A Community Carol

The Queensborough Theatre Project — Ghost of Christmas Present

These are dispiriting times. For reasons, personal, national and global, I am sad to admit that I have had a hard time finding joy in this holiday season. Winter is its own beast, even though I’m involved in a caroling group that yearly spreads cheer through song while raising money for charities. This year has been particularly trying, and this election season has left us — even those of us in the bubble that is New York City — feeling scared and alone.

I am lucky, still, to live in a neighborhood that cultivates community. Often it is through food, drink and friendship. As we search for ways to give, ways to build and maintain, ways to heal and seek comfort, I have been thinking about bolstering my human communities.

Yesterday, I saw the preview of a documentary that solidified both my fears and my sense of urgency for the good of this country. I Am Not Your Negro — originally conceived of and written by one of America’s great thinkers and authors James Baldwin, directed and produced beautifully and effectively by Raoul Peck — left me shattered and yet ever ready for certain tumult. I am still processing this film and the ways in which we are sadly about to repeat a recent and unacceptable American history. That is for another essay, but it left me questioning and yearning.

In the same day, both physically and emotionally tired, I went to see a production of A Christmas Carol put on in Astoria by The Queensborough Theatre Project. I wrote recently about TQTP’s artistic director Steve Wargo for Idlewild Magazine, knowing the man and his team and putting faith in what they might bring to the table artistically. I want to revisit what I wrote. I want to fill it out with the knowledge I’ve just gained of their work.

Beyond the doors of the Boys and Girls Club of Astoria, past a holiday party of all ages and through a gymnasium filled with young men playing basketball, we entered a black box theater for A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843 by Charles Dickens and in Wargo’s seventh production, The Queensborough Theatre Project’s first full production gave us songs we know, in gorgeous harmony, and told us a lesson we wish we didn’t, but so desperately do, need to be reminded of.

If only we could keep ever-present the past and be mindful of the future. Perhaps then we would be a little kinder to our neighbors, a little warmer with our family. Perhaps we wouldn’t fall victim to the deprivation of money and power, despite our own happiness. This is what A Christmas Carol is about. We need such stories, year after year, as a human reminder of what is most important.

I ache for many causes right now. If you’re anything like me, then I’m sure you sometimes don’t know where to turn or how to help. There are countless ways. I hope that we can somehow maintain our sanity while turning equal attention to those issues at home that require care, those nationally that beg our efforts and those globally that are of critical concern. I hope, too, that we can turn to our communities for joy and healing and support.

Start here, where you are. Look to your neighbors. Locally, we can both offer and receive support. We can make our human communities and this country stronger and safer. The Queensborough Theatre Project gave me something last night that I needed: wine, yes, and friends; joy and holiday cheer; but also, community and the reassurance that there are folks around us working tirelessly — and often against hope — to bring us together and help us find peace.

I hope you’ll consider supporting those in your community who are trying to do this important work.

I know where I will start.


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