politics as theater

Political theater and baby carrots

At Hand2Mouth, a crowd of theater people takes in the first presidential debate. At least the snacks were good.

Hand2Mouth. It’s the name of a local small theater company, and also aptly describes the pose many Portlanders struck Monday¬†night while watching the first Clinton/Trump debate. The 15-year-old company, whose defining characteristics include a fourth-wall-puncturing, “meta” perspective and a mostly female membership, couldn’t resist the opportunity to screen the uniquely surreal and female-centric political spectacle in its¬†also-appropriately-named venue: the Shout House. With a 40-plus-person turnout, the event seems to have doubled as a successful fundraiser.

“Behind me to my left, there’s an Adult Crying Area,” announced event host Tex Clark, nattily dressed in a navy blue suit. “We have lotion tissues. At the back of the room, we have snacks and alcohol, and we may be taking dance breaks as necessary.” Clark went on to explain that Hand2Mouth had initially planned one more amenity: an outdoor pyre upon which attendees could “burn whatever was left of their political idealism.” (Their city burn permit was denied, but the statement itself left us groping for the metaphorical aloe.)

Call-and-response theater at Hand2Mouth. Lots and lots of response.

Call-and-response theater at Hand2Mouth. Lots and lots of response.

Well-known local actor Tony Green offered a few words, too, sharing a potent childhood memory of his Latina mother being yelled at in a grocery store line as she waited to cash his Anglo father’s Air Force disability check by a man who assumed she was a “Mexican taking welfare.” He explained how such early experiences and his current career in social services have sensitized him to Trump’s hateful rhetoric and inaccurate assumptions. The audience appeared to broadly agree.

Continues…