What we mean when we say satire

What we mean when we say satire

Comments during Petitions and Public Comments at Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting

October 30, 2019

See video of this commentary, delivered to Council by cast to describe our process and define our approach to satire

Good evening, Mayor and Council. We are here together this evening representing the cast and crew of “Affordable Housing: The Musical.” Hopefully you all received our invitations to the premiere of this original musical on November 23rd and 24th, produced in partnership with Carolina Performing Arts. Many thanks to those of you who already bought tickets, we are looking forward to having you at the show! We came tonight with the intention of inviting all of you in person, but between the time we planned this visit and this moment, our tickets actually sold out! We do have a waiting list though, which we encourage you to sign up for at affordablehousingmusical.org, in the event that any of our guests’ plans change.

We also wanted to share a little bit about the show with you, and where it came from. 

Over the course of the last 15 months, our 30-person cast collectively created this musical. 

The show is set in the fictional town of Church Mound, but it’s fair to say that from start to finish in its development, the production is based on realities that people have faced living here in Orange County.

We took a multitude of experiences witnessing local government processes in regards to affordable housing, combined them, stirred them up, and put a magnifying glass to them — specifically, a magnifying glass held by those who are facing the consequences of the lack of housing here.

In the musical’s stories you’ll see references to current issues of political debate in Orange County, including the use of public land for affordable housing, dialogue with developers about affordability, and what it means to make affordable housing a priority. 

You’ll also see stories portraying real experiences of living on the streets and in the shelters here in Chapel Hill, and the felt urgency of many that “something has got to give.” The premise for this musical was inspired in part by the experience of advocating for affordable housing in Orange County, and just how insufficient 3 minutes at the microphone at a public meeting is when trying to convey the gravity of the experience of homelessness and housing instability. To that end, this musical is an outpouring of stories to illustrate our affordable housing crisis in a new way, an outlet for dismay at the pace of change, and an outcry for a greater sense of urgency. 

This musical is also a joyful and (we think) pretty funny satire. When you see it, we hope you can feel just how much fun we had making this piece of theater. Our cast tooks its frustration, disappointment, and rage and transformed all of that, through theater, into joy, laughter, and powerful storytelling.

A couple notes on what we mean when we say this is satire:

  1. First, This is not satire like Saturday Night Live is satire. Our actors portraying Council members are NOT mimicking any of you specifically. We wanted to be clear and specific with you about that, because when you see the show, we don’t want the thoughts of how this might be portraying you personally to get in the way of your ability to experience the fullness of the musical’s narrative. We invite you to see this not as a mockery of any of you individually, (as that is not how it is intended), but as a reflection of all of us together. Through the magical mirror of musical theater, we hope to show you (and a lot of other people) a different way of reflecting on what so many of our community members experience.
  2. Secondly, You will see situations that feel familiar. And, because of these parallels, you might wish you could interject, to point out where we have left out critical context, glossed over crucial points, or flat done something different than reality. As satire, we were not looking to be “correct” in the purest sense of the word, but to use the form of theater to explore and explode the trends, connections, and common debates that make the affordability issues facing Chapel Hill all too universal across our region and our country.

So, as we invite you, we hope you approach it both with the lightness of satire, and with the seriousness that we are all implicated in this. We hope, by seeing these perhaps familiar stories in a new way, that we will all leave with a new lens through which to reflect back on our own community and the part we can all play in making affordable housing a reality. 

Lastly, if you are not able to attend the show because of other commitments or our sold out status, but would like to see what all this buzz is about, we encourage you to visit affordablehousingmusical.org and donate, as we are currently fundraising in order to be able to film and distribute the show.

Thank you for your time!