Supreme Court decision angers, then inspires show
CORPORATE PERSONHOOD FESTIVAL
A Horse Trade Theatre Group and Subjective Theatre Company joint presentation of short plays by nine writers
December 14, 15
At the Kraine Theatre (85 E. 4th St.)
For reservations, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
BY JERRY TALLMER
Jesse Alick, the artistic director of Off-Off-Broadway’s Subjective Theatre Company, was idly scanning the day’s news on his computer early last year when one dispatch made him bolt upright in shock.
The Supreme Court of the United States had just voted 5-4 to declare corporations to be persons, individuals, human beings — with the same rights of all other persons, individuals, human beings in this vast nation to contribute as much moolah as they wished to the election campaigns of any politicians they (the corpora-persons) chose to favor.
“My first reaction was anger,” Jesse Alick says. “At first I got very, very upset. To me, that decision was clearly not in the best interest of democracy. But, to be honest, my reaction immediately after that was how silly this ruling was, how absurd.
“So out of that combination of anger and absurdity, something stirred in the recesses of my mind.”
That something was to crystallize in the wonderfully baptized Corporate Personhood Play Festival of nine short works (10 minutes each) now on stage — admission free! — as a Subjective Company presentation at the Kraine Theatre, a Horse Trade Theatre Group’s corral at 85 East 4th Street in the East Village.
And if the majority of those nine playlets would seem to this auditor to have no more than a peripheral relationship, at best, to the Supreme Court’s lamentable edict, the one written by Leegrid Stevens (delivered by actor Michael Sean Cirell, directed by Rachel Wohlander) quite sharply hits the mark.
Well, I guess it started in high school. That’s the case for everybody, I suppose? Old high school scars. I got picked on a lot. I wasn’t like other kids at school. Obviously, right? I mean, I wasn’t really a kid, you know, I was…well, I’m not saying I agree with the distinction, I mean, but technically, yes, I was a corporation. So, yeah, I was the target of their ridicule, no pun intended.
If I had been older, more confident, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did but I was still so young. Still finding myself. Only forty or so locations, all in the Midwest…It wasn’t like now, not with all the brand recognition and the great marketing, everybody says it’s great…“Life’s a moving target.” Slogans and such. 1,500 stores nationwide. Big success.
Anyway, back then I was still trying to find myself. I was socially awkward. I looked goofy. My logo was different, too many rings on the Target. I grew out of those awkward years but, boy, those kids at Skyline sure wouldn’t let me forget it. They made fun of the way I spoke. “Welcome to Target, how can I help you.” I was very polite but the kids said I sounded phony.
“So what I did,” says Jesse Alick, “was send off e-mails to nine of my favorite playwrights. I guess I ranted a little. I asked them whether they would be interested in writing about this.
“I expected them all to be too busy, but much to my surprise, they all nine e-mailed me back and said they would write a play about this. Then I met with them one-on-one, individually. After that it was just a matter of scheduling the Festival. These were writers I trusted implicitly, so I left them off the leash. Whatever goes, goes.”
The other eight: James Comtois, Fernanda Coppel, Jerome Parker, Lucille Baker Scott, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Julia Holleman, Patricia Ione Lloyd, Melisa Tein.
The rainbow: five females, four males, two blacks, one Asian, one Latino, ages 25-35. “Young folk,” says Subjective’s 29-year-old artistic director. “I teach college students who make me feel old every single day.”
Jesse Alick, one of the eight children of novelist C.C. Alick, was born November 2, 1981 in Missoula, Montana, but grew up in and is in fact a citizen of Grenada, the small West Indian island (pop. 100,000-150,000) invaded in 1983 by Ronald Reagan & Co.
“The U.S. bombed us. Reagan thought we were Communists. Where there was nothing but mango trees and beautiful beaches. Why would you bomb that? There are more Grenadans in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where I live, than in all of Grenada itself.”
Alick made it to New York at 17, determined to become an actor. It is as an actor that he became a founding member of the Subjective Theatre Company — the “Subjective” being mostly political, he says — “and the subject of many a joke” within that company.