PMA Podcast Transcript: Episode 17, Fast Blood
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Christopher Christensen: Hello and welcome to episode 17 of the PMA podcast. Today we are discussing "Fast Blood," a play by Judy Tate, who is here joining us on the podcast. This is part of Ithaca's Civic Ensemble’s.... What are we referring to it, Godfrey? It's the...
Godfrey Simmons: New play festival called Civic Acts, New Plays Toward the Beloved Community.
Christopher Christensen: Okay, well, thank you both for being on the show today.
Judy Tate: Thank you for having us.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah, absolutely. I'm Christopher Christensen and joining me today as usual, Lindsey White.
Lindsey White: Hi, good morning everyone. I'm the communications manager here for PMA, and we're delighted to talk to Judy and Godfrey this morning, so thank you so much for being with us.
Godfrey Simmons: Thanks.
Judy Tate: Thanks.
Christopher Christensen: Tell us a little bit more about the beloved community.
Godfrey Simmons: We know it in a modern way because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You talked about a lot and it was the idea that everyone should have access to the wealth of the earth, but it's an old idea from the turn of the 20th century. Philosophers had spoken about it and basically we just thought that as we went through our work and all this stuff that we do, whether Civic Ensemble is doing theater with people who are returning citizens from incarceration, or new plays that deal with social issues or civic issues, and the community-based play where people who've never done theater can actually use theater as a way to investigate their stories and the issues that are affecting the community. All of our kind of community-development programming, it all leads toward this idea of helping to put society on the path toward the beloved community, where everybody's needs are met. Not in a Pollyanna way. It's just we, you know, we should be able to go through life and not have to worry because we are from a particular culture, that we practiced a particular religion, that we don't have money, that we don't have food security, all that stuff. If we can, we move the community to a place where it is beloved, that it is... Our needs are taken care of and it's just a fact, that's a practice, that is a way of life, that is the norm, that is the assumption. And that we will create a community that actually adheres to that assumption. And that's what Civic Ensemble is trying to do with all of programming, and how we've started to frame it in the last year. And with this new play festival, there are many great playwrights like Judy, who are writing plays... I don't know that Judy set out to write a play about the beloved community, but when we think about the play "Fast Blood," and the second play of this series, Civic Act, called "Bee Trapped Inside the Window," they both look at this idea of what's lacking in the beloved community and what that can look like. Both plays are aspirational. But they go through the muck of getting there to the, I don't know if it's the mountain top... I think of the mountain top that Dr. King talked about as the beloved community. So...
Christopher Christensen: And there's some pricing, something to do with beloved community, right?
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah, I mean the idea is that, you know, if you want to reserve a ticket, it's $20. But for folks who can't afford that, they can come to the theater and they can see it for free. There are no-cost tickets. If you just come to the theaterm show up.
Christopher Christensen: Okay.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah.
Christopher Christensen: Fantastic. Judy, tell us about the play. You're the playwright.
Judy Tate: So I guess I should know about.... [laughter] "Fast Blood" takes place in the Antebellum South, 1845 and 30 years prior. And a little bit about the story, is that a woman who is enslaved, Effie and her mate Ham, who Godfrey brilliantly plays, are out looking for food when they stumble across the body of a lynched man who has been tortured and beaten, burned. But he is miraculously still alive, and they make the momentous decision to cut him down, and the play takes place over the next three days. It is at once a mystery and a, not just a whodunit, but a why done it, and a further why done it. And it's an exploration into memory and also moving forward. I think we talk about it as how one moves from vengeance to justice, or from the darkness into the light. And without giving away too many spoilers, that's basically what it's about. We can talk more.
Christopher Christensen: Sure. Sure. Yeah. We don't want to give away too much. The title itself...
Judy Tate: The title itself, "Fast Blood," does have significance, and it refers to the quickness with which the blood is drawn when you're whipped. The faster one gets bloody. When the cat-of-nine-tails strikes their back, the quicker the person whipping's stomach might turn, and you might be saved a few more lashes. And in one part of the play Ham says, "I hope you have fast blood" to Effie, "Because that's what's going to save you from getting a dozen or so extra stripes." Those are the scars of course.
Christopher Christensen: Let's talk a little bit about the different characters in the play.
Judy Tate: Oh, okay. Well, you know, it's interesting because they're human beings first and foremost. There are people who are living their life and surviving as best they can in an economic and social system that we look back on today as being horrifying. But of course in that day it was life and individually, although you may be in a horrifying circumstance, you have to live day by day. So I want to say that these are human beings, but given that there is a little bit of allegory, I think, in that the character of Lazarus, who they find hanging on that tree, has a relationship to the two of them. They are bonded through a mark given to them by their mother who says know your brothers having never seen their eyes. And I think one of the things that Lazarus represents is history and the importance of remembering who you are and where you come from, and he gives that gift to Ham and Effie, the gift of remembrance. But what Effie is able to give him in return is the gift of transcendence. And I think that's the pull in the play. And you know, we're still pulled today, right now in 2018, by these two forces: The one that says, you must remember, you must understand and be attendant to your history, but you cannot be overwhelmed by the darkness of what has happened. If you become overwhelmed and eaten up by the darkness of your past, then you will be unable to progress. You will be unable to move forward. And that's what Effie represents in her mission to bring in the living and keep them that way, and her determination to seek life and the light. And so she pulls Lazarus forward. And that is the way a people, a family, a culture, no matter who we are, can progress: By both remembering one's history and committing oneself to the light and the future.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah, I really like the character of Lazarus. He's very central to the play, and there's this idea of wind that's associated with him.
Judy Tate: Yeah. He's a sort of mystical character in a kind of a way. But I think of him as completely human. I thought the wind comes to help him and I think that when somebody is on a path of righteousness, even when they don't fully know where their complete righteousness lives or lies, natural forces come to help one. And you know, it's funny because in my family, my grandfather was a doctor, which was a miraculous thing in and of itself, because for a black man to have become a MD at the turn of the century was, you know, as the children of slaves was a kind of miraculous thing. But as much as he was informed by science, his wife, my grandmother, was informed by spirit. She was an organist for the church, she was an expert in the Ouija board, she heard voices; And so to me, the combination of natural elements coming together along with sciences; perfectly normal.
Christopher Christensen: Okay.
Godfrey Simmons: I also think that's, there's something about that, to me, in the culture here and the United States for African Americans, generally... I mean there's a lot that happens in the play that I, I kind of go like, "Yup." I mean there's no, there's no sense of anything that happens in the play in terms of, my upbringing, that it's crazy that it's like, "How did that happen?" On my dad's side of the family they were, my grandfather was a preacher. He was a man of God. Not a great guy, but the point is that... and they grew up in North Carolina but there was that sense that you got to get work done. There's a day to day. There's this actual practical thing. And then if someone practices roots on you, a thing happens and yep. Oh, that's what, that's what we're supposed to happen there, or yeah, this, you know, when she died, I saw a light go across the casket in the church. A light just went right past the casket, and I saw that and no one else saw that, that happened. You know what I mean? That kind of stuff. The rains came at this time to wash all that away. That's just a, it's just like, Yep. You know what I mean? There's a kind of acceptance of that kind of spirit world.
Judy Tate: And the natural world pulling together to...
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah.
Judy Tate: To create that and enhance that.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah, yeah.
Judy Tate: Yeah. Lazarus has his wind. Follows him wherever he goes.
Lindsey White: And there's some parallels between the kind of slavery in the mid 1800s and then, as you said, domestic slavery today, human trafficking. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Godfrey Simmons: Well, I mean, maybe we should talk about American Slavery Project.
Lindsey White: Yeah, this production is produced in association with the American Slavery Project.
Judy Tate: Yeah, yeah. That's a little project that I run, and that was created with the help of Godfrey and another colleague of ours, Keith Joseph Atkins, who has the new Blackfest. The American Slavery Project is a theatrical response to revisionism in this country's conversation about enslavement, the Civil War and Jim Crow. And we were created in 2011, 2012, the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. And I personally was shocked when people started celebrating the 150th anniversary by having balls, and wearing ball gowns to support the confederacy. Flying confederate flags over federal office buildings or at state office capitals actually, and having parties and mock inaugurations of Jefferson Davis. They even read the constitution in the halls of Congress and redacted any mention of slavery, which was appalling. Now, at the same time in New York City, there were three main stage productions of plays about this era, and none of the writers were African American. We thought that was appalling because we knew a lot of African Americans who had written, and were writing about this era. In this generation of writers right now there is an incredibly renewed interest in this history. And so we created the American Slavery Project to support African American writers who were voicing our own stories, and centering African American people in the story. And I want to say something, it's not that I don't believe that, that anyone can, you know, should not be able to tell a story. I do not believe that a white person should not tell an African American story. But what has happened historically in this country is that we have been cut out of our own storytelling, and that is something that I find unconscionable. We have been sidelined in stories that have most directly affected us. And so American Slavery Project has sought to remedy that problem.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah. And I think as American Slavery Project began to move forward, Judy started to make some connections herself in terms of slavery, antebellum chattel slavery and human trafficking, now domestic slavery, the kinds of things that are happening all over the world. It's still essentially slavery, right? I mean it's still, there are people held against their will, or beaten if you will, into submission and made to do things that they don't want to do for commerce.
Judy Tate: One of the parts of the play that I think is going to be really resonant to people today seeing this play, there's a character, um, Mama Tooney who calls herself the last African. And she has given birth to well over thirteen children, and all of them have been taken from her. And even though this play was written not last week or last year, I think it's going to resonate with people given what's happening right now at the borders, that you've got children ripped away from their mothers and fathers who don't know where they are, and are having tremendous difficulty finding them. You know, after the emancipation proclamation, families were scattered all across the south. Some had escaped to the north. No one knew where they were. We produced a play during our first series of plays that had a beautiful scene in it where the man was carrying the book of names and he would walk from town to town to town, writing down the names of people who were looking for their family, and calling out the names of people he had met who might be recognized. And you know, I bet you dollars to donuts that that's not a scene you've ever seen in a movie. That's not a scene you've ever seen in a play. But that was a scene in real life in this country not that long ago. And a scene that is replaying itself right now, as children and families are being caged at the borders.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah. That's a very heartbreaking situation that we're in.
Judy Tate: Yeah, yeah.
Christopher Christensen: I'm thinking about emancipation. I believe it was just this last spring that I encountered an article where it was stating that there were people who were enslaved even up until the 1960s in the deep south, and had no idea that they were actually free and were being kept on plantations of sorts.
Judy Tate: Yeah. There's a wonderful book called "Slavery by Another Name", uh, by Blackmon, B-L-A-C-K-M-O-N.
Christopher Christensen: Douglas Blackmon. Is that his name?
Judy Tate: I'm not sure it's Douglas, but that's his last name. And he was the Wall Street Journal bureau chief in the Atlanta office. And he compared the records of, the arrest records, during Jim Crow with the need for people working in mines and people working in munitions factories, et cetera. And because this economic system of no wage had to be perpetuated in the south, they weren't going to give up profits because people were free, so they had to invent another way of perpetuating slavery, perpetuating enslavement. And what they did was made everything that African American human being could do, did in daily life illegal. So that's the rise of the loitering laws or the vagrancy laws, so that you could do sweeps of people and force them to work under the guise of imprisonment, which is of course the precursor of our mass incarceration system that we have today. And he tracked that and he said in the book that he was fascinated that no one had ever, no scholar, had ever connected the arrest rates with when companies needed labor, needed free labor, and they're exactly parallel. So, you know, these things aren't made up. These aren't figments of people's imagination. This is just fact based. And so people were enslaved and working under Jim Crow conditions up until, like you say, the sixties, there were people writing to the President of the United States saying, my brother, my husband, my child has been kidnapped and taken to a mine and I can't find them. And they were ignored. And well it's like even the celebration of Juneteenth, right. We didn't use to celebrate that. That was a Texas celebration up until very recently when it became a full United States celebration. And originally what that is, is that enslavement, the emancipation proclamation was declared, well, that was the beginning. They didn't find out till a long time later that they were actually free in Texas. And so that was Juneteenth and years ago I was working with Eugene Lee, I think you know him. He has the new Black and Latino play festival. And he goes, we're going to celebrate Juneteenth. And we were in New York and he's from Texas. And I went, what? He goes Juneteenth. And then he explained it to me. And of course this was in the early eighties but since then we've all, you know, we've all understood that. There was no internet then. Now we all know.
Christopher Christensen: Now information flows so quickly.
Godfrey Simmons: I know. Yeah. It's crazy. Yeah.
Christopher Christensen: Thinking about the performance space. So it's at the, let's see, the Maggie Goldsmith Amphitheater at the Lehman Alternative School. Why this location? Why this venue?
Godfrey Simmons: There were a couple of reasons. Civic Ensemble has done a few shows there, not the amphitheater but in the black box, and that's where we're doing our second show of the summer, "Bee Trapped Inside the Window." Which I should mention was written by Saviana Stanescu who's a playwright, playwriting and theater professor over at Ithaca College. So we've done stuff there before and we have really, what I think is a unique partnership with the Lehman Alternative Community School. Our values in many ways are aligned and we were beginning to do some programming before, both faculty and students during school time. But the amphitheater was actually, to me personally, it was the first thing that drew me to LACS, which is its acronym. And I just was amazed that it was there, it's an amphitheater, it's got three rows of wooden seats. It's an intimate outdoor space, if that's even possible. It's an amphitheater and it doesn't get used that much, apparently, according to the school. They built it as a resource, I don't know, 20, 30 years ago, maybe even longer. The students built it, and I think it was like fourth graders, or something like that. I, I can't remember but, but I'd heard the story about it. I was just like, this is the amphitheater over. And he's like, yeah. Um, you know, the administration told me about how they had built it and um, you know, there's actually little, like three stone, um, uh, kind of, uh, pedestals for where you can tell that the next thing to happen is lights to be installed or they haven't been installed yet. I can't remember if they ran out of money or ran out of just time or whatever. Um, I think there was some, I think there was some scuttlebutt that they perhaps built it before they got permission from the district. I don't know if that's actually true, but you know, they, um, it's this resource and I thought everything about it made it perfect for Fast Blood. Um, it looks like a log cabin. The stage, there's a stage that actually the stage is made out of wood. Um, it's a wooden stage and it's got a cover. Yeah. It was got to, uh, like a rake to cover over it. So sort of the actors are protected from the elements and half the audience sits in the woods. The audience, you gotta fend for yourselves.
Christopher Christensen: Bring DEET.
Judy Tate: We will, we will have big spray.
Godfrey Simmons: Yes. Yeah. And, and, and so it's been a dream for Civic and a, I think probably mostly me, but it's been a dream for Civic to do a production out there. Um, and it's been a dream of mine to do, to do a production, full production of this play, uh, for almost 20 years, which has been about how long it's been kicking around. Um, and so, yeah, those two things just kind of came together. It just seems silly not to do it there.
Christopher Christensen: How does this pull in the audience into what's happening on the stage?
Godfrey Simmons: Well, I mean, it these people lived their lives outside in many ways. So you know, you're dealing with the elements. You weren't, um, you weren't coddled. There was no—and at the same time, this particular family, right, this couple, uh, Effie and Ham have something that most slaves did not have back then, which was a place to themselves. Um, they got to actually live like a quote, a wife and husband, which was very rare at the time. Um, and uh, you know, um, and so there's both things. It's like, uh, the elements are around and um, and when you're dealing with the natural world coming together with the spiritual world, I can think of no better place than to be outdoors.
Judy Tate: Yeah, I think people are going to feel like they're really a part of the play as opposed to just viewing the play. And Beth F. Milles, who's directing it, has put an, who teaches here, has used that to great effect. She's used the spaces around the set and around the audience as well. It's really a story that is supposed to feel like it's coming to life right in front of you, as if these players are telling you a story and as they tell it to you, you see it like the great rock and roll tours of all time do. And I think that she's physicalized that in a way that's going to be very effective. Ryan Hope Travis, who plays Lazarus, told me the other day that a deer walked by during rehearsal. Just looked, went, okay, hello, and walked on. And that's what life would've been like, and that that's really exciting. Plus, he wasn't afraid.
Christopher Christensen: Ryan wasn't afraid or the deer wasn't afraid?
Judy Tate: The deer. [Laughter] Well, I mean he was off in the woods I guess, but you know, love’s on that stage. There's a lot of love on the stage. I think the audience will feel that. There's a lot of, of course you've read the play, so there's challenging and difficult things, but as we say, it's on a path to the light and you can get through the challenging things to transcendence. And so when you're working on a play like this, it's really important to be in the face, to be standing in the face of love. And we do. The cast does.
Christopher Christensen: What do you think the, what's age appropriate? Where do you think parents should be concerned?
Judy Tate: I think that young people should be very mature. I think thirteen or so?
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah, I think we've been saying twelve...
Judy Tate: Yeah, above twelve because there are some mature themes and mature things that happen.
Christopher Christensen: What about costumes?
Judy Tate: Corel Johnson is putting together the costumes and it's been interesting talking about, well, is there footwear? And how do we authenticate the period and protect the actor?
Godfrey Simmons: Oh right, being outdoors.
Judy Tate: Outdoors, you know, so we've had to think about these things. For example, Lazarus obviously wouldn't have shoes on because he's been hung and tortured, but maybe Ham who, one of his skills is stretching out shoes, has an extra pair that he gives him. So she's had to think about all those kinds of things. She's had to think about how distressed their clothing would be because you know, people were wearing rags basically. And one of the things that the play addresses is the kind of underground economy that is created when you have needs that are not met by the people who were supposed to be meeting your needs, as somebody who's working for them. And I think that's going to resonate well with people today too. What do people in extreme and dire poverty do to make better for themselves. And so that's dramatized that kind of underground, underground economy. They have a couple of dollars in they can.
Godfrey Simmons: Someone was telling me about an episode of that show, Atlanta, Donald Glover series. I forget what it's on, but I mean, we're talking about there's a whole episode that was about an underground community. And so one of the characters and needed something, they needed to like a bunch of money and they were trying to get something sold, and the whole episode was them going from place to place, and you couldn't actually see how they got the money, but they got it. And who knows if there was even anything really quote illegal, but it was all underground. They took it and said like, Hey I got this thing. Oh okay. Yeah I can... And then like the guy, another thing for that thing and then there is this other thing and he's like where'd the really valuable thing go. And he's like, I got it, I got it. By the end of the time the person's got the money but it's gone through weed selling or, you know, a dog and like all of these different things.
Judy Tate: Yeah.
Godfrey Simmons: And at the end of the day they got literally the cash that they needed.
Judy Tate: Yeah. And you can trace exactly what is that back to this era. One of the things that Ham does, he fixes shoes. He is a carpenter.
Godfrey Simmons: Yup.
Judy Tate: He gets a penny or two dropped in his palm. So does, Effie. If Effie witnesses something that she might not have seen, somebody might pay her to keep her mouth shut. And so they're able to buy a little bit of extra wood to make the cabin. And so there's that work and that constant scheming to have something as Effie says to Ham, a bed up off the floor and a heater for the cold.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah.
Christopher Christensen: The character of Ham goes through some really intense tensions in this play. And I feel like the character, I don't want to give away too much, but this character of GK?
Judy Tate: Yeah.
Christopher Christensen: Who seems in a way very friendly. Someone they can rely on, but there's this moment where things kind of twist, and suddenly there's this feeling of distrust. It just feels like this really heightened moment in the play. I just wondered if you wanted to talk at all about that in terms of your character, how this all plays out?
Godfrey Simmons: Well, I mean, I think Ham's the guy who, he just, it's not quite as gone to get along, but he's just trying to get through the next day. It's a practicality there. If we cut this man down, we could die, and we probably very most likely will. If we the, if this, then this, he's in, of course, people will look at them and go like, oh, he's, you know, he's, he's that Negro, right? He's that person who's like, he's an accommodationist. He's the whatever. He actually makes sense. He's literally the sane person in the room who's like, does anyone else understand that this is crazy, right? Literally be like, this is insane. You know, my wind, what are you talking about? You, you, we have to do that. Why do we have to, at minimum we'll give too much away, but there's a, there was a sense of that. He's the one who's, this makes sense. This is the [inaudible]. I just got to put one foot in front of the other. I just need to get the next day. I, I've kind of spent my life building some semblance of a life with, you know, with, uh, you know, with Effie and I just, things are okay. Things are good.
Christopher Christensen: Why mess up a good thing?
Godfrey Simmons: Yes. He literally says that. He literally says those words, I mean almost verbatim. So, um, which is crazy in a world in which we are owned, but that's how good they have it, right. In comparison to most people because this isn't 1859, it's like 1840s. So it's still kind of like, you know, they've stopped shipping people legally, uh, and you know, capturing people and bringing them over. But it, you know, it's still, we're still in the belly of the beast in terms of GK. I think, you know, there's a kind of a relationship between him and, and, and, and Effie, um, in terms of her work as a midwife and, but I think he to me represents, uh, I think in my mind, in a weird way. I think he represents a lot of young white people in this country right now. In many ways. He's very, to me it's a very, uh, at the character is, is a kind of a, a template of the learning curve of, of young white folks in the country. Because in particular, I think it's a stand-in for, in my mind, a lot of progressives that are here. And, uh, if, uh, and kind of like all across the country and that is, you can talk the good game about kind of being, you know, um, you know, that kind of person who thinks that, you know, you know, who loves people of color and like he's really into them.
And, but at the end of the day, you're, you're just doing the same thing. You're turning a blind eye to like what's literally happening in front of you and you're actually aiding it by not like doing something or not risking something. Um, and, and to me, the genius of the play is, is however he deals with that. And so you know, she forces all the characters to really consider this core ethical question: what are you going to, what are you going to do? What are you going to sacrifice? What are you going to, to move us all to that next level of what I call the beloved community? What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to actually put on the line when you understand? Yeah. Yeah.
Judy Tate: It's interesting because you know, GK isn't a quote unquote bad person. He's probably the person people like... There's somebody in this play that... but he also is a product of his time and he benefits from the social economic forces of the day without his even realizing it. In 2018 parlance, that's called privilege. In 1845 parlance it wasn't called anything because it was just, he was just that white guy who was delivered by the black midwife and hung around and he doesn't have a lot of money. You know, there were a lot of people who did not... People who did not own other people. And it was, it's interesting because you always hear people go, well, you know, most people didn't own people. That doesn't matter. White people benefited from the economic and social system whether you owned people or not. Because when you lived in a tobacco, in a hall grazing state, that was the economy for the state and you either picked it, or oversaw it, or rolled cigars, or exported it, or drove a truck. Your livelihood and your economic stability came from the support of that system. Whether you owned people or not. And I think that people don't realize that, and they go, well we weren't.... Yeah, we are a part of a larger system.
Godfrey Simmons: My family never owned.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah.
Judy Tate: Right.
Godfrey Simmons: And that's not the point.
Judy Tate: Yeah. But also, the point is, is that people's minds can be changed no matter who you are. And that's what happens. Effie says people will take the right stand when they have understanding, when they really get what it is. And she admonishes GK: Don't just say this too, to make things easier right now at this moment when there's a knife pointed your throat, you have got to, this is going to be a stand that you have got to take for the rest of your life and people are gonna come at you and they're going to try to break you, and it's not going to be easy, but you have to take the stand. And I, I love Effie because she's who I would like to be. The sad fact of the matter is there are more of us that are Ham. You know, I mean, I would love to be brave, but most of the time I'm practical, you know, and you know, we all, it's the American way. We should be the hero, you know, we should be the Lazarus, go out and kill everybody or we should be proud of whatever and we should be, you know, Effie and take these strong stance. But most of the time we're just trying to put food on the table and have a bed up off the floor and some heat for the cold and feed our children. That's what we're trying to do. And so I love these people who are engaged in trying to be the best that they can be in times that were the darkest of history. I like to say these are ordinary people living in what we look back on is extraordinary times.
Christopher Christensen: Who do you hope to be the audience for this? I mean, you and I have talked about this Godfrey, where here in Ithaca we live in a very progressive culture, so to speak. And sometimes it's like preaching to the choir. But who else can we pull in? How can we, what do you hope the audience to get out of this?
Godfrey Simmons: I mean, I hope that that, I mean, you know, you always want... and with Civic Ensemble we always want an audience that has a diversity, not just in terms of cultural, culturally, but also a thought, you know, different economic strata. But what's interesting is, is that again, you know, I think that this play actually does speak to that activist community and that, you know, those communities that do a lot of that work. Where you... I think that it challenges everyone. I think the play challenges everyone and it reengages people in the fight. And in the fight to, how are you going to move forward with understanding actual understanding, not just, oh, this is right. Mm-mm. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to understand what you're signing up for. You know, the, I don't know if you know this, Judy but, you know, in Ithaca there's a lot of talk about affordable housing or lack thereof. And it's weird because what's happening is, is that much of the affordable housing has moved outside of Ithaca proper. Right? And so, yeah, people who don't have, you'll see kind of coming down the highway on 79, coming down that road, you'll see single mothers with a stroller and a child walking on their left. But there's no sidewalks. You're on the shoulder because there's not enough buses going out there and coming back every hour to actually get them there. And it kind of, and you know, and they don't have the, either the money or the means or they access. There are places just outside of Ithaca that actually have no Internet access.
Christopher Christensen: Hmm.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah. Just straight up can't, you just can't get it. It's weird.
Judy Tate: Wow.
Godfrey Simmons: Not that far away. I can't, I'm not sure exactly where—this is a weird little thing. But as a whole, there's a pretty staunch NIMBY, not in my backyard thing that happens here.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah, it’s happening right up in Trumansburg too. Yeah.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah. And some of those people are, you know, some, most people were supporting you know, uh, you know, Bernie Sanders and you know, uh, like real environmental causes and everything like that. A lot of them were those people where it's like, yeah, we can do with all this stuff. But not, I mean, what, well, I mean, we don't want to build them. I mean, hey public housing there, affordable housing. No, it's not. No. Don't want it.
Christopher Christensen: Someplace else.
Godfrey Simmons: But we should do it. We should do it. We really should. I mean, you move up the value. Yeah. No, not there. I mean, yeah, man, it's gonna where am I? Property values.
Judy Tate: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know that.
Godfrey Simmons: Yeah. It's a thing. I, it's, it's, you know, and so what that does is, is that, um, you know, uh, so there's a real disconnect in terms of, again, keeping your own privilege and, and, and, and it's, what's weird about it is, is that like, it's, it's not going to affect you that much. Speaking specifically about the housing thing. It's not gonna affect you that much and how much do you need? I'm at, at the, at the end of the day, how much do you need? Right. And again, getting people to kind of rehumanize getting people to kind of go like, hey, how can we all move forward? And I don't think there is anybody in this community that is immune from the kind of thinking that halts us in terms of getting toward the beloved community. I think we all have it. So if I see someone you say, Hey, who's the audience? I think it's everyone here is who we're hoping to pull in and if it happens to be what we consider the choir that goes to theater, uh, they needed just as much as anybody. Huh.
Judy Tate: We did a faith-based blitz last Sunday and we're really hoping to get a lot of the faith-based community.
Christopher Christensen: Here in town?
Judy Tate: Yes.
Christopher Christensen: Okay.
Judy Tate: We did, we went to several churches. We sent an actor to every church that we had a relationship with, and we're really hoping that the values that the play espouses align with their values. And I think they did. People who went to the churches talked about the play in terms of transcendence and moving, how does one redeem themselves? How do you redeem people? And, and these are values that the faith-based community always talks about. And it's not a directly Christian play because of the time it's in. But I think those are the underlying values in the Christian faith. I heard an incredible sermon by a young minister who was guest delivering at Calvary Baptist Church. And his own personal story was one of redemption. And now he's a minister and he had been involved in very terrible things and saw the light. And that's exactly the story in Fast Blood. Um, here's a character who is dead set on revenge having a different understanding. And isn't that the principle that underlies the, the Christian faith that underlies a lot of the revealed religions? Um, and, and so I was really excited to invite people in, in, in that community. And so I hope that they all come out. And the funny thing was when I went to Calvary Baptist Church, it was multigenerational. And one of the things that I understand from a friend of mine who does a lot of ages and work, um, Ashton Applewhite, she's written a book called This Chair Rocks. If you solve for ageism, you solve for almost every other diversity. And it's been studied. When you decide to diversify the ages of whatever group you're putting together, you end up with black folks and white folks and brown folks and LGBT folks. You just do. And so I thought that was fascinating. So yeah, that was studied. Yes, it has been. I like to read a wide variety of things.
Christopher Christensen: So the play opens, when, July 5th?
Lindsey White: The 5th to the 22nd.
Judy Tate: That's right. Thursday through Sunday, Thursday through Saturdays at six o'clock, Sundays at four. So we catch the daylight.
Christopher Christensen: I was going to say, what do you do without light?
Judy Tate: We use the sun, right?
Lindsey White: Yeah, you've got the sun.
Christopher Christensen: What happens?
Godfrey Simmons: It's not setting until, I mean, yes, we'll be done far before the sunset. At least right now.
Christopher Christensen: What happens if it rains?
Godfrey Simmons: Um, well, y'all will get wet.
Christopher Christensen: [laughter] Okay.
Godfrey Simmons: No, you know, it depends. I mean, if it starts lightning and thundering, I mean we'll, you know, stop the show. But, the hope is, is that it won't do that. And you know, Ryan will take whatever, you know, the precautions that we have to take in terms of actors and everything like that, but we're just going to go over, you know, what's going to go on rain or shine and you know, and what's the source of thunder, we'll be like, okay!
Judy Tate: I've heard from a native Ithacan that the... Ithac— is that right? Ithacan?
Christopher Christensen: Sure.
Lindsey White: Yeah.
Judy Tate: That Ithacans are intrepid characters and that they come out rain or shine and that they will be there with their rain gear. And so...
Christopher Christensen: We assume that no matter what we plan, the weather will be inclement for at least 10 minutes.
Lindsey White: That is true.
Christopher Christensen: And it'll change.
Judy Tate: I really like Ithaca. I liked the people that I've met and I like their resilient spirit and the grit that they, you know, exhibit and I'm so, I feel so welcomed here and so excited to share with this community, this kind of communion of a play.
Christopher Christensen: Okay. Well, thank you so much. To both of you for being on the show.
Godfrey Simmons: Thanks.
Judy Tate: Thank you.
Christopher Christensen: Any parting words before we...?
Judy Tate: I have a couple of parting words.
Christopher Christensen: Okay, please.
Judy Tate: We have an incredible cast.
Christopher Christensen: Yeah.
Judy Tate: That includes Godfrey Simmons, Sarah Chalmers...
Godfrey Simmons: Cofounder of Civic Ensemble.
Judy Tate: Cofounders of Civic Ensemble, the incredibly talented Mezzeret Stroman Wheeler, Ryan Hope Travis, who people in Ithaca have seen before, two years ago in a play that I did, Joshua Settlemyer, Jacob White, and a young talent...
Godfrey Simmons: Saba Witherspoon.
Judy Tate: And so you've got people from New York City and local talent right here from Ithaca on this stage sharing in this play. They give an incredible... Vernice Miller.
Godfrey Simmons: Yes.
Judy Tate: They give an incredible performance. And we have Derek Godard on drums.
Christopher Christensen: I was going to say, yeah.
Lindsey White: Yes.
Judy Tate: Yeah, so it's, you know, there's a lot of people from Ithaca in the play and they're fantastic and you should come out and see them.
Godfrey Simmons: And I would be remiss in not mentioning that, I mentioned this before, that the play's been kicking around for 20 years and, um, Mezzeret’s worked on it for many years, um, as has Bernice. Yes. And myself. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of investment in terms of just people just kinda having been committed to the play for a long time. So....
Judy Tate: Yeah, I'm really indebted to you Godfrey.
Godfrey Simmons: Oh, no.
Judy Tate: You know, people weren't ready for this play. Nobody wanted to produce it. What do you want to see that whole mess for? They didn't want to produce it.
Godfrey Simmons: Not even black theater companies.
Lindsey White: Really.
Judy Tate: Yeah, it was frightening, I think. But, I don't know, now the time is right. You know, I was born a little bit ahead of my time.
Lindsey White: And Judy, sorry, Judy, you said before we turned the mics on, you were talking about moving forward and keeping the perspective. So like you said, the time is right now.
Judy Tate: Yeah, I think so. I think so. And I'm really grateful to Civic Ensemble for this endeavor.
Christopher Christensen: All right, well, thank you very much.
Godfrey Simmons: Thank you.
Christopher Christensen: Thanks for listening to the PMA podcast. Performances of "Fast Blood" will be at the Maggie Goldsmith Amphitheater at the Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca from July 5th to the 22nd. Performances will be followed by post-show conversations. Dates and times can be found online at civicensemble.org. Tickets can be purchased online at fastblood.bpt.me or beetrapped.bpt.me. Free tickets are available for those who find cost a barrier to seeing theater.