Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Rocky Rodriguez Jr: A Nazi Comparison

By | Published on Tuesday 3 October 2017

Producing company Craft Theatre’s latest show is a fast-paced and humorous thriller, focusing on a young woman who becomes disenchanted by the world she lives in when she realises just how manipulative the media is. It seems like a very pertinent and important theme for the times we live in.
To find out more about this show, and about Craft Theatre in general, I spoke to company founder and director of the piece, Rocky Rodriguez Jr.

CM: Can you start by telling us what happens in the show? What story does it tell?
RR: The story is about a woman at university who stumbles upon information that upsets her entire world view. She learns about imperialism, propaganda, western atrocities… things that we don’t tend to talk about often as a society.

She compares her findings with that of the Nazi period and it causes her to change her entire life. She starts to see the pillars of our society as fake. Drops out of uni, joins an activist group and has an adventure… chaos ensues. I’d prefer not to give any spoilers. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s entertaining and informative. It’s intense- and emotional…

CM: What are the aims of the play? What themes and ideas does it explore?
RR: There are problems the West causes around the world that we should be debating and discussing.

As a person grows up in our society, their opinions and their identities become solid, unchanging. But it seems millions of people have the same opinions about particular things, especially in regards to politics – those facts that are rarely discussed and a lot of people don’t search for facts any more, they look for things to confirm their beliefs.

I wanted to make a piece that is honest about our contributions to the horrific state of the world, but also on the walls occurring between people because of confirmation bias.

CM: What source materials did you use in your creation of the play? What kind of research did you do?
RR: Dozens of books, hundreds of web sources, over twelve months of proper research went into this.

I’ve anticipated that some might be a little upset or sceptical about some of the things in the play – so I’ve compiled a sixty-page document with all the references and proper citations. I’ll be making it available to the public on our website.

CM: It’s described as a devised piece. Can you give us an idea of what the creative process involved?
RR: Lots of research around the ideas we discuss as a company and a keen focus on society as it is developing create the concept for a work. Then I, essentially, make a story structure, arc, etc – and the actors use their research to formulate the things they want to talk about through their characters.

Then we push each other to the limit – emotionally and physically – to draw out the purest parts of ourselves, to give to an audience a level of vulnerability they rarely see.

CM: What inspired you to take on this subject, and how did you decide how you would approach it?
RR: Oh someone’s got to bring a breath of fresh air, and a little honesty to all the political spin and warmongering, the ‘justified’ violence. Someone’s got to discuss propaganda. Someone’s got to say “hey, if our society is going to be in perpetual warfare, then I want to know the real reasons for why”. Warfare, resource plundering, climate denial, global refugee apathy – how much do we sweep under the table before we acknowledge that maybe imperialism didn’t end, but just changed masks? How much do we ignore before we discuss that maybe the US is not a force for good on the planet?

CM: Would you regard it as controversial? Is it your intention to be?
RR: In the parlance of our times, unfortunately, facts are controversial. I’m not directly making this piece so that we can cause upset, it’s not the point at all. The point of this piece is to develop our society and our conversation towards more honesty, and solidarity. And to do that we have to look at the past, present, and realistic future – then ‘fess up to some very hard questions. The intention is to widen the debate and strengthen society.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Craft Theatre – what are the ideals and aims of the company?
RR: I started Craft because I wanted to explore how I could develop the work of a group of actors, find greater depth, more authenticity, fearlessness and presence in performance. I wanted to develop the theatre, to see how we can explore real truth and spark conversation, community and connection.

To me, the highest form of art is the creation of community, in other words; what if we could spark a movement of mutual aid and respect between people in this country? Worker to worker, person to person – we are all trapped in the same wage-pseudo-slavery. I don’t want to endlessly discuss nights out or comic book politics, or the new iPhone: life is about more than our egos and money and holidays. I think to move towards that, we need spaces that demand honesty and truth. Then through communion (not the Catholic ritual but an act of genuine solidarity between people), we can find a new fulfilment in our lives.

I think the theatre can be a platform for that, but how we use the theatre has to change. How we make the theatre has to change. It cannot be about directors, or celebrities, or doing the same theatre shows over and over. To create a space that could inspire communion requires a personal dedication towards altruism.

Craft Theatre will do its best to inspire hope through honesty. We will do our best to strip ourselves of lies and cultural manipulations to reveal the deepest parts of the human soul, for you; to dissect and judge and analyse and reflect and be moved, to inspire people to talk to people, to show people they’re not alone in this crazy world; that people care.

CM: What plans do you have for the future?
RR: We just want to keep growing as a company, to create work, perform and participate. We have been running a season which will culminate at the end of March, then we will be looking at opportunities to tour and transfer our work as well as continuing to do what we always do – train hard, develop our practice and refine and develop our voice as a group of artists.

Most importantly, we’re going to unveil an initiative we’re developing that would help connect anyone to causes, volunteering and actions around the country. We realise that there are a lot of people out there that want to volunteer to support other people, like for instance, the Grenfell community. We’re going to help people do that. A platform that helps ‘normal’ people give solidarity.

‘A Nazi Comparison’ is on at Waterloo East Theatre from 3-29 Oct, see the venue website here for details.

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