Occupy Cleveland Emergency Theatre Collective debuts tomorrow

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Theater of the 99 %
  • Theater of the 99 %

An informal ensemble of Occupy Cleveland members called the Emergency Theatre Collective will present its debut performance at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening in the vicinity of the Occupy tent across from the northwest quadrant of Public Square. The December 17 date commemorates two events: the suicide last year on that date of Mohammad Bouazizi, which touched off the Arab Spring, and the birth of the Occupy movement three months ago, when Occupy Wall Street appeared in New York City September 17.

Joseph Zitt, a writer, musician and member of Occupy Cleveland, has spearheaded the group’s development, from general discussions over the last few months about using art to express Occupy’s ideas to what he says was the quick evolution of this piece after the idea first came up last Sunday night. He describes the approximately hour-long piece as “a secular liturgy,” based mostly around a poetic text he wrote.

“The theme is memorializing the man who set himself on fire in Tunisia, sparking the Arab spring and thereby the Occupy movement,” says Zitt. “We’re going to light candles — light a fire — in his memory and look at the things we’d like to burn from our lives, things like restrictive laws or ID cards, for instance. We’ll be looking at fire as both a destroyer and a bringer of light, lighting the 99 %.”

The performance will be done in the “people’s mic” style that has come to be associated with Occupy, in which one person’s statements are echoed by the full group. Zitt says “roughly six” people will form the core group, but the people’s mic will allow viewers to become part of the performance.

“I wrote this with the intention of it being open to everybody,” says Zitt. “If you can participate in the people’s mic, you can participate in the piece.”

Audience members are advised to dress for the weather — although there is a chance it may be moved indoors near Public Square — but they are promising to provide hot chocolate. — Anastasia Pantsios

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