Hard lessons in theatre of life


September was the first month of living out my joyful New York fantasy. Then came October 9 and my first reality check. Saturday morning New York time and the return of Howard and it was downhill from then. But the street lesson was invaluable.

I’ve been hanging out with protest groups since I got here “ assuming I’d be a welcome addition to Grannies off their Fannies, Billionaires for Bush and Missile Dick Chicks. I can be any of these. I have the appropriate shoes. I also assumed that, in the US which so generously participates in political campaigns in far off lands, this would be perfectly legal – even proper. Yet according to the Federal Election Campaign Act, as a foreign national I am banned from contributing in any way to any election. I and whoever helped me to violate that ban could be jailed.

Defiant, I decided to support Theatre Against War. (I paid cash) Half way through Act One of a dull production my eyes settled on the motionless old man on my left. He seemed overly enthralled “ eyes fixed, mouth open. I diagnosed heart failure, slipped out and alerted an usher. Within seconds the house lit up, anxious babble filled the theatre, confused performers left the stage, rows emptied as the audience scurried toward exit signs. Firefighters arrived, followed by uniformed police and paramedics.

I went out for a smoke. Barrow Street was completely blocked by fire engines and emergency vehicles, traffic was gridlocked, crowds had gathered, press were arriving. The old man was treated on the spot for severe indigestion, advised to go home and the play resumed to a half empty house. People don’t take chances since 9/11.

Meanwhile, a few miles south at Maimonides Hospital, critical patients on trolleys lie three deep in the corridor waiting intolerable periods of time for dubious medical attention. So, lesson learned. Head to the nearest theatre if you feel unwell in New York.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.