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Theater and the repetition of history

In 1905 George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” a phrase that has been invoked in various other forms ever since by leaders and activists alike. TWILIGHT Director David M. Jenkins argues that perhaps even those who do learn/remember history *still* repeat it as part of human nature. He doesn’t think that’s a reason to just throw your hands in the air and not bother to better us, quite the contrary, it’s one of the reasons he believes so much in the power of art and of storytelling.
 
When we come together to bring the past to life, we can gain valuable new perspectives and understandings. Not just of what was once, but what is. Learning about our history can increase our sense of pride and expose our shame. Jenkins invokes literary theorist Kenneth Burke’s notion that every perspective necessarily creates its own blind spots, and that art perhaps above all else has the power to allow us to see things from a different point of view.
 
That’s not to say the goal is to change the viewer’s orientation but to add to it — giving us an understanding that allows us to move forward with some kind of cooperation.
 
Now more than ever we need to learn from our past if we hope to understand our present and work together for a better future. Sometimes that might be uncomfortable, and sometimes that means listening to a perspective we don’t agree with. The theater remains one of the few spaces where this kind of work can happen, and we’re excited to share a show that offers 27 different perspectives on the 1992 LA uprisings: what set them off, what they were about, and what was lost and gained because of them. This is “documentary theater,” where each real-life person is presented in their own words, and it’s up to the audience to make of this “cacophony of voices” what they wish.
 
Jenkins, also an Instructor in the USF Judy Genshaft Honors College, is known for telling students “I don’t care what you think, I just care that you think.”
 
TWILIGHT: Los Angeles, 1992 is on stage at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Aug. 16-27. To help celebrate Jobsite’s most successful season, Tampa Bay theater fans can get $20 tickets to any performance using code TBTFAN.

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