I think back to the 50s when the Beats appeared. When Ginsberg read Howl and shook up America, liberated poets, gave words to national sicknesses and national yearnings. And there was young LeRoi Jones who would become the "Blessed Prince," Amiri Baraka,
to say clearly, without hesitation, no punches pulled, what the experience was of the Africans who had been kidnapped and taken to American to build its wealth without compensation, acknowledgment, or respect.
The Beats knew something important, that Europe's Germany had built gas chambers to kill millions of Jews, that this "great nation" had made lampshades from the skin of its victims, had pulled all the gold from Jewish teeth to melt down and use. And the Beats
knew that America, the child of Europe and of the "Enlightenment," with "great thinkers" like Jefferson and Franklin, had dropped two atomic bombs on two civilian populated Japanese cities without so much as a whimper of conscience.
This is what the Beats knew. And they knew that literature and poetry, both European and American, for all their beauties and truths, did not stop such atrocities. And worse, did not even provide language to speak them adequately.
And so, they set out to speak the truth, in language everyone could understand. The days when the academies had a stranglehold on poetry and literature were through. They had to be through.
Poetry and literature became of the people, for the people, by the people.
In 2014 we find ourselves in a similar place as the Beats. We witness the murder and violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, here in America, and we still have little to no adequate response from the arts communities. American music, with exception of some worthy Rap, is nowhere, filled with masturbation, adolescent fantasy, desire for greed. American poetry is dominated by ubiquitous MFA mentality, with homogenous language and sensibility, which remains genteel and very much at home with gentrification another word for imposing white values on our communities. American theater, too, is dominated by MFA mentality, which allows for only so much difference, so much expansion of the imagination, so much wild sensibility. It is not by accident that Amiri Baraka was not given tenure at Rutgers and was not on the faculty at Mason Gross. To the contrary, when he wrote an honest, brave poem about 9/11, the poem was intentionally misread and its great truly American author vilified.
This is the scene upon which The American Poetry Theater has made its entrance. Our challenge is to break the mold of mediocrity and standard theater-making. Like the Beats before us, we see that standard American and European logic and reason still lead us to destruction, colonialism, hatred for the poor, fear of the different and original, and hiding behind thick walls of money and greed to protect us from the "hoard."
Meanwhile, this way of being is destroying the very home we all rely upon, the earth. TAPT therefore is heading into the unknown. We will move away from the standard logic of American theater into the world of pure Poetry and Imagination. What the shapes of our plays will be is still unknown to us. We will know them as you will know them. Our theater is a true exploration, into ourselves as artists, and into the heart of America. It is an intimidating journey to be sure, one without easy landmarks and guides. But we vow to undertake this journey, for ourselves, and for you as audience and as citizens of America and of the World. As playwrights, actors, directors, and theater makers, we are still learning what the artistic possibilities are. We are, however, not still learning what the problems of American culture and society are. We know them as painfully as you do. We pledge to address them in our theater.
We need your support.
We are looking for investors, people who will invest time, effort, and money to aid us in our mission. If you want to do any of this and be part of TAPE, contact Uly46@aol.com or at 732-822-4338.
– Rich Quatrone
Founder, The American Poetry Theater
July 17, 2014