In keeping with this week’s theme at Chautauqua, “The Ethics of Dissent,” at 12:15 p.m. Friday, July 27, in Bratton Theater, Chautauqua Theater Company will host a Brown Bag titled “The Art of Dissent: A roundtable on the role of artists in protest.”
The panel will consist of CTC Artistic Associate Sarah Wansley, director Laura Kepley, directing fellow Stori Ayers, conservatory actor Ricardy Fabre and CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba, who said that theater has been used by artists to voice unpopular opinions for centuries.
“I think the conversation of our forefathers to create a democracy was rigorous and passionate, full of disagreements and ultimately ended up with something profound. I think theater as a form of dissent is the exact same thing, but it must allow the voices that do not adhere to the status quo to be heard and considered.”
-Andrew Borba, Artistic Director, Chautauqua Theater Company
Borba said that each CTC mainstage production this season contains an element of dissent.
For example, George Brant’s Into The Breeches! tells the story of a group of women bucking social standards to put on a production of Henry VI and V while their husbands are away at war.
“Into the Breeches! is not just about a theater company in 1942,” Borba said. “It’s also about a troupe of women’s right to take place in society and succeed.”
For the season’s first production, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon, Borba said he wanted to challenge theatergoers by presenting a subversive look at race in America. The play focused on a playwright’s struggle to revive a 1859 melodrama that featured enslaved characters on a plantation.
Borba said CTC was interested in great literature that would engage audiences in different ways and inspire deep conversations.
“Sometimes that deeper conversation is shared over a long walk after the show, and sometimes it’s shared over a frosty beer,” Borba said. “It really depends on the show.”
Borba said that dissent can even be found in Airness, Chelsea Marcantel’s play about competitive air guitarists that runs through Sunday.
The play’s director, Joshua Kahan Brody, said that although the sport is silly, the air guitar community protests war and violence through its message of global unity.
Conservatory actor David Rosenberg, who plays an air guitarist named Facebender, said he agrees with Brody and hopes audience members will leave Airness feeling good.
“I think that this play is a lot about offering joy to the audience,” he said. “Joy is a radical political act, especially now.”