American Cassandra: You Are Warned

Loud, lucid, visceral, vivid, ferocious females in Dallas?  Echo Theatre’s current play, “American Cassandra: Deja Vu”, trumpets a dire warning of potential violent consequence. Using YouTube-like screen presentation, song and dance routine, puppetry, ventriloquism, Powerpoint-like flip charts and filmed testimony from a KBR rape victim, its rapid-fire cluster of vignettes inspires a full range of response—from laughter to tears to awe to firm resolution to change the world.

Its clarion message of “as ye reap so shall ye sow” confronts head on the arrogant continual misuse of political power by the US government in blatant acts of imperialism, the multi-cultural fundamentalist extremism that destroys women’s lives worldwide and the destructive effects of valuing image and money’s acquisition above all else. If you think the invasion of Iraq, long-term intervention and interference in S. American affairs, the confinement of women to burka, real or metaphorical, and inflicting more McMansions onto cottage communities are justified actions, then this production will not please you. It doesn’t intend to “please” anyone.
Wake up, America. Wake up, America.

Dallas-based, women-focused Echo Theatre has delved into political theatre since 1999, producing SMU theatre professor and Echo partner Rhonda Blair’s  “American Jesus”. This production adds the perspectives of a younger generation. Under Blair’s guidance, three young SMU theatre students, one a Dallas native, another from Bosnia and the third from Guatemala, met with Echo’s producing partner Kateri Cale this past spring and co-created this potent, dynamic work of performance art. Not a play in the sense of traditional plot structure or character development, it commands 100% of its audience’s attention nevertheless. It inspires clamors of approval and foot-stomping support for its fearless depiction of some of life’s most painful challenges. Does art reflect life, or expand upon it?

The cast includes: Meredith Alloway, Regina Bonifasi, Kateri Cale, Mirela Selimovic and Rhonda Blair as Cassandra. Directed by Pam-Myers Morgan with lighting, set and stunning technical effects by Clay Eads and Russell Parkman. The play runs through September 2008 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.
From the play:

American Truths 2008—a gut-wrenching flash card vignette, presented silently by Rhonda Blair in rhythm to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”:

We are all equal,
if you have money.
The flag is for all of us,
if you have money.
Each vote counts,
if you have money.
God bless America,
for those who have money.
Our barbecue is the best.
Our money’s even better.
We’re the land of the free.
We cherish diversity,
but don’t be too different.
It’s alright to be racist,
just don’t talk about it.
Don’t be gay,
unless you’re an actor.
Or Dick Cheney’s daughter.
Ban illegal aliens
(unless they do our lawns).
Give to charity.
It’s a great tax deduction.
Our health care is the best.
Just don’t get sick.
Your home is your castle,
unless it’s foreclosed.
You have civil rights,
as long as Bush says so.
The airwaves are the people’s,
the networks just own them.
Our media is open access,
if you have money.
Money = speech.
The Supreme Court said so.
The media is liberal,
unless it’s most of it.
Thank the gods for
Keith Olbermann.
And Jon Stewart.

Education is good,
but don’t get too smart.
Leave no child untested.
Uh, I mean behind.
We value teachers,
but not as much as CEOs.
Respect the President,
even if he’s an idiot.
He has a plan.
(It just doesn’t include you.)
You don’t need to know what it is.
(It doesn’t include the Constitution either …)

“We must win the War on Terror.”
(Translation: “We want their oil.”)
Mission Accomplished
But terrorists are everywhere.
(Who’s that sitting beside you?)
Iraqis are happier.
(So says McCain.)
Honor our soldiers.
(Unless it costs money.)
Use mass transit.
(Unless sharing’s a drag.)
Smoking is bad.
So advertise to teens –
hook ‘em young.
Gambling is bad,
but buy state lottery tickets.
Good conquers evil,
if there’s a profit in it.
God has a Plan.
(Lord knows what it is.)
The death penalty is fair.
(Shh. Don’t tell Craig Watkins.)
Don’t steal,
unless you do it legally.
Don’t murder,
unless it’s Iraqis.
Don’t rape,
unless you’re KBR.
Don’t torture,
unless it’s Guantanamo.
Whatever you do,
don’t get caught.
The President
more than the Constitution.
Forget Congress.
Forget the Court.
Think about football.
Football rules.
U.S.A. U.S.A.
If you’re poor, you’re lazy.
If you’re poor, you’re stupid.
Old people are useless,
unless they’re rich.
Hell, yeah, trade with Iran.
Oil is more important
than water.
Guns are more important
than life.
Smith and Wesson – yes.
Right to privacy – no.
Science sucks.
It makes you face reality.
Binging is good.
So buy.
Buy American,
unless China sells it cheaper.
Abortion is murder.
Killing in war isn’t.
Abortion is worse than wife beating.
Women aren’t as important
as fetuses.
Sex outside of marriage is a sin.
And abstinence works.
(which doesn’t work).
Jesus saves.
Muslims suck.
Jews are if-fy.
Unless you’re Joe Lieberman.
Global warming’s a myth.
We still have trees.
We have time.
At least ten years.
The ocean’s dying,
but I’ve got mine.
We want CHANGE,
if it’s convenient.
In 2000, Florida was stolen.
In 2004, Ohio was stolen.
Which state this time?
Get over it. Just trust.
We’ll catch the bad guys.
(Osama who?)
Barack Hussein.
(Obama who?)
If your name’s Hussein,
you must be Muslim.
If your name’s Hussein,
you’re not American.
(McCain was born in Panama.)
If your name’s Hussein,
you’re not normal.
If you respect facts,
you’re not normal.
If you like science,
you’re not normal …
and probably an atheist.
If you’re an educated Democrat,
you’re elitist.
If you’re an educated Republican,
you’re smart.
If you’re articulate,
you’re elitist.
If you’re elite,
you’re not American.
Go with your gut.
That’s what Bush does.
Guts are American.
Brains aren’t.
Guts are very American.
We’re the fattest people on the planet.
We have to protect our fat selves,
no matter whom it hurts.
Because we matter more.
God talked to Bush,
and look where it got us.
We are God’s country.
We’re God’s chosen people.
We’re Americans.

Rhonda Blair

Rhonda Blair

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