by ED RAMPELL
national theater community fired its first shot at the incoming Trump regime November 18, when Hamilton’s cast admonished then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence after a performance of the Broadway hit. Ironically, Sue Hamilton — who, who knows, could be a possible descendant of the Revolutionary War icon immortalized in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical — is organizing a stage world revolt against “King Donald.”
“The day after the election, I woke up, like so many of us did, feeling very confused and in shock,” Hamilton says. That night, after watching her 13-year-old daughter in a school performance, a “sense of hope” washed over Hamilton. She phoned her New York collaborator, playwright/director Jessica Litwak, and they initiated Artists Rise Up Los Angeles and its N.Y. counterpart to resist Trump through theatrical performance.
ARULA’s first sold out show, E Pluribus Unum, took place January 31 during the theatre world’s “National Month of Outrage” at North Hollywood’s 360-seat El Portal, with dramatic and humorous skits, songs, and the dance “America,” restaged by a Hamilton hoofer and choreographer.
Now ARULA returns April 18 at Atwater Village Theatre presenting Transparency, Taxes & Tweets, which Hamilton says “is an all-comedy evening.” Headlining the show is “the liberal redneck” Trae Crowder, Tennessee-born co-author of The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark. Also featured is Pakistani-American comic Mona Shaikh — whom LA Weekly dubbed “the naughty Muslim” — and the group The Billionaires for Trump, performing satirical songs spoofing 1-percenters.
Among issues firing up ARULA are proposed federal cuts slashing NEA, NEH, PBS and NPR budgets.
“It’s shocking and frightening,” says Hamilton. “It just proves we have lots of work to do.” Other concerns fueling ARULA include Trump-Pence stances on the LGBTQ community, women, and ethnic minorities — groups disproportionately represented in the creative community.
Hamilton considers these events as not only the start of the healing process, but the start of “the activist process,” explaining that ARULA aims to both educate and bring people together through entertainment — inspiring people to rise up.
ARULA’s shows also fiscally support different causes currently under attack. The debut performance raised money for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. April 18’s production benefits the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based nonprofit civil rights organization that, among other thing, monitors hate groups. “We’re connecting ARULA’s members and audiences with these charitable organizations,” says Hamilton.
Shaikh, who moved near N.Y. from Karachi when she was 15 and evolved from an Off-Broadway actress into a comedian — recently opening for Patton Oswalt at Oxnard’s Levity Live — has been asked to perform in this event after a short documentary about her life was shown at the last ARULA.
“[I’ll be] discussing my Pakistani Muslim background and the modern day tragedy known as ‘Trump’,” she explains. “I love the cause, and what they stand for.”
According to Hamilton, ARULA has 165 members and meets weekly. She also mentions a Chicago version of the event is in the works, as well.
“We’re going to keep going!” she says with confidence. “It’s a very exciting time to be an artist. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to rise up.”
ARULA’s Transparency, Taxes & Tweets takes place 7:30 p.m., April 18, 2017 at Atwater Village Theatre.