BAM and the Onassis Cultural Center New York presented The People Speak, gathering actors and musicians to bring to life Howard Zinn’s extraordinary history of ordinary people. With Staceyann Chin, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Talib Kweli, Deva Mahal, Aasif Mandvi, Frances McDormand, Peter Sarsgaard Stew, David Strathairn and Marisa Tomei among the performers, FYD jumped at the chance to attend.
As sometimes happens, a promise of 10 coming to the show only produced 2. But the story of the 2 is heartwarming and important.
This client who came and brought a friend, is an avid theatre goer and wishes to become an actor. We’ve known her for many years. She arrived and said to me “I emancipated today!” I said “Congratulations!” She said “Well, now I’m not sure!” We grabbed a burger and she told me the details (which I have changed to protect her identity).
She has been in a foster family in Queens and works in Queens. Her foster mother decided it was not a good fit (after many years) and ACS decided to move her 42 miles away to another foster home. She was so frustrated at being torn away from work and friends and ‘the system’ that she decided to emancipate herself then and there. She wasn’t even sure where she was going to sleep that night. Yet … she came to the theatre with a friend who had never been to the theatre.
There we sat the three of us and watched a stage full of artists perform empowering and wondrous speeches of resistance. The girls were enthralled. Afterwards we went to Dunkin Donuts, watched a drunken man pass out and the paramedics come and discussed how empowering the event was to them. They remembered and recounted many of the speeches and were wowed by the performances. I won’t go in to further details but this young woman is so inspiring to me. I hope that performers know that their efforts can often serve as salve against heartbreak which I saw it do with my own eyes that night. When a young person doesn’t even know where he/she will rest his/her head that night and still comes out to see some theatre, I bow down to the strength of all foster youths everywhere.