Kemble's Riot

Last August in Edinburgh I saw a play called Kemble's Riot. It was about the real-life 66 day riot in London in 1809, occasioned by a 6p increase in the price of a theater ticket. John Kemble, an actor and theater impresario of his time, rebuilt his theater after a fire, and passed the cost on to the audience. Or tried to.

The play is participatory. The riot originates in the audience.  It starts as the audience divided about any protest at all, but evolves into a piece about the power of protest. A tutorial from our history on what we, the people can accomplish. If you like me are looking for profound change in the relationship of humans to money, if you like me are concerned with the power of the state protecting private property interests instead of the will of the people, then this play may feel seminal and important to you.  It might feel like a crucial meditation of our time.

Adrian Bunting wrote the play. I bought him several Sambucas the evening I saw the piece, he told me not to make my plays "filmic" (cryptic) and not much later he died.  And even though I only knew him for an evening I pondered his legacy. Because to me he waded into the heart of the matter, the ability of people to enforce their will against the prevailing powers. I am part of Occupy. He broached what I need and want to think about.

A group of people are bringing Kemble's Riot to New York for a run in an off-Broadway theater.

They have asked me to contact Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Arts, educational groups, basically anyone who would be interested in coming and participating in the play. This is an opportunity to sit in the audience and participate in a rehearsal protest, a sort of practice test. It is an opportunity to feel and see the power of the state and the power of the people.

And incidentally the guy playing John Kemble is Guy Masterson, who is the actor and theater impresario of his time as John Kemble was of his. The acting will be very, very good.

I am going to post updates as to the place of the theater, the dates of performances and contact information for the producer and director as I get it, but I ask you, if you are in New York and you are into Occupy (or just social justice) and theater and maybe the ways to bring those things together, then they would like you to come to the play - without buying a ticket - and participate in the riot.

There are great opportunities for creativity. There will be stand-offs with riot police, black blocs, music, throwing things, yelling  -- and, and --

If you are like me there will also be a little bit of soul searching, figuring out your own passive consumerism, figuring out consumer protection. It's a very foreign experience for Americans when consumers essentially protect themselves and as such very intriguing.

I know Occupy and New York artists are not like IBM - you don't punch out a purchase order and have people sign up. I know that in a horizontal movement, a personal visit would go a lot farther than a blog post from a distant land and for that I apologize. But I think this is a good thing, and would be a fun evening and I do think that dying man drunk on Sambuca had a very important point when he wrote this play.

Kemble's Riot.


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