Contact: Colin GIllis
Madison, WI: This year, for its annual fundraiser, Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative is staging four performances of Voices of A People’s History at Broom Street Theater. The performances are scheduled for July 25 at 7 pm, July 26 at 7 pm, and July 27 at 2 and 7 pm.
Voices of a People’s History is a performance that honors histories of political struggle and celebrates the voices that emerge from these struggles. A series of monologues based on A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Voices tells many stories across time and space, from Bartolome de Las Casas’s account of the genocide of the indigenous peoples of Hispaniola to Lorell Patterson on the “War Zone” Strikes in Decatur, Illinois — while also including narratives from each performer about their relationship to the stories they perform. Drawing these histories into contemporary conversations makes them come alive. Every forgotten story deserves to be remembered anew. Having us take another look at something of which we thought we were certain always offers the possibility of a new insight, another voice we haven’t heard before.
This year, the production is being directed by Jeff Casey and Sandy Peterson. Casey is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his research focuses on the representation of male friendship in modern American culture. He is also a dramatist and curator. In 2009, his original play Hermetic was produced at UW-Madison, and, in 2012, he co-curated the art exhibition Unstable Systems at the Art Lofts at UW-Madison. Jeff says his vision for the project emphasizes the way that the history of the US comprises many voices and and experiences: “This play allows its audiences to see and hear how the many voices that Zinn quotes in A People’s History of the United States form a living conversation about America.”
Sandy Peterson is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in 20th and 21st century political theatre. She is writing a dissertation on theatre, performance, and the American right. In Madison, she has directed new plays, served as a dramaturg for University Theatre, and most recently produced the Ten-Minute Play Festival for the university. She says she is most excited about the talented ensemble that has come together to make this production happen: “Working with such an amazing team has us looking forward to the finished product all the more.”
Briana Miller is stage manager for the production. An undergraduate student in the Theatre & Drama Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Miller has worked on several productions in Madison, including Hounds of Baskerville and Gruesome Playground Injuries. She says that Voices”reminds us of the complexity of our past — and the way that the past continues to shape our daily lives in ways that we may not notice or speak about.”
This year’s music director will be local poet and dramatist Andy Gricevich. Gricevich has performed and composed satirical folk songs, strange political theater, chamber music and poetry all over the country, as a member of the Prince Myshkins and the Nonsense Company, and as publisher of Cannot Exist press. He sees Voices of A People’s History as an opportunity to bring the urgency and challenge of activism to community theater: “Activism needs art, not just as entertainment but as one of its wellsprings,” he says. “Art keeps our political imaginations alive, and Voices of a People’s Historybridges the gap between Madison’s arts and activist communities.”
Rainbow’s second experiment with community theater, Voices is part of a larger effort by staff and volunteers to take the bookstore in a new direction. Colin Gillis, a member of the staff collective at Rainbow and a co-producer for the project, says that this project is part of a larger transformation: “Times are changing for bookstores, and we at Rainbow are working very hard to change with the times — and to change the times when we can.”
Recently, the rise of Amazon, the popularity of digital media formats, and the accessibility of pirated books online have made it increasingly difficult for independent bookstores to survive. Rainbow board member and an instructor in the English Department at UW-Madison Brigitte Fielder says that we shouldn’t forget just how remarkable it is that Rainbow is still around: “Rainbow’s persistence through almost twenty-five years of a rapidly-changing book market is a major accomplishment. Moreover, its continued commitment to offering a carefully-curated selection of radical texts and providing Madison with the kind of space, events, and community support that reaches beyond the general scope of bookselling has been commendable.”
Tickets are for sale at Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative and the East and West locations of the Willy Street Co-op. You can also support Rainbow by sponsoring the show. There are two kinds of sponsorships: individual sponsors and advertisements from local businesses. Individuals can give any amount that’s available to them; those who give $35 or more will have their names printed in the program; donors of $50 or more will receive one of 100 hand-printed posters designed exclusively for the event by local artist and chair of our board, Dan Wang. Businesses can support the show by buying ad space. Our rates are $75 for a quarter page; $150 for a half page; and $300 for a full page.
Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative is a cooperatively owned and collectively managed bookstore, resource center, and media cooperative. We have been located at 426 W. Gilman Street in Madison since 1989.