“Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
The origins of this popular phrase have ironically been misattributed to everyone from Steve Jobs to Pablo Picasso to Igor Stravinsky (it was probably inspired by T.S. Eliot). After attending a panel recently at Revolution Books discussing Daniel Banks’ new anthology Say Word! Voices from the Hip Hop Theater, I think the phrase may need to be updated. In our hip hop era, great artists don’t steal, they (re)mix.
As Ralph Basui Watkins wrote in his book, Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme, “The mix literally became an act of bridging music, but it was also symbolic. Over the next 25 years, hip hop would bring all kinds of music and people together.” Indeed, while the internet often gets all the credit for breaking down old hierarchies and borders, it’s only a platform. The spirit of this remixed, retweeted, revolutionary age of ours can be felt in the beats, rhymes and breaks of hip hop.
At the panel, it was heartening to hear some of the panelists mention TCG as a valued supporter of the hip hop theatre movement, and learn more about the variety of ways that theatres have engaged with its artists and aesthetics. Check out American Theatre articles, “Hip-Hop Visions of an Ancient World” and “Bling, Or Revolution,” and the TCG book, Plays From the Boom Box Galaxy.
Speaking of retweets and revolutions, the next installment of TCG Playwrights in Conversation caught some Twitter fire when @_plainKate_ tweeted Anne Bogart saying, “I’m a great believer in revolutions in small rooms.” If you missed this amazing discussion between Bogart and playwrights Sarah Ruhl and Paula Vogel at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, watch the archived video and check out these newly released books, A Civil War Christmas and Conversations with Anne: Twenty-four Interviews by Vogel and Bogart, respectively.
I’ll leave you with DayRon J. Miles’ moving I AM THEATRE video about what happened when Alliance Theatre (where he is the community engagement & casting associate) brought their work to newly reopened community centers in Atlanta. Here’s to more of these kinds of revolutions being mixed and remixed in small rooms.