After Sunday’s tragic shooting in Orlando, I felt sad and angry. I wasn’t sure what to do. When it came up in conversation, I felt lost and frustrated. I wanted to come together to express love and tolerance, but as with every shooting in our country, the unity and solidarity is tainted by the fact that we have a culture which divides us, not unites us. Even in the thoughts and prayers and calls to action in honor of the victims, there were arguments over gun control, homophobia and ISIS.
On Monday night, I attended the Shakespeare Theater Company’s 14th annual “Will on the Hill” event – a fundraiser for the organization’s artistic, educational and community outreach programs where Members of Congress, Senators and D.C. insiders come together regardless of party or political beliefs to perform scenes from Shakespeare and make jokes about contemporary politics. Initially, I felt weird going to a fancy fundraiser instead of one of the many candlelight vigils, but Will on the Hill was the best therapy – and perspective on what really matters – I could ask for.
After a short reception (featuring soup shooters called “soup sips,” which made my sister laugh uncontrollably), the show began – with a tribute to the Orlando victims. STC Executive Director Chris Jennings addressed the crowd by talking about the benefits of the arts for students – and how important they are at a time like this. He spoke eloquently about how exposure to the arts cultivates empathy, boosts civic engagement and creates community. He mentioned that culture should not be a luxury. Everyone deserves access to the arts.
And over the next two hours, the performers – a mix of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, lobbyists and pundits – created and fostered a sense of community. They poked fun at everyone on each side of the aisle. They found the things that unite us, that make us all laugh (spoiler alert: Beyonce and artful emoji placement). Plus, they raised more than half a million dollars to teach kids about the arts.
And the solution to the problems – like political stalemates, uncooperative politicians and special interest groups – they’re grappling with throughout the play? An idealistic young intern who is willing to take on a new challenge and work hard to help people (as long as she has health insurance).