In October of 2011, the Occupy Movement found its way to Washington D.C., or more specifically, McPherson Square Park. While many of us passed the protest camp, filled with the revolution and outcry of the 99 percent, few of us had a firsthand look at the way these camps operated under the pressure of the media, the police, and mother nature herself. McPherson Madness, directed by Lynnie Raybuck, opens up the tent flap and lets us look inside.
Written by Kelly Canavan, a McPherson Occupy protestor herself, McPherson Madness tells the story of Dreama (Jen Bevan and Tina Ghandchilar), a 99 percenter and Occupy organizer in the center of the chaos. Despite concerns from her doctor (Jean Miller), she’s taken to the Occupy movement, deeming it her home and her purpose.
She’s made some solid friends along the way who give her energy and renew her sense of purpose (JC, Shar-Nay Gaston, Sha Galonski, Taylor Hall, Larry Hull, Sean James, Kelly Keisling, Erik Lipscomb, Amy Mack, Jennifer McClean, Michael Santos Sandoval). But what, she asks herself, should her chief purpose be? She faces the public, the media (Eileen Haley, Rachek Peters) and her mother (Marianne Ross), but at the end of the day, is forced to face herself.
The space is funky and energetic. Upon entry, audience members are asked for spare change, and renditions of songs like “Hey Ya,” are beat out on drums. With signs like “Who Watches the Watchmen?” aligning the stage, and a colorful street art backdrop, the piece feels like an energetic protest at the start.
McPherson Madness serves as an interesting exposition regarding the way Occupy camps are run. How are protestors kept warm? Devices charged? How is everyone fed? What’s the bathroom situation? How is an incredibly vast and diverse group of people organized into a cohesive unit?
It’s not easy, friends, but they have enough good will for each other to make it happen. The solidarity and communal nature of the movement is apparent, and frankly would have been refreshing to take part in. Makes me wish I’d seen the protests from somewhere other than the Huffington Post.
by Kelly Canavan
at Studio Theatre – Stage 4
1501 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20005
Details and tickets
But the production makes some choices that may confuse. The double-casting of Dreama, for instance, is troublesome. And while conveying the unavoidable drama that comes along with such a large group of people attempting to live together in a rough space, the piece becomes too mired in it.
The conclusion leaves the audience still wondering exactly what the group wanted to achieve. They were freezing, they were hungry, they were wildly uncomfortable on a daily basis.These are sacrafices that warrant respect. But as for that fire burning them forward, what did these particular people want done with those flames?
Maybe it’s a hope about direct expression, that’s expressed in the relationships formed and points made. Maybe the country is still trying to figure it out.