It’s been a bit of a return to my research roots recently as I’ve begun a project looking at contemporary religious performances particularly around the candidacy, election, and presidency of Donald Trump. More on this as it continues to unfold, but for the moment, let me draw your attention to an essay that was recently published in Ecumenica: Performance and Religion. Entitled “Vessel, Messiah, Warrior: Donald Trump in Evangelical Christian Narratives,” I began this project by looking at the 2018 film, The Trump Prophecy and began to expand my research to look at the intersection of evangelical Christian performance and political power in the character of Donald Trump. You can find the article over on my profile on ResearchGate. Abstract below.
In 2016 and 2020, a record number of evangelical Christians supported the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. This essay investigates key evangelical narratives that contribute to the understanding of Trump by evangelical Christians, such as The Trump Prophecy, a 2018 feature film. In so doing, this essay unpacks major themes like Trump’s connection to Cyrus the Great and his “prophetic” election in order to understand better how evangelical Christian discourse has constructed the forty-fifth president as a Christian nationalist hero.
In March 2017, I was lucky enough to get to catch both nights of The Magnetic Fields’ marvelous live rendering of 50 Song Memoir, their latest numbered opus. What intrigued me wasn’t just how Stephin Merritt wove his autobiography through the songs, but how the format of the autobiography seemed to draw him out in ways that we hadn’t heard on previous records. Combined with the live stage show, the live performance of 50 Song Memoir seemed to play as much with telling the story of one person’s life as it did with how we can tell our stories. And, as with all Magnetic Fields records, there was enough sarcasm and droll commentary to go around.
Response, the digital journal of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association was kind enough to read and publish the essay that I wrote about my experience. And now, it’s free to you. I tried to replicate as much of the experience as possible, so there’s all kinds of multimedia goodies in there as well.
This summer, I participated in Sala Beckett’s (Barcelona, Spain) 12th annual Obrador d’estiu (Summer Workshop) as a member of the invited 10 person international participants. The workshop, run by Simon Stephens, focused on international dialogue and conversation between the playwrights. We also attended various plays at the Festival du Grec, Barcelona’s premiere international theatre and performance festival. Sala Beckett organized the translation (into Catalan, no less!) and staged reading of a our works, which was a part of the Festival du Grec. The photo, above, is from the reading of my play American Pageant, a short play about our lives post-Trump and the ways in which we try to define ourselves.
This August, my chapter “Capitalizing on Cool: The Music that Makes Girls” arrived via the new book HBO’s Girls The Awkward Politics of Gender, Race, and Privilege. The collection, edited by Elwood Watson, Jennifer Mitchell, & Marc Edward Shaw, features 10 essays on the acclaimed HBO show ranging from musings about the guys of Girls to feminist politics. My own contribution investigates the music used on the show from Charlie & Ray’s band and Marnie’s musical dabbling to the show’s hit-making soundtrack. The price tag is hefty, but please consider ordering this book for your library. You can find more information and read reviews here.
This Sunday, April 26, my new play, La Princesa will take the boards for the first time as a reading, directed by José Zayas, at Jack. The play is based on this historical life of Juana of Austria, a Spanish regent from the mid 16th century, who was also, secretly, the only woman Jesuit. Though her life is often regarded as being overshadowed by Philip II (remember the Spanish Armada?), this play dramatizes Golden Age scandal with contemporary zeal.
For all of you who use Goodreads like I do (to massively update your library with just a few clicks and marvel at people who give 1 star reviews to incredible books), you can now find my profile on the site’s page. There you can, evidently, ask questions and I’ll try to respond in a substantive yet humorous way. Check out my profile here.
For those of you who are fans of tangibility, the written word, physical copies, material presence, and kicking it old school, The Boat in the Tiger Suit has finally reached its actual print form. No longer banished to the 1s and 0s of your Kindle, iPad, or Nook, you can now actually pick it up, open it, throw it at people, use it to kill an insect and other things that physical objects can do. Of course if you want to buy it you’ve got to do that on line, because let’s face it, some metaphysical connects are just more convenient. Buy it here.
I’m thrilled to announce that my play The Boat in the Tiger Suit is now available for pre-order from Original Works Publishing. The play, which was produced in August 2013 at The Brick in NYC, is listed at only $6.99, a $5 discount from the normal price. You can pick up a copy here.
From the back cover:
Set on two different boats, The Boat in the Tiger Suit begins at Herman’s funeral, who left his family to join the army (and hide from his wife in the process). As Herman’s wife searches for reasons to make her adult children stay, her son Rene slips off to seduce Gene, the solider who accompanies Herman’s casket. Meanwhile, Rene’s sister April attempts to free herself longtime partner and high school sweetheart, Dave. Tacit allegiances are formed, tried, and tested as the quartet of remaining characters stare into an uncertain future of turbulent waters which may contain tigers.
“I was definitely in awe of the situations [Willenbrink’s] mind created for us. Despite all of the difficult and painful topics, he still manages to write hilarious lines that border the line of shock value and ‘WTF’.”
– Theatre is Easy
“a compelling story that pulls the curtain back on the uncomfortable truths that death reveals.”
– Brooklyn Based
“Quirky, funny,and poignant all at the same time, he does a fantastic job of blending genres and avoiding the unrealistic sappiness that very often comes with death and funerals.”
– New York Theatre Review
My article “The Geography of Disappearing: Meatyard, Butchertown, and Perspective in Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point” arrived hot-off-the-press last week, published by Contemporary Theatre Review (volume 24, issue 2).
Abstract: Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point weaves together physical and metaphysical landscapes to evince an understanding of Butchertown, a historic post-industrial neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, through the perspective of the influential experimental photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. In the article, I argue that Iizuka provides a nuanced way to interact with the industrial legacies of developed nations. Rather than obfuscating the past and the future, in At the Vanishing Point, Iizuka dramatizes a community’s beginning and possible end through space, time and interpersonal relationships. Utilizing a multivalent methodology, I explore this play by reading Meatyard’s biography and works, the geohistory of Butchertown, and theories of perspective against the play to illustrate how Iizuka brings her audience to inhabit a neighborhood while mediating on the moments before the death of its inhabitants and the possible demise of the geography as well.
You can find the article through Contemporary Theatre Journal‘s website here, or if you would like access, please email me.
On Friday, we debuted Palabras: Dispatches from the Festival de la Palabra at the Festival de la Palabra in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This Thursday, the book goes live at the second part of the festival in New York. Come join us for the presentation of the book at the CUNY GRADUATE CENTER (365 5th Ave. at 34th St.) at 7:30 on Thursday, October 17. We’ll have copies for sale there as well, so be sure and get on that then stick around for some readings by great Spanish authors!