Playing Trump: ‘Not Normal’ series takes on the Prez • Brooklyn Paper

Playing Trump: ‘Not Normal’ series takes on the Prez

Not normal eyes: Activist Elliot Crown, dressed as Donald Trump roughing up Lady Liberty, welcomed visitors to the launch of “Not Normal,” a political performance series running at Irondale in Fort Greene through March 24.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

No puppet? He’s the puppet!

A full-size puppet figure of President Trump welcomed visitors to the opening of “Not Normal: Art in Resistance in the Time of Trump” last week. The month-long performance series, where artists show cartoons, sing protest songs, and act out their opposition to the Trump administration, plays at Irondale in Fort Greene through March 24, giving performers of all kinds a much-needed showcase to vent their frustrations with the new political regime, said one of the series producers.

“We were all devastated, we couldn’t ignore how it’s affecting us as artists,” said Rivka Rivera, who lives in Cobble Hill. “Irondale, in its history, has always been a very political theater company and always had the belief that our jobs as artists is to respond and create a space for conversations and dialogue when anything is happening in our world and our community.”

Each night of the series features several different performances, including short plays, songs of protest, monologues, dances, and lectures. The works fall into two broad categories, said Irondale’s artistic director Jim Niesen — bitterly humorous takes on the administration, and uplifiting pieces that seek to inspire citizens.

The first category includes “the sort of realm of ‘Saturday Night Live’ things, more satirical, just feisty, and the second is more inspirational — there is still good going on around you,” said Niesen, who lives in Boerum Hill.

One example of the latter, on March 11, is a group of women who will sing about James Hamlet, a Williamsburg resident who was freed from slavery in 1850 after the efforts of local abolitionists.

The series launched on March 4, with the audience welcomed by a full-size figure of President Trump holding a broken-winged eagle in a cage. The creator of the puppet said that striking visual art is one of the best ways to get people talking.

“I’ve been doing protest puppets for a while, it’s a great way to get people’s attention, bring attention to issues. I’ve brought him to a dozen demonstrations, people really enjoy him, people light up,” said Elliot Crown, who lives in Manhattan. “Satire is very powerful and I’ve used him to make comments about [Trump’s] sexism, about his ban on Muslims, about the environment. And the hope is that an image can get deep into people’s memories and imaginations and make them want to know more and think more about an issue.”

But the new president has an upside, too, said Crown — he has mobilized artists to create new work and to take a stand against him.

“In general, artists are really the last people to engage in political matters and it’s really wonderful now that Trump has turned out to be such a good organizer and get everybody to do things and to show up,” he said. “People have to stand up, and now is the time.”

“Not Normal: Art in Resistance in the Time of Trump” at the Irondale [85 S. Oxford St. between Lafayette and Greene avenues in Fort Greene, (718) 488–9233, www.irondale.org]. March 10–11, 17–18, and 22–24 at 7:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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