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What we need

Hard day yesterday for no real reason other than being a human doing. I could feel all of history compressing me, keeping me from doing the work and play that sustains me. I’m still mad at the Big Bang for accelerating our pace, mad at Manifest Destiny for sanctifying conquest, mad at Ronald Reagan for everything else. Mad.

But then came art in the form of Face Off Theatre Company’s production of Exception to the Rule by Dave Harris, running at the Epic Theatre this weekend. The play takes place in the after school detention room of a high school, where six students are serving time for offenses against school codes of dubious validity. As they tell their stories to one another, we see the full complexity of their lives and how they were set up to fail by a system that was never meant to serve them, a system that was designed to keep them marginalized and under resourced to the benefit of a specific (and specifically White) few.

So it’s part Breakfast Club, part Sartre’s No Exit, and part magical realism. It sounds bleak, I know, but the deft craft of Face Off’s artists breathes love and hilarity into the work. These are highly skilled and dynamic performers, turning from trauma to joy on a dime. They work in true ensemble form, connecting and supporting, growing into the space and then making space for one another. This is a reflection of life.

Not only was the play stellar, but a feature of Face Off’s productions that I always find life-giving is their talk back after the show. Nowhere else in Kalamazoo do I see these conversations happening amongst such an interracially, intergenerationally diverse group, and trust me when I say I’m looking. The generosity of Face Off’s company in hosting these conversations is humbling. These are the necessary moments of change, and Face Off brings them again and again.

So by evening I felt better because I sat in a dark room and watched people genuinely connect with one another around the experience of being human. I felt better because I knew the solution is the collective Us. Reaching each other is the antidote to the acceleration and the conquest and Ronald Reagan and everything else. We are what we need.

I’m deeply grateful to the company of Exception to the Rule and the nearly packed house of folks who showed up and took part in the talk balk conversation for making me a little more whole. You have three more opportunities to get some of this good medicine. I hope you’ll give it a chance.

Exception to the Rule runs 7/14 and 7/15 at 7:30 and 7/16 at 2. Tickets are pay-what-you-wish and can be reserved at

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