Ratting it up in Boston

By Adrienne

On February 21st, an e-mail call went out seeking: musicians, stilters, dancers, jugglers, fire dancers, street performers, sword swallowers, hoopers, improvisers, performance artists, anarchists, radicals, and all other interested, friendly folk. What formed is Boston’s Radical Arts Troupe, better known as RAT. After two months of sharing ideas through a series of irregular meetings, we have begun presenting socially conscious performances in public.

On April 30th, we performed a highly dramatized funeral procession for the most recent victims of violence in Palestine. Our concern was that the deaths of these people, and indeed, the violent demises of non-white people in general, are turned into statistics and dismissed. To humanize these people and commemorate their lives, our visual artists created charcoal drawings of bodies and limbs on cardboard with the names and ages of victims (there were over 100, but we only had the time and resources to represent 30ish). These were laid on a long white sheet of fabric that was carried through the Public Gardens and the Common by four RATs in giant puppet heads of mourning women, the foremost two carrying a sign that read, “US hands not clean.” These four were followed by a ghost on stilts carrying a sign with Palestine’s flag that read “Justice for Palestine,” two drummers of funereal rhythms, and a reader. Proceeding very slowly, the mourning women would stop at periodic intervals, whereupon the four would set down the load of bodies, pick one up, lay it down on the path and set down a shell on the body. The reader would read out the name and age of the victim while the four women silently mourned on their knees. It took close to two hours to cross the Public Gardens and the Common and to deposit and mourn the body of each victim. The many passersby were awed by the solemnity and we received more praise for our work than Zionist condemnations.

The next day on May Day, International Workers’ Day, RAT wanted to make a statement on the ways in which immigration and border enforcement causes migrant workers to live in fear of deportation. We settled on the idea of a tableaux vivant, wherein silent and motionless persons are arranged to portray a scene or incident. Before the crowd on the Common, we set up a box surrounded by a circle of 20 neckties tied together. Four people in masks of anguished, tired faces arranged themselves in this circle. A construction worker stood in the center as an agricultural worker, a textile worker and a domestic laborer stood and crouched motionless around. A fifth person in a Border Patrol uniform carrying a wooden gun and wearing a large mask with a cruel face prowled around carrying a thick, noisy ring of antique keys. As the keys were ominously shaken in the faces of each worker, that person would have to change their position and activity. This continued for about half an hour as curious spectators gathered around to watch. To conclude the performance, Border Patrol tied up each worker with the neckties that had surrounded them and dragged them all away.

RAT is just getting started, though! We have many ideas in store and many performances to plot and share with the world. If you want to be a part of it or want us to be part of your ideas, e-mail talktrash |AT| riseup dot net

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