These are urgent political times, says Katie Maltais, managing director for Curious Theatre, whose company is unwilling to wait until its next season to start blasting President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies.
In a world where people are overwhelmed by how to respond to what some worry will soon become an Orwellian future, "You have to do something, and you can't just stop and be overwhelmed," Maltais says.
Maltais and the rest of the company are producing Building the Wall, a play written by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan in the two weeks leading up to the inauguration.
"This was his protest. He wrote it super-fast, right before the inauguration, and had it circulating immediately out to the artistic community," Maltais says. "Really, the power of this piece is that it is happening right now. We don't have the luxury of saying, 'Let's wait until next season and then put this out.'"
The play looks at where Trump's promised mass deportation of immigrants could lead. "It's a pretty terrifying look at what could happen as things spiral out of control, and it's a rallying cry for people not to be complacent in this moment," adds Maltais.
While Curious Theatre is no stranger to political controversy, the 501(C)3 is taking a legal risk putting on this production because nonprofit organizations are restricted from electioneering and electoral advocacy. Though election season is over and it is rare for groups to be challenged on these points, some in the arts community fear that Trump will harshly enforce the rule when nonprofits criticize him.
"Curious is no stranger to doing work that is political, that leans into social-justice issues," Maltais says. "It's certainly not new to the artistic community. Art has been a form of protest and advocacy for thousands of years."
The company has not billed this production as part of its regular season, and is fundraising for it separately from its general operating expenses. "It doesn't say, 'Vote for this person or vote against this person.' It's looking at an Orwellian-style future."
Schenkkan, the playwright, plans to come to Denver for opening night.
Says Maltais: "This is his protest, and he wants to make sure it gets out there and gets out there in the right way."
The show runs April 4 through April 19. For more information, go to the Curious Theatre website.
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