Change does not happen in a vacuum; context is everything. I think I have a good memory. I do not. When first asked to write these Notes I started diving into all sorts of reminiscences that seemed to associate with this play. Off the top of my head, I had to admit that I was only threading with fiction.. Luckily, I keep a journal –and have been doing so since I was 13 years old. I went to one particular well stacked pile of books, took up the top Journal and opened it –only to be struck at the fact that the book’s first page was titled “America Rex”.. It turns out that the work you are about to see did not start as a play, but as a state of mind – a place of America in 2002. I at least got that right: America Rex began in 2002. I labeled the journal as such, already being witness to a year of how the leadership of the Bush II Presidency was using a paucity of words in articulating a new dimension of national grief, anguish, fear, and eradication of compass.. The opening entry in the Journal is dated “October 7th, 2002”. I read of myself, musing upon a gift a friend has given me, having just returned from London with a copy of a Saturday insert from The Guardian, titled: “Rome, AD … Rome, DC?” written by Jonathan Freedland. I note in my Journal that “The tag carries two photos opposite one another: one, Rome and the colonnade steps of the Senate – the other, Washington, DC and the colonnaded rotunda of Congress. Inside there is a photo of Bush – in gold breast plate armor and purple skirt of an Emperor of Rome – his thumb ‘down’ – standing in front of a balustrade that is draped in Imperial Purple…” And out of that, comes my own digression towards what will become paradigm for a play: ..”America is being run by a nest of bullies”, stitching themselves “into a suffocating chrysalis – ending any view of light, or promise, until we have metamorphosed – into our destruction, or into the future, is uncertain. What are we meant to become”..? I pull down another Journal. It is from 2003, and details a first trip to Australia. Beyond initially touching this, I do not need to be reminded of the significance of the trip, or the impact on my consciousness and creativity during a particular visit to a Melbourne gallery of Indigenous Art. I remember distinctly: standing in front of a work of art which detailed a presence of Dreamtime .. that drew me into thinking along concepts of arts disciplines, meshed, and representing dynamic relationships between earth -dream -knowledge -journey. I came away from that glimpse of possibilities, gestating something that could frame ‘an inclusive sandbox’, in which to offer scaffolding for a theatrical work – a work which I then consciously hoped would not only speak to global culture, but inform a wider conversation of what might be done with theatre and a black box. America Rex, the play, is the result of that ambition. Begun in 2002, it was completed in 2003. Now a full 16 years on from the first thoughts of this work, its premise is more relevant than ever, while its relationships of power articulate contemporary institutional and global fears of “otherness”. But it is the component of journey that makes this work the right frame for Dione Joseph’s vision of wisdom and warning which results in its being “a call for a return to indigenous ways of knowing and belonging”.. “..located in a te ao Māori context that boasts a diverse eleven strong New Zealand cast and an indigenous team of Creatives descending from Zimbabwe, Caribbean, India, Sri Lanka, USA, UK, Ireland, Samoa and of course, tangata whenua.” Context is everything, as change cannot happen in a vacuum.
Opening Scene of the Tour Float Tourists - David Capstick, Ruth Capstick, James Maeve, Carl Drake, Chris Auva'a, Mustaq Missouri, Joseph Wycoff, Kacie Stetson, Mel Odedra, Graham Vincent/AMERICA REX, Showcase Performances at TAPAC, 29th - 31st August 2018, New Zealand; JK Productions & Ahi Karunaharan; photo by Michael Loh
AMERICA REX, closing night Cast & Jimmy Kouratoras, Original Artwork and AV Design - Otis Donovan Herring, Choreographer and Movement - Tom Minter, playwright - Dione Joseph, Director/AMERICA REX, Showcase Performances at TAPAC, 29th - 31st August 2018, New Zealand
I am grateful for all who gather to see this work, Dione’s vision, and the incredible and empowering coalition of Production Family, Creatives and Artists who share in the premiere telling of this story. JK Productions have put-up a 90 second video clip of the performance - have a view! Thank you. tkm/dc August 2018