Blood, Swetz, and Tears

5aa1adf28e138.imageMeet Abigail Swetz, shepherding her 8th grade students safely through a heartbreaking year. Racism, police brutality, homophobic violence: all processed and exorcised by the magic and power of her students’ in-class poetry. Featuring poems written by the students themselves, this solo show embodies a sensitivity and raw honesty that will cut you to the quick—and give you hope for the future.

An UnCommon Core, written and performed by Abigail Swetz running at the 2018 Fresh Fruit Festival MainStage at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street on 7/11 @ 8:30 pm, 7/15 @  1:30 pm makes its New York premiere. More like HER NY premiere … this is a one-woman show.

The 16th Season of the Fresh Fruit Festival promises to be a great one and already began at the top of the year! Powerful nights of staged readings, discussions, and poetry events have been added to All-Out Arts’ Festival of works celebrating the diversity of the LGBTQ Community through live performance.

Here we have art not so much imitating life but sharing it.

14680652_588558591269237_943467997499380686_nYour show is real, so let’s get real. Tell us about yourself as an artist

I believe in the power of stories to change the world.  As a public school teacher and an artist, I bring the story of my classroom and the voices of my students to the rest of the world.

Whenever I used to tell friends about my students, they couldn’t believe the stories were real, that 8th graders could be that insightful.  So I wrote this play.  It may seem unbelievable, but it all really happened, and these students really do exists.  And they are still learning and writing.

So am I.  I’m part student, part playwright, part spoken word poet, part actor, and at heart, I will always be a teacher.

You’re also a hero for bringing such learning to us all. So now, let’s be kids and gossip … share with us a little something about your play that we WON’T see in the press release.

These students are already changing the world with their voices.  Four spoke at the Women’s March on Madison before a crowd of 100,000.  One organized her high school’s walk out for A Day Without Women.  Another serves on GLSEN’s National Student Council.  Another is competing in her fourth Brave New Voices competition later this summer.  Three organized the city-wide high school walkout to protest gun violence.  And all of them will vote within two years.

Kids are far more courageous than I remember when I was one. You’re seeing and telling the story of America through their eyes and thoughts. How does your play resonate today with others? 

Most days, I wake up to feel like our country is falling apart at the seams.  And it’s terrifying.  Then I walk into my classroom and remember that these kids are going to vote one day.  And I know we’re going to be ok.

This play was written about the 2014-2015 school year.  Police brutality, school shootings, campus sexual assault… that was a hard year for hope.  2018 is a harder year  Our country is in crisis.  That’s why we need this play and the hope these students bring me every day even more than ever before.

This play covers a lot of bases. Why did you choose Fresh Fruit for your work?  

 As a queer artist writing a play about a classroom with queer students, I knew Fresh Fruit would be a welcoming place for this story and these students.

Good point. Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?  

The next step will be informed by the play’s reception at Fresh Fruit.  To me, this play resonates today even more than it did when it was originally written, but my audience will tell me what they think come July.  I hope to explore other festivals and the potential for publication, but most of all, I want to produce a performance in Madison so my students can see themselves on stage.

Final thoughts?

I know it’s cliche to say that the children are our future.

It’s also true. And let me just say, the future is bright.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this show. You are yours students are true inspirations. 

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