Tuesday, July 5, 2016

GARBAGE: Joining Hamilton in Building Bridges Over the Lines Drawn by Trump

By Jenan Jacobson

Jenan Jacobson
When I heard that Trump was running for president, I figured it was something like when someone nominates a pig for the local mayoral campaign. A joke. Something not to be believed. I thought everyone would have a good laugh and get it out of their systems so real politics could continue. Shockingly enough, the pig has won a spot in the presidential election. Similarly, when I heard about the plans surrounding Brexit, I assumed it was akin to crocodile tears. It was a child throwing a tantrum, and soon enough it would blow over so long as you did not give in and feed it another cookie. Well look at where we are. Things are looming in a way I could not conjure in my own nightmares, and my family is seriously considering moving to Canada. (The Canadians are good at taking people in, we have learned recently.)
For me, and many others, I would imagine, the most startling thing about those encouraging these courses of action in our politics, is how people are buying into the notion of separateness as ideal. We have all these voices in positions of power, ranting about the differences between people, and the lines that need to be drawn, and so it becomes important when we can find outlets that embrace the crossing of these lines. Because while this is the unfortunate age of Trump, it is also the era of Hamilton. Art is doing what it can to bridge gaps, and generate connections in our modern America. It is important to focus on similarities—similarities that reinforce the commonality of our humanity, and the experiences that punctuate the human condition, regardless of race, class, or religion.

Canadians accepting Syrian refugees
Garbage, a play by John Michael Wagner, tells of meeting between a young college student who has been given community service and a recovering alcoholic whose full-time job is working on a garbage truck. They’ve been assigned to the same truck, and despite a rocky start, they begin to realize some of the similarities apparent in their various issues, as well as the ways they might be able to help one another. These men occupy vastly different social standings, the distinction between full-time job and compulsory, short-term punishment for the college educated never truly forgotten, and this might prove a point of animosity between the two. These tensions arise often enough. Friends have told me the same thing for when they get summer jobs, and the set-up is reminiscent of Annie Baker’s recent play, The Flick, which also deals with these distinctions setting people at odds with one another. However, in
Garbage, these social hurdles are ultimately avoided in favor of jointly tackling universal problems that can be understood no matter what your background is. Trouble in love. Trouble with addiction. Issues in mental health. Together, as they go about their work day, the characters Tyrone and Alex give each other insight into their individual problems. Helped, perhaps, by the different perspectives they can provide. So no, we are not all carbon copies of each other. There are differences between people, but these are differences to be celebrated. Rather than get caught up in their differences, the two characters end up working together, pooling their different experiences and insights to understand themselves more fully. 
How else do we see barriers being set up between people and how else might we try and knock them down? Have you ever been in a situation like this? Comment below!

GARBAGE by John Michael Wagner
Based on a true story, GARBAGE explores issues of class, race, alcohol, drug abuse, and Christianity. When a college kid sentenced to community service reports to a sanitation worker, they discover they each carry a lot of garbage. Together they learn what stinks and what's worth keeping.
Saturday, July 16th at 3pm
Sunday, July 17th at 9pm
Tuesday, July 19th at 7pm

At the Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street, NYC
The Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival

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