Empty on Empathy
By Katie Maltais, Managing Director
I’ve had the song “Que Bonita Bandera” in my head for weeks now. Since the very first rehearsal of The Happiest Song Plays Last, in fact. The song is a classic Puerto Rican protest song, which sounds like an infectious celebration. As I marched with 200,000 other women, children, and men last weekend at the Women’s March on Washington – Denver, that song kept popping into my head. As I saw everyone around me last Saturday trying desperately to be a part of something – to be heard, I was struck by the feeling that what we are doing here – at Curious – is hugely vital to our divided community today.
America is empty on empathy. Lack of desire to understand and appreciate differences has led to this spiral of divisiveness and hate rhetoric I see every day in my news feed. I know theatre is the tool to help refill that empty empathy tank. As I was recently reminded, for thousands of years theatre has been how people learn about the “other”. It is an important – no vital – part of our society. Theatre can provide a platform for marginalized people to share their stories so others can see the world the way they do – if only for a moment.
In December, I was truly honored to represent Curious at a reception for grantees of the LatinasGive, a giving circle that focuses on strengthening the Denver Latino community through intentional investment. There were seven organizations funded by this incredible group of women. As each got up to accept their grant and tell a bit about themselves, I was humbled by the work done by these amazing groups. From Towards Justice, working to end wage theft and demand fair working conditions for minorities, to Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic, who provides pro bono legal services for immigrants, I was staggered to be among them. As I accepted the check on Curious’ behalf, I was truly inspired. LatinasGive had seen in Curious a powerful tool for furthering their mission and advancing the issues that matter most to them as Latinas in Denver.
Curious is at the intersection of social justice and theatre. LatinasGive “got” that. We use theatre to speak to our world – to better understand the “other” as well as ourselves. When I tell people I work at a theatre, they usually think of dazzling costumes or flashy song and dance numbers. I love a big Broadway musical as much as the next gal, but there is something truly powerful about the work Curious does – about the kind of theatre that demands a talkback after every show so audiences can chew on an idea together.
The Happiest Song Plays Last tells stories of activism and community engagement that are just what we need right now – a reminder that we all can do something to make our world better, from offering a bowl of soup to those in need to joining a protest. This play inspires me each time I see it.
I see the urgency of this play. Of theatre. Right now. Today. Our world needs to hear stories not of generations gone by lamenting the need for smelling salts, but of living, breathing families struggling to navigate life today.
I hope you will join us. Whether as a ticket buyer attending this show or as a donor who supports our ability to do this type of urgently needed work. Join us. We need you. America needs you. We need empathy, understanding, and –of course– curiosity.
For more tickets or information about The Happiest Song Plays Last, click here.