Compared with France's short-lived June Rebellion of 1832, popularly immortalized as Les Miz (from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables), resistance movements in the U.S. from 1960s-70s are rarely studied beyond a paragraph in U.S. history textbooks. The era is dismissed in pop culture memes or in narratives narrowed by current politics by subjects in Ken Burns' epic presentation. But this period of radical political and social change altered the course of a nation. Over 15 million people participated in the only mass political movement in the U.S. that succeeded in ending an unpopular war. Every age, race and religion participated, and it was supported by broad participation by civic, political and military groups, such as The Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Fuelled by the escalation of the war and the growing power of the "military industrial complex" that profited from the war, as well as the inspiration of Martin Luther King's vision of the spiritual nature of freedom and "the storm of hope" to end racism and oppression. The huge national concensus, visible from President Johnson's window, was a major factor in ending the war. My favorite book in the trilogy, ROCKED IN TIME: Confessions of a radical theater artist is great fun. It's the story of a cultural foot soldier, pre-internet, using his art to entertain, communicate the state of the nation, and rally the people.
Les Miz is loved for the fight of Law and the political power it serves, and human dignity. The hero of ROCKED IN TIME is similarly inspired by the powerful political plays of German playwright Bertolt Brecht, a kind of guiding light in his work with The San Francisco Mime Troupe, a '60s guerilla theater dedicated to toppling the war machine with pratfalls, punch lines and comic rebellion. He first encounters the legendary group in a Berkeley park. Wildly entertaining Comedia del Arte poked fun at the war and "Whiteface" vaudeville at racism.
Our hero's apprenticeship in ROCKED IN TIME began with the founding director's grueling physical work-outs, which included classical mime and dance training for split-second timing. The author's talents as a musician, designer and performer were put to use in works that were performed in parks and universities, in street forums, concerts, formal auditoriums and political demonstrations. Venues could feature arrest and/or injury, so protecting personnel and equipment was a reason to be fast and nimble.
Mummers marches enlightened audiences, as did controverial "gutter" hand puppets, which dramatized the Black Panthers' bids for housing and education. This serious theater troupe, exposed truths about society and of course had their own failings. There was a corp group, the director Vinnie and the beautiful compelling Olivia and newbies who became corp cadre, like the hero and the lovely dancer-actress Nikki. The politics of the troupe are fascinating, a communal command with a leader. A leading lady forced to deny her strength. While celebrating the 60s search for life's deeper purpose in authentic experience, the author shows that the nascent woman's movement had yet to break through.
Alternative lifestyle experiments in the 60s-'70s led to breakthroughs in media, science, art, architecture, as well as "sex, drugs and rock and roll." Unfortunately, the excesses of the era are better known than the triumphs. Think of freewheeling hit-and-run theater with something serious to say, free stores with clothes, tools, furniture, food and sometimes housing provided by the antimaterialistic Diggers Commune. Think of a nation, linking arms in Marches in cities across the country. The Mime Troupe, an ancestor of Mabou Mines, has yet to be matched for its serious inspiration, effectivenes and pure fun. Read ROCKED IN TIME for vicarious FUN.
— Susan Weinstein