Victoria Fringe Festival 2017 – Inauguration Vacation
Review by Niko Mumford – Showbill.ca Staff Writer
August 29, 2017
In Inauguration Vacation, Annette Roman, a storyteller and teacher based in Berkeley, California, provides a funny and enlightening commentary on protesting in the Trump era. Roman’s reflections on her participation as a counter-protester in the Battle of Berkeley in April 2017, a pre-cursor to Charlottesville for white supremacists and neo-nazis in the United States, introduces the piece. Following is a stark contrast between the overwhelming joy felt at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008, and the defeat and dread felt by protesters at Trump’s inauguration earlier this year. Roman explains that her parents are what drive her to show up to protests: her mother, who lived through second World War Berlin, and her father, a Jewish man who survived Hungary during the Holocaust. Through personal accounts, puppets, and protest signs, Roman provides a fascinating perspective on anti-fascist activism, critical thought, and surviving as a Leftist in Trump’s America.
Roman introduces her activism as a self-identified straight, white woman as a way of honouring her parent’s legacy and acknowledging her privilege as a driving force behind her choice to take a stance against oppression. Although Roman’s personal reflections of protests are harrowing, these memories are approached with wonder and confusion, bordering on trivialisation. As well, she acknowledges Antifa, but is remarkably tight lipped on the fight of queer, disabled, and people of colour to defend their most basic human rights. Roman attempts to analyze the divisiveness of the Left, but in doing so makes some fairly harmful comments about how the trans community’s folks asking for having their pronouns respected is too confusing to her, jokingly stating, “no wonder the right hates us!”
Bringing forward the example of the “pink pussy hat,” a symbol of the Women’s March, as another point of needless contention, Roman seems oblivious to the inherent racism and transphobia these hats represent. Roman also comments on the betrayal she felt at meeting a gay republican man, not due to his failure to acknowledge queer oppression, but due to her belief that as a cisgender, white liberal, she was personally responsible for gay liberation in America. Once again, it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge that in reality the queer rights movement was spearheaded by queer and trans women of colour, not modern day white feminists.
Though Roman does provide a unique perspective as an individual participating actively in anti-oppressive protest, she unfortunately includes language that alienates some of the demographics that are the most vulnerable to violence in Trump’s America. Even if unintentional, or included for comic relief, a re-evaluation of this content for future runs would be beneficial.
Inauguration Vacation provides an in depth exploration of the importance of avoiding complacency in times of state-sanctioned oppression. Though her commentary is at times carelessly dismissive, Annette Roman does provide a valuable perspective through her unapologetic storytelling. Her stories provide a true account of the fierceness required to interrupt violence and white supremacy, and the responsibility that those with privilege hold to disrupt hate speech and oppressive behaviours. Roman’s personable and funny delivery goes well with the difficult subject matter presented. A challenge to its creator would be to provide a deeper exploration of the root causes of oppression and violence, and a less surface-level analysis of conflict amongst the Left that does not reproduce oppressive speech.
Although Inauguration Vacation falls short of revolutionary, it is a well-intentioned offering to those seeking a closer look at the reality of living as an activist in Trump’s America.
Created by Annette Roman
Victoria Fringe Festival
Venue 6 (Fairfield Hall)
- Sept 1 @ 7:15pm
- Sept 2 @ 12:30pm
- Sept 3 @ 7:30pm