timey religious sense of grace; and I think it continues to find the lost, to help the blind see, every day. Whether or not Theatre can save America, I hope the theatre I make can give the people it touches a moment or two of that amazing grace.

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