Wicked

It was a horrible nightmare. Freedom of speech was curtailed. National leaders iconized and demonized in the winks of eyes. History was treated as flexibly as a fairy tale or a make-believe Sunday matinee. I watched in terror as sweet hoi polloi exploded into a fire-burning pitchforkwielding lynch-mob ready to shred the very same being they had wooed just moments ago.
Meanwhile, those who would speak out have been locked up. The military has been beefed up. And the rest of you had better shut up!
It truly makes the heart and stomach plunge to witness from a comfortably velvetized balcony just how US people … oops, I mean OZ people … were manipulated by the sham wizard. “The people need an enemy” he explains.
And so he and his complicitous media hack turn reality into a twister, obscuring the truth and downright lying about the guilt of those currently filling the glittery shoes of leadership.
How far can this go? How long can this metaphor, this nightmare, continue? Clearly, nobody is encouraged or taught how to think in this world. The few who refuse to go along nicely are either corrupted or destroyed.
And what about you, reader? Do you think? Are you thinking that this is no longer a theatre review and has become a political editorial? Perhaps that is because Oz, Baum and especially the Wizard have always been vehicles for sociopolitical commentary. Novelist Gregory Maguire and playwrights Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman were stepping into rich and dangerous territory when they braved the likes of Dorothy, Boq and the other denizens of Gilliken, Winkie and Quadlinglands.

What’s that? The stage show doesn’t match the movie? Or the books? Or even the novel **Wicked,** upon which it is based? Don’t worry. None of it is really true! It’s all merely pop fiction. And even it weren’t just a uniquely American fantasy metaphor, who decides Witch history is the correct one? Ding Dong!
Regarding Elphaba of the West, the baddest bitch of the silver age screen, well, we are told the secret story of her hideous birth, emerald florescence and enviable end. Forget the “official” version and leave your childhood beliefs behind. We are let in on the true story, if truth really
exists. Wicked suggests, and I agree, that truth is malleable and entirely subjective. Given only a few, spectacularly-lit-yetflimsy gowns of evidence, the smallest fear can billow into a beautiful banshee, filling the stage with amorphous black evil, diaphanous and eerie, truly Defying Gravity and sanity.
The real terror in this world is when people buy into the idea of 100% good or 100% evil. When there is no room for gray (or green), decisions can be hasty and deceptively clear. But in fact, says Wicked, clarity is just another malleable tool, used by the media/reality wizards. Is that so
surprising? Your own Mom probably used the line “Because I said so” to instantly and irrevocably shape your reality with mere verboserocity. Just put on your green glasses and play nicelike … or else!

The language used by these Ozites, especially Goofalinda and Madame Morrible, is delightable and quirkacious, and entirely Baumian; contemporary-ish to the Bowery Boys and certainly a welcome delight when so much theatre seems to go for guttural grit over mental grist.
The costumes in this production were obsessively superb, honoring the cinematic and literarily established flavor of Oz garb — a sort of baroque anything goes formality — and the men dancing in dresses almost make up for the lackluster score. Perhaps if the chorus were more goodly elocuted and audibillable over the underwhelming  orchestration they would stand out better. Or maybe the tunification was a bit unispirable. Oh sure, it was all Wonderful (and yes, I cried at the end, ok?) but the real strength of this particular production was not musical. It was verbal and philosophical.
Stephanie J. Block is a splendid icky-witch, instantly endearing us all to the Scourge of Munchkinland. Margaret Hamilton would no doubt be delighted that her character has been repainted as an odd beauty with a honorable soul and the “hottest” of boyfriends, would-be Winkie King Sebastian Arcelus. Perfect Kendra Kassebaum no doubt fabulously glistens even out of costume, and somehow outrageously lampoons Glinda the Good without actually destroying the fragile eggshell of confidence and security that we remember so well from Billy Burke’s twittering blip. One thing is for sure, after this, watching Judy’s slippered sachet down the golden lane will never be the same.

Which witch are you with? Wicked asks: when you to look into the mirror do you find the protector of free speech with a beryl pallor, or do you see the bubble-wrapped fuchsia bimbo of Popular-ity? Doors open, doors close, people change and make decisions that may or may not be good. It just depends on how you look at it. Life and love are complex, and you are in big bad trouble if you don’t try to see things from many different points of view.

There’s also this curious Miss Piggy/Kermit lesbian love undercurrent that runs through the musical production of Wicked. The sweetest ballad by far is “For Good” sung not between hetero love interests but by Gay-Linda and the Wicked One herself, proving beyond dispute that pink and green are complimentary polarities just as black/white, good/evil, truth/whatever.
Wicked exonerates Elphaba, sort of. In the end she becomes obsessed with power and those fabulous shoes.
More importantly Wicked also implicates Galinda, and her gaggle of ignoramus sycophants, Dancing Through Life and willingly accepting pablum, coverups and happy untruths as the price of “party-on” simplicity. Could they have it any other way?
It is a fabulous, exotic and terrifying dream to be stuck in. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dodo, and if only I could just wake up with Dorothy, everything would be Wonderful.

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Is this the Age of a New Big Brother

History should remind gays and lesbians about the dangers of
the government’s secret spying on American citizens.
By Mubarak Dahir
THERE WAS A LOT OF nervous energy around the military recruiting
tables at the University of California at Santa Cruz last April.
About 300 students from the campus group, Students Against
War, had shown up as part of a protest to focus attention on the
military’s discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian soldiers.
That day, the students, many of whom were gay or lesbian, had
gathered in hopes of highlighting the military’s unfair rule about gay and
lesbian military personnel, and thus preventing other students from
talking to or signing up with Pentagon representatives.
Those gathered that day began by circling the tables occupied
by the military recruiters. They conducted what they called
an “anti-military teach-in,” handing out information on topics
ranging from the detrimental effects of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”
to their opposition to the war in Iraq.
According to the protestors, they succeeded in blocking
virtually any enlisting efforts by the Pentagon, and the military
recruiters left in frustration.
About six months later, in October 2005, tensions on
campus were running much higher. Members of Students
Against War had gathered to stage yet another rally against
military recruiters on campus. This time, in order to draw specific
attention to the unfairness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” about two
dozen students had entered the building where military recruiters
were set up, and held a same-sex kiss-in. An additional 200
students gathered in a rally outside the building.
But due to all the attention and success of the previous
protest, the university deployed heavy security to the site, and
barred cameras and signs from inside the building. The administration
explained it wanted to carefully monitor the event.
They weren’t the only ones with watchful eyes. As first
reported by NBC, it turns out that the Pentagon was involved in
secretly spying on the student protestors at Santa Cruz. Press
reports have revealed that military documents describe the
protests as a “credible threat” of terrorism that could compromise
national security.
And the Santa Cruz protestors aren’t the only ones under the
Pentagon’s Big Brother gaze.
IN FEBRUARY 2005, ABOUT 60 people gathered to protest
military recruitment at New York University law school. For years,
students had opposed military recruiters on campus, specifically
because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The protests were
organized by the gay and lesbian student law group, OUTLaw.
Though no OUTLaw protest has ever resulted in harm or
injury to anyone, or even an arrest, the secret Pentagon report
on the incident classified the group as “possibly violent.”
Add to the list of government terror suspects worshippers at
a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla.; demonstrators from
the Broward Anti-War Coalition who assembled outside a military
recruiting office at a strip mall in Lauderhill, Fla.; protestors
handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of a
Halliburton office in Houston as a way of highlighting what they
say is the company’s “war profiteering” from food contracts to
the military in Iraq; members of People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, who were organizing a vegan conference by distributing
vegetarian starter kits at the University of Indiana; the
Catholic Workers Group, a Los Angeles-based organization that
believes in civil disobedience and protest through prayer; and
people involved in the political party, Greenpeace.
All of these people have ended up on what only recently
became disclosed as the Pentagon’s secret spying program,
known by operation code name TALON, short for Threat and
Local Observation Notice. What’s more frightening is that a list of
probably unknown thousands of other innocent and peaceful
Americans are also on the list. It’s part of a larger, alarming pattern
of secret spying on American citizens by our own government.
THE PENTAGON’S SPYING EFFORTS CAME to light on the
heels of a report by the New York Times that revealed another
domestic espionage program: Since 2002, President Bush has
authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on phone
calls and e-mails of American citizens in the United States
without obtaining a warrant from a special surveillance court.
This order was given despite a law that specifically prohibits the
government from taking such action.
In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act, which prohibits the government from spying on Americans
without obtaining a warrant from a special secret court.
It’s not difficult to get the needed warrant: In the history of FISA,
only five requests for domestic spying have ever been denied.
Under FISA, the government is allowed to conduct warrantless
surveillance of Americans within the first 15 days of a war. It
can even go ahead and immediately start spying on suspected
terrorists, and file for the warrant afterwards.
So there is no acceptable rationale for the government to be
engaged in illegal spying on American citizens. It is a grave threat
to our political freedoms and the freedom of speech that most
of us take for granted.
AS AMERICAN CITIZENS, AND PARTICULARLY as gay and lesbian
people, we would do well to remember just why FISA was enacted.
In the McCarthy era, the government kept long lists of “suspected
Communists,” and used that information (much of it
erroneous) as a way to manipulate and control political dissenters.
In the 1960s, political protestors, including civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr., were routinely under surveillance. The
government at times tried to use this information in a game of
political blackmail, threatening to disclose personal details collected
from spying on activists as a way to dissuade them from
their political activity.
And during the Vietnam War, the government routinely
collected information against American anti-war protestors who
were deemed “un-American” and “un-patriotic.”
The government has a long history of spying on gay and
lesbian political activists, too.
In 1961, the FBI investigated meetings of the Mattachine
Society, one of the country’s first organized gay rights groups. In
1965, government agents took photos of protestors at the first public
demonstration of gay and lesbian people in front of the White House.
And old-time activists still remember the days when the FBI
routinely followed them around.

Luckily, at least one gay group realizes the gravity of being
spied on by the government, and how it can cast a chilling
effect on free speech and political activity.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington
D.C.-based group that fights the military’s ban on gay soldiers,
has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn if it or other
gay groups are being spied on by the Bush administration.
The president and his apologists already have come up
with all kinds of convoluted excuses for why he is flaunting the
law and ordering illegal spying on Americans. But we should see
through this dangerous power play and insist that our government
stop undermining the Constitution. The government has
no legitimate reason to spy on citizens without court approval.
Secretive surveillance is a dangerous tool that can too easily lead
to squashing political dissent and unpopular political speech.
Santa Cruz students kissing members of the same sex in
front of military recruiters is no threat to our security or
freedoms. But a government that spies secretly on such
displays of political protest certainly is.

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