When you have an urgent message about a difficult topic, sometimes the best way to reach the masses is through art. Having a face-to-face conversation about certain topics can be hard, but repackaging the message in a format that is entertaining as well as informative can help break down walls.
Recently we’ve seen performance pieces like Hamilton have success with precisely this approach, combining music and politics in a way that makes us comfortable exploring old topics from a new angle.
San Francisco’s Cat Call Choir is putting on just such a show with Nevertheless, which, through a performance by Kaneisee Collective, explores the themes of gender-based harassment and what true gender equality should look like.
Timely Subject Matter
Arriving at a time when the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are making national headlines, Nevertheless finds inspiration in the dark subject matter of gender and violence.
About 16 young women take the stage for the at-times disturbing, but altogether eye-opening performance. They use their experiences — which include sexual assault cases, memories of gender-based harassment and examples of gender inequality that might have gone unnoticed before — to inform their vocals and choreography.
A teaser video of the production gives a look at some of the performers surrounding a young woman and singing softly — the lyrics of their song are deliberately uncomfortable at times. The video cuts to choreographed pushing and shoving, and then to more comical singing by another set of women, demonstrating the ups and downs of the show.
Because the performers’ real-life stories inform the subject matter, the show is at once powerful and convincing — altogether fitting for a production named in honor of the feminist mantra “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Helping Young Women
It’s not just the message of Nevertheless that will help advance the cause. An all-female art show and reception, showcasing the best from local female artists, was held in parallel to the performance.
Proceeds from the reception — held during Women’s History Month in March — will go to Oasis For Girls, a program that partners with women of color between the ages of 14 and 18 in the area. The program helps provide them the resources they need to pursue higher education and the careers they dream of.
An Effective Format
Nevertheless isn’t the first time song and dance have helped make unsavory subject matter more palatable. In fact, it’s a very popular method.
During the ‘90s, the popular musical Rent used Broadway as a stage to inform the world about accepting LGBT culture. The format of Nevertheless has clear influences in Rent’s positive message about the need to show compassion and acceptance to all fellow human beings.
Even as far back as 1968, politics and music rubbed shoulders in Hair. Yes, the second half of the show is designed to look like an acid trip, but the underlying message still has a lot to say about the frightening truth of being drafted. At a time when the topic was top-of-mind for many Americans, Hair dared to open it up and discuss it.
How to Attend
Nevertheless is directed by Tanya Chianese and Heather Arnett. The world premier runs from April 19 to 22 at CounterPulse in San Francisco.
Hopefully, attendees will come away feeling a little closer to the sensitive topic of gender-based harassment, and perhaps less afraid to speak out about it. You can visit the Cat Call Choir web page to learn more about the production, take a look at other upcoming events by Cat Call Choir and purchase tickets.