by Jody Tuso-Key — managing editor — January 10, 2020
ATLANTA – Reflecting back on 2020 and looking forward to 2021: American Theater has worked harder than ever in many respects to be innovative in adjusting to the pandemic, the political climate, and the civil unrest that has occurred since my last step into the doors of a theater in early March of 2020. I’ve done my best to cover and promote the new and innovative programming our ATL theaters have to offer.
Recent events are troubling, and no matter what your political persuasion, social media and those on it would have us believe that there are only two sides–the right one and the wrong one. Each side contends “we” are right and “they” are wrong.
I recently posted the following on my personal Facebook page after the events of January 6th:
We’re all trying to process today’s events. There are a lot of angry people on all sides of the spectrum. Some choose to display their anger through hate and violence. Others temper their anger and channel it other ways—exercise, written expression, tears. My dad was a lot like Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird”. He taught me to to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” to really understand them.
I was raised to analyze situations from all sides and keep an open mind. The non-violent reactions from all sides hold validity. Many Americans are polarized. Social Media has turned people I’ve known who are kind in person into people who are rude and crass and would never say to someone’s face what they dare to say in writing. It brings out the worst in us. I have friends on both sides who in the past year have declared, (not to me directly) “If you believe x, y, or z, then unfriend me.” You will never hear me say that. I love you because you are my friend, and you’re allowed to have your set of beliefs. We won’t always agree, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less.
This is another moment in history. America has been divided in the past—we overcame a civil war, depressions, recessions, divisions over Vietnam, and more. Life is a series of challenges. God gives us free will to decide how we will react and act on them. We will be ok and this too, shall pass. I pray for you, my friends, that you will find it in your heart to remember that in every philosophy or religion the greatest commandment is to love one another.
Our philosophy at Speakeysie will continue to be that we will respect every story as everyone has a story to tell that brings a unique perspective. Some might challenge our world view or make us feel uncomfortable. Some might inspire us to bring about change or reverse injustice. Others might just tickle our funny bone and help us escape from our troubles for a while. While I as a person may see a performance that shocks me or doesn’t hold true with my world view, I have to stop and check myself to make sure I’m looking at the performance through an objective lens. When I do this, I find myself growing as a person, and I am enriched for being open to the experience.
The last live performance I saw in March was INDECENT by Paula Vogel at Theatrical Outfit. While I understood the importance of the piece and it moved me to tears, I didn’t know it would be the last thing I would see live in the foreseeable future. The pandemic was beginning to be felt, and I was one of a few in the theater (I was the only one sitting in my row). The streets of Atlanta were sparse; Many people were beginning to stay at home more. What a prophetic thing to see–and a testimony to a time when American theater got it wrong, ultimately echoing a “cancel culture” that culminated in reducing the acting troupe that performed GOD OF VENGEANCE to literal dust. They were executed shortly after being discovered performing the play in and attic at the Lodz Getto in Nazi Germany.
Theater allows us to experience something collectively and gives us a chance to open up dialogue with one another. We are free to disagree and debate. If we do that in love, then we are able to find common ground and respect one another’s unique gifts.
My hope for you and our theater community as we move into 2021 is that we will come together, embrace each other, and continue to tell our stories. When something outrages and angers you, explore those feelings and come to terms with them. Seek forgiveness when you are wrong and forgive those who wrong you. Look for the good in things — remember, every cloud has a silver lining. I look forward to seeing you when this pandemic is over and we can safely gather in the theater again. Until then, peace, love and light be with you.