Have you heard of Rabbi Joachim Prinz? Probably not. In August of 1963, he and Martin Luther King, Jr. were among the ten leaders of the March on Washington. Preceding King to the platform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before King declared his dream to the world, Prinz delivered a stirring speech against silence in the face of injustice. It was an expression of his life-long commitment to equality and tolerance.
“Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept,” he said. “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ‘.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
This past weekend, more than 50 years later, women across the nation marched on Washington once again. And on the Thursday prior to marching, on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, the Fountain Theatre made a pledge. It would not be silent.
Streaming live on Facebook, the Fountain joined 728 other theaters in all 50 states who gathered outside theaters nationwide to create a “light” for these dark times ahead. The Ghostlight Project offered theater artists and patrons the opportunity to renew a pledge to stand and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
The Fountain Theatre joined theaters across the country to reaffirm and declare our commitment and solidarity to provide safe, brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. List of participating theaters in ALL 50 STATES
What is a ghostlight? When our theaters go dark at the end of the night, we turn on a “ghost light” – offering visibility and safety for all who might enter. This is our theatrical tradition and the inspiration for this national event. Like a ghostlight, the light we created on January 19th represents our commitment to provide safety, a safe harbor, for everyone. To resist intolerance at all levels.
Fountain folk were asked to make signs, affirming “I Am” and “I Fight For”. Take a look.
On Thursday night, a crowd of Fountain Family members — actors, directors, stage managers, patrons and supporters — gathered outside the theatre at exactly at 5:30pm to join the live feed on Facebook. A statement was read by Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, and the group switched on the portable lights they were asked to bring, in symbolic gesture of adding light into the coming darkness.
The ceremony continued inside. Morlan Higgins played guitar and sang a song by Woody Guthrie. Stephen Sachs listed three Fountain productions of plays that dramatized the issues of tolerance, equality, and inclusion. My Mañana Comes brought to life the struggle of immigration, The Ballad of Emmett Till shed light on racism, and the The Normal Heart articulated the fight against AIDS and social prejudice in the gay community. Stephen then introduced cast members from these productions, each performing selections giving voice to these themes. It was very powerful and moving.
Quoting Rabbi Prinz, Sachs then announced the Fountain Theatre’s pledge that it “will not be silent.” He then instructed the group to once again switch on their portable lights, as he turned on the Fountain ghostlight that stood on stage, as a beacon of hope.
The Fountain ceremony ended with everyone joining Morlan on guitar and singing together the lively gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine”. Afterwards, the group gathered upstairs in the cafe for excited conversation, pizza and beer.
It was an inspiring and joyous evening. Like the light we shine, we will carry our pledge forward into the new year, and the years forever after. We will not remain silent.