It Takes a Village is the title of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s 1996 bestseller about the impact individuals and groups have, for better or worse, on a child’s growth. In Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus El Rey, a child is abandoned by his father and raised within the community. His fate leaves us with a troubling question: what happens to the child if the village is sick?
This was one of many provocative topics discussed during the “Mammoth Forum” this past Saturday. The spirited post-performance discussion, moderated by Woolly’s Connectivity Director Rachel Grossman, featured audience members and three guest speakers: Madye Henson, President and CEO, Greater DC Cares; Rebecca Renard, Teens of Distinction Program Coordinator, DC Public Library; and Bill Chandler, Jail Case Management, Visitors’ Services Center (VSC).
These speakers made clear that Washington, DC, as a village, offers many services to help raise individuals. For disaffected youth like Oedipus, the DC Public Library is an example of a “safe space” which provides staff and computers to help individuals learn and find jobs. For people like Oedipus who are in or newly released from jail, the VSC offers counseling and resources to help them transition back into society. And for individuals who have the ability to help others, Greater DC Cares connects volunteers with community service groups.
Yet the forum’s speakers and audience also made clear that Washington, DC, like any village, does not provide all of the answers. Why are we not devoting more resources to nonprofits like the VSC, when roughly two-thirds of people released from jail are returning to crime (like Oedipus), going back to jail, and costing us even more? Why do millionaires in our community accept thousands of dollars in tax breaks, but simply watch as funding is eliminated for mentoring programs that serve prisoners and children of prisoners (like Oedipus)? Does jail reform and improving prisoners’ lives give them the freedom to change course? What does?
Alfaro’s Oedipus el Rey is a call to action about the power of a community to shape an individual and build a better society. But again – what happens if that community is misinformed? What happens if you are raised without the love of a mother? What happens if the strongest community you know is your fellow inmates? What happens if you have free will, but you don’t know it? Are you to blame for your actions? Are you blameless?
Join Woolly for a performance of Oedipus (now through March 5th, with Mammoth Forums like this after every Saturday matinee), and strip your subconscious thoughts about right and wrong. Think about Oedipus’ life journey, and think about the responsibilities of his parents, his community, and Oedipus himself. Think about whether Oedipus truly was fated, or whether the cycles that controlled his life could have been broken. Because este hombre, Oedipus, might be a man whom you can help.
~Eric Colchamiro, Claque Member and Oedipus el Rey Connectivity Working Group Member