Resources and dramaturgy from Cornish College production of Brecht's "The Good Person of Szechwan", April 2009 Seattle WA. Director: Megan Sandberg-Zakian. Dramaturg: Jeanmarie Williams. Original Music: Gretta Harley.
“Something is wrong with this world of yours. Why
Is wickedness so rewarded, and so much suffering
Reserved for the good?”
photo: Lindsay Corbett
Homeless heroes, once in service to our country, begging for money with hats pulled low over their faces. Skyrocketing unemployment and foreclosure. A city holding on for dear life in the midst of a worldwide slide into depression and panic.
A description of the Szechwan of our play? Of the dark cities of fantasy – Watchmen’s New York, Bladerunner’s LA, or The Dark Knight’s Gotham? Or perhaps… Seattle in April, 2009?
In our play, as Szechwan and the world around it slide into chaos, three Gods descend from on high to investigate the dire reports they are hearing about the state of the world. They decree that if they are able to find enough good people able to live a moral life, then the world is not flawed, and can remain as it is. Will the Gods be able to save Szechwan? Perhaps their “good person,” Shen Teh, can save the day? Or maybe her ruthless cousin, Shui Ta?
In Brecht’s Galileo, the title character declares, “Unhappy is the land that is in need of heroes.” Indeed, many of his plays describe worlds too ruined to be saved by just one of us – whether it’s an ordinary good citizen, a masked avenger, or even a god. Instead, he asks us to consider our collective responsibility and take collective action. “Everything changes,” Brecht wrote, “You can make a fresh start with your final breath.”
Ok, sounds good, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Over the past few months, we’ve found that one of the best places to start is just by asking some questions – even when they’re not easy or fun. Mulling over some of the questions asked in this play, we roamed around Seattle with cameras in hand. You can see the resulting images below. We hope they will inspire you as they inspired us – to keep asking old questions in new ways, to take up anew each day the challenge of making the world into the place you want it to be… and sometimes, just to rock out really heavily.
Don’t believe your eyes.
Don’t believe your ears.
What you see is darkness.
Perhaps it is light.
- Bertolt Brecht
Seattle or Szechwan?
*At the Cherry St food bank alone, Northwest Harvest serves 2500 people per day.
*Northwest Harvest has seen an unprecedented 18% increase in client need and they expect that to rise.
(Read more at Northwest Harvest's website)
*Layoffs in King County increased by 50% in 2008 over 2007. Seattle worksites had a disproportionate share of layoffs compared to other parts of the county.
*Layoffs for January 2009 surpassed all notices for the preceding 12 months.
*Unemployment in King County rose by more than a full percentage point in February 2009 from 6.7% to 8%.
(Read more in United Way's King County Basic Needs Assessment)
Waiting for the Gods to step in and fix it? They might be stuck in Szechwan for awhile, so why not consider some actions you can take in your community to "help good people towards a happy end"? Below is a list compiled by our cast and company of causes and organizations that we are involved in and care about.
What Can You Do?
Can you spend a few hours a week volunteering?
Why not try...
Northwest Harvest: The Northwest's Food Bank. "Northwest Harvest is uniquely suited to serve the diverse needs from county to county across Washington State. Northwest Harvest respects the dignity of those we serve. We supply food for free to our partner food banks and meal programs throughout the state. Together our partners provide half a million food services each month in their communities. We rely on your donations. All of our food and funds come from individuals, businesses, foundations and other organizations, and 93 percent of our total budget goes to food distribution."
You Can: Volunteer Your Time, Donate Food, Donate Money
YouthCare: "There are close to 1,000 homeless youth in Seattle every night. They sleep in cars, abandoned buildings, under bridges and on friend’s couches. These young people are often homeless because the streets are safer than home. Many have been abused and abandoned. Their stories are tragic. Once on the streets, kids have few resources to find food, clothing and shelter for survival. Without proper resources youth are more likely to turn to destructive behaviors, such as crime, prostitution and drugs. Every youth should have a warm place to stay, healthy food, caring adults, and opportunities to grow and succeed. YouthCare delivers services that meet the needs of Seattle’s homeless and at-risk youth."
The Youth Care's Orion Center is located right down the street from Cornish in downtown Seattle.
Can you spend a Saturday afternoon making yourself safer?
Why not try...
Home Alive: a Seattle based anti-violence non-profit organization that offers affordable self-defense classes and provides public education and awareness. "We believe violence prevention is a community responsibility as well as an individual issue. Our work in self-defense encourages everyone to recognize their entitlement to the basic human right to live free from violence and hate. Our goal is to build a cultural and social movement that puts violence in a context of political, economic and social oppression, and frames safety as a human right."
You can: Volunteer Your Time, Take a Class and Spread the Word, Buy the benefit CD "Flying Sidekick", Donate Money
Can you send a few emails or make a few phone calls?
Why not try...
The Sierra Club: Washington State has an extremely active branch of this grassroots environmental nonprofit. "Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. You're here because, like 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors, you want: a safe and healthy community in which to live, smart energy solutions to combat global warming, an enduring legacy for America's wild places."
You can: Send Emails to your Elected Representatives, Learn how to "green" your house or apartment, Volunteer your time, Join the Club, Donate Money
Can you donate a small amount of money?
Why not try...
Rwanda Partners: "Rwanda Partners is a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to working for Rwanda's healing and reconciliation. Since 2004 Rwanda Partners has been working directly with the Rwandan people by developing and implementing programs that promote reconciliation and poverty reduction amongst Rwanda's vulnerable poor. We serve,widows and victims of rape, orphans and child-headed households, rural poor women, impoverished rural families, genocide survivors and street children."
A donation of $35 gives one family the life-changing gift of a goat and a chicken.