Throughout nine months navigating the shifting landscape of public perception, Occupy Denver has attracted attention, praise and criticism. And for the past two, occupiers have gathered stories in all three categories, which they will funnel this weekend into a two-hour performance light on props and heavy on perspective. In Stories of an Imperfect Movement, occupiers will partner with the Romero Theater Troupe to relive key moments of the movement to date.
The organic-leaning Romero Troupe first visited Occupy Denver during its infancy in October, and the group's cold sleepover that first night initiated a months-long relationship based on their shared interest in social justice. For the past two months, approximately twenty people from both parties have met once a week -- and more recently, thrice weekly -- to draft a performance based on Occupy Denver's short history. The final draft of Stories of an Imperfect Movement features fourteen real-life recollections played out by the same people who experienced them.
Why does the city need both an Occupy Denver and an Occupy Denver play? "It's rare for people on the outside to see from the inside what it's like in this way," says Jason Ball, a longtime occupier involved with the play. Participants hope to share their own perspective and add background about some of the controversy the movement created, he notes. "For a lot of people, it's just what they saw on the news, but for us, it was just a random group of idealistic people who had never met before and are in no way perfect trying to put together this social movement. We want them to see that."
Hence the performance title's emphasis on "imperfect." This is not a glory story. "It was chaotic and messy and not always fun, but there were all these powerful moments we'd like to share," Ball says. " It's not just pro-Occupy. It's showing the vulnerability and flaws of the movement, as well. We hope this makes the movement more real to people."
Split across four themes -- police interaction, general assembly procedures, family relationships and homelesness -- the play draws upon both positive and negative experiences in the occupation's history. In the first scene, an older woman named Janet recalls the first time she visited Occupy Denver in October -- protesters sleeping in box forts, visits from the police -- and why she decided to return. In another, they revisit a caucus in which occupiers met to discuss complaints of gender inequality inside the organization.
And in the final scene, six occupiers reenact the December incident in which a handful of protesters interrupted December's annual vigil for homeless citizens who have died during the past year. Their goal was to speak out against Mayor Michael Hancock -- to question his stance on homelessness -- but the eventual result was a bold statement accompanied by bad publicity.
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"It's a really powerful scene, because one of the brothers of someone who had passed away interrupted the protesters," says Chris Steele, who joined the Romero Troupe three years ago. "He was shouting at Occupy, saying, 'You disrespected my brother. That was the only funeral he was going to get!' We want to show all sides of our history."
Stories of an Imperfect Movement comes to the Aztlan Theatre this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. When the show is over, audience members are welcome to discuss both the play and the movement with organizers. Tickets cost a suggested donation of $5, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Conservative youth plan to occupy Occupy Denver during PrideFest."