Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People

Went to see Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at the Circle in the Square in NY last Sunday – a Broadway revival directed by Sam Gold, w Jeremy Strong and Michael Imperioli.

The stage is long and narrow, surrounded by audience members, lit by oil lamps, with various scenes taking place at different ends. It’s the late 1800s, we are in a Norwegian coastal town. The tone is set in the beginning, with actors singing Norwegian folk songs.

Jeremy Strong plays the protagonist, Dr Stockmann, w warmth and intensity. As my daughter said, the ensemble comes to life as soon as he steps on stage. He radiates sincerity.

The story is well-known. The economy and future of the town are intertwined with its recently opened Baths, which are meant to transform it into a health resort. Stockmann discovers that the waters are contaminated and his brother, the Mayor, goes to work doing everything he can to suppress his brother’s report and turn the townspeople against his “theories” which will destroy local businesses.

Stockmann is a typical Ibsen anti-hero – upright and courageous, yet also deeply flawed. There is a brief detour into eugenics and part of Stockmann’s crusade for the truth is activated by his arrogance, but Jeremy Strong endows him with vulnerability and earnestness, and breaks our hearts when the doctor is attacked and humiliated.

The parallels with our present reality cannot be overstated. As people are targeted, fired, silenced, and turned into pariahs for speaking the truth about settler colonialism and genocide in Palestine, we are seeing the same kind of crucifixions by ideological mobs.

I loved Strong’s performance in Succession, where he finessed his role into a complex Shakespearean character. Film is polished and controlled, whereas theater is raw, visceral, unfinished. Strong is absolutely brilliant. The end of the play is abrupt, and he was visibly shaken – still trying to sort his emotions as he took the final bow.

Amy Herzog’s adaptation is a seamless update of Ibsen’s language, a trimming down of the story and characters, and apt humor. After being pilloried by the townspeople, Stockmann thinks about moving to the US: “This could never happen in America.” Prolonged, raucous laughter from the audience.

Set design and direction are inventive, with a light touch. The town hall scene begins with a bar descending from the grid, serving Norwegian Linie with music by A-ha. Audience members gathered on stage to get drinks but then the actors appear and the town hall begins right in that setting. A fantastic crossing over of time and geography. This is what theater should be – unexpected, exhilarating, moving.

screening of ‘return to sender’ at stony brook

what a wonderfully organized screening of ‘return to sender: women of color in colonial postcards & the politics of representation’ at stony brook university’s humanities institute last night. a thrill to work with liz montegary, chairperson of women’s, gender & sexuality studies at stony brook, and to be a panelist along with avina mathias and emelyn pareja-garcia who both did an internship on this project. so many amazing friends and neighbors in the audience and then dinner at ixchel mexican cuisine to end the night on a high note.

Return to Sender screening at Stony Brook University

What a wonderfully organized screening of ‘Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation’ at Stony Brook University’s Humanities Institute. A thrill to work with Liz Montegary, Chairperson of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook, and to be a panelist along with Avina Mathias and Emelyn Pareja-Garcia who both did an internship on this project. So many amazing friends and neighbors in the audience and then dinner at Ixchel Mexican Cuisine to end the night on a high note.

nature cleanses our minds

it’s unexpectedly cold on long island, so much so that it feels like rochester. il fait un froid de canard comme on dit on français. but it was sunny yesterday so i bundled up and went for a walk at frank melville park right here in setauket. cold cold cold but so beautiful. nature has a way of cleansing our minds and healing our bodies. this is why the remarkable people of gaza return to the sea whenever they can. in the midst of human violence and ugliness, nature stays constant and spiritually nourishing.

MLK rally in Mineola

I have a dream: For Liberation from the Congo to Palestine – at an MLK rally in Mineola (which marked 100 days of the ongoing genocide in Gaza) where I was honored to speak about the “triple evils” of racism, poverty, and militarism, and reference the work of both Dr. King and Cedric Robinson who taught us the meaning and deadly implications of racial capitalism:

“Racial capitalism explains why the US and UK are bombing Yemen to protect shipping lanes, but refuse to protect the lives of Brown children in Gaza.

Racial capitalism explains why the House passed a $14.5 billion package in additional aid to Israel. The understanding is that Israel will spend that money on US bombs, and redirect taxpayers’ money (which is publicly owned) into private pockets.

Racial capitalism is why the impulse to ‘empty’ Gaza went hand in hand with bids for gas exploration along its coastline.

In the same way, the intersection between racism, the creation of ethnic divisions by colonial powers, and non-stop capitalist extraction, has led to horrors in the Congo.

In Sudan too, the atrocities that we are seeing emerge from a divide and rule policy that created conflict and facilitated colonial theft. 

Whether it’s the domestic policing of Blacks, immigrants, and Muslims, increased incarceration and border security, or racist wars such as the war on terror or the war on drugs, we always return to the unholy alliance between racism, economic exploitation, and military violence.”

Thank you dear Farhana Islam for inviting me and thank you dear Nia Adams for introducing me to Farhana <3

my work in master’s showcase

last friday we went to the opening of the master’s showcase, an invitational exhibit organized by the huntington arts council which showcased the work of award winning artists during the 2023 exhibition season. honored to be invited to share my work – three digital collages constructed with south asian fabrics depicting lucknow, bhubaneswar, and dhaka and connected to ‘return to sender: women of color in colonial postcards & the politics of representation,’ a nysca-funded project. so lucky that my parents could attend the opening with me.

‘life and times of michael k’ in brooklyn

thank u for all the lovely birthday wishes, friends, and thank u for the powerful prayers for palestinian liberation. my one birthday wish this year.

i spent some time with my daughter in nyc yesterday and saw a play based on a book by j. m. coetzee, ‘life and times of michael k,’ in brooklyn. his work is grim and heartbreaking but also full of humanity. my eyes welled up many times over the course of the play because it depicts the horrors of war — something we are witnessing daily on our phones and sceeens.

this afternoon i met my son in midtown before taking the LIRR back home to long island. didn’t do anything else today to respect the global strike for gaza. may the mayhem end. may people have a chance to mourn what they have lost and begin to rebuild their lives. ameen.

Interview on Long Island’s NPR radio station

Spoke with Gianna Volpe this morning about decolonizing knowledge and media representations of those who are stereotyped and marginalized – POCs, people from the Global South, women, and other oppressed communities.

This was for her show Friday Morning Tea on Long Island’s NPR radio station WLIW. Hope to share a recording soon. Pls listen here.

Our conversation was about the screening and discussion coming up at Southampton Arts Center of ‘Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation.’

After the film, I will be honored to be in conversation with Jeremy Dennis (Fine art photographer, Lead Artist & President of Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio), Minerva Perez (Executive Director of Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island), and Brenda Simmons (Executive Director and Founder of Southampton African American Museum).

This is a free event! Pls register SouthamptonArtsCenter.org

Hope to see you soon!