MICHAEL: Join us. Our own Haitian Revolution up in here. TOUSSAINT.
Toussaint is known as the Black Napolean, he took charge during the slave revolt in Haiti turning it into the Haitian Revolution against the French. “He helped transform the slave insurgency into a revolutionary movement. By 1800 Saint-Domingue, the most prosperous French slave colony of the time, had become the first free colonial society to have explicitly rejected race as the basis of social ranking.” (wikipedia)
MICHAEL: My point. What I heard was, is: That when people share food. It creates. It builds.
MICHAEL: They need a meal. It’s important to share. Baby monkeys share their meals. BABY MONKEYS
pg 23 + 26
In rehearsal we have talked about how Michael’s views have changed since the Anne meeting. He believes in the greater mission of the school and wants to save it. Him bringing up baby monkeys is a sign of this.
He is referencing an NPR article of which they are some: – Apes Have Food, Will Share For A Social Payoff Bonobos will share their food but only if it involves social interaction and will prefer social interaction with a new bonobo over someone they know. They will not share food if 0 interaction is involved. – What’s Mine Is Yours, Sort Of: Bonobos And The Tricky Evolutionary Roots Of Sharing Bonobos will share food but won’t share tools. If someone is reaching for a tool but can’t reach it, some chimpanzees will hand off the tool(including young ones) but Bonobos won’t. – Why Do You Care About Fairness? Ask A Chimp If chimps do a task and receive a reward they will become upset if another chimp who did the same task receives a smaller or less worthy reward. Sometimes the chimp that received the better reward will throw it away, other times the one with the lesser reward will kick up a fuzz.
What’s interesting about all these articles is that all authors frame “sharing” as an innately human trait that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Implying that not-sharing, hoarding, not having equity is an animalistic trait. In our play, the breakdown of civility and “calm” occurs when people are no longer willing to share – ideas, food, education.
In GREATER GOOD, both Michael and Christine reference the volcano Vesuvius as an image of young black boys finding and explosively using their authentic voices. But this isn’t the only time the play invokes the power of exuberant sound.
Gordon, as head of Gleason Street School, walks us through the way that children loudly playing music invites expression of self, and that the “racket” of such ebullience is fundamental for the growth of the child. In the scene “The Music Lesson; Yes, Mr. Vermeer,” Gordon’s drumming, and the xylophone music played by the audience, are like another Vesuvius — cacophonous and transformational.
GORDON: My brother’s kid has a drum set. Electronic. You practice. By plugging in a headset. You hardly make a peep. My kit. Was so loud. Growing up, the funeral home next door on Huron. Would pay me fifty cents not to play on days they had a service. Other days it was free-for-all. Other days it was the rest of the neighbors saying “That racket” “What is this, Rush?” “You’re getting the hang, finally”. No one will say any of these things to my brother’s kid. Band of one. Alone in his room. Here we say: This racket is what connects and binds and the free-for-all is good. — “The Music Lesson; Yes, Mr. Vermeer,” GREATER GOOD
🥁 🥁 🥁
RUSH, the iconic prog-rock band (1968-2018) known for epic story songs and concept albums, introduced the world to Neal Peart — a drummer considered by many to be one of the greatest artists and technical masters of the form. He is preternaturally fast and precise. And loud. With RUSH’s heyday pegged from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, they’d be a perfect reference point for the neighbors as they yelled at the adolescent Gordon, practicing his drum licks.
Interesting sidebar: the funeral home on Huron (referenced in the excerpt above) is a real place in Cambridge MA, which was just rehabbed and turned into a luxury townhome and put on the market for $2,875,000 😮. (It’s two doors down from a townie pizza parlor. #gentrification)
Anyway. Check out this killer drum solo from RUSH’s Neil Peart!
Mount Vesuvius, the Italian volcano formed by the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, is invoked by both Michael and Christine as a powerful metaphor. Often, in myth and art, Vesuvius stands in for sudden, unexpected, and violent explosions. It’s the volcano that erupted in Ancient Rome and buried the city of Pompeii and all its inhabitants, with barely a warning. When it last erupted in the 1940s, it spewed ash to such an extent that the gas and ash cloud covered the whole of southern Europe. It’s considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, and the force of its eruptions has been estimated to release a hundred thousand times the thermal energy of WWII’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings.
The two Vesuvius references in the play are as follows. Both instances connect to Black children, and in particular Black boys, being silenced …then finding their voices.
Michael, in the scene “Toussaint is a Whisper”:
Whatever your head filled up with was meant to be spat back out. While you sat in your space at that desk. A lot of the time. In third grade. Ms. Watson. Third grade. My head just got too full. Too much would come spilling. Oh my God it would come spilling out. Vesuvius. Sparks, sparks, sparks. But Ms. Watson. Was having none of it. I was sent to the Principal. The nurse. The counselor.
Christine, in the scene “Athena/Reel 3”:
Okay, okay, okay. You know what it is. You know what it is. You want to know what it is. I do believe in volcanoes. I do believe in Vesuvius. You know what I do not believe in? Soccer. Basketball. Motherfucking football. If one more person brings a uniform around my kid I swear to God. You know what it is. That is not I want.