If the world is a global village and it takes a village to educate a child, then what is America teaching its children? So many things, of course; but how do you capture this?

In a dazzling display of storytelling virtuosity and multimedia savvy, Curious Theatre's guest artists, the UNIVERSES troupe (Bronx, NYC), capture in poetry, rhythm, song, and dramatic talent the zeitgeist of our promising national experiment that has been subverted by corporate interests and hate groups masquerading as religious and patriotic zealots.

(Left to right) William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja, Mildred Ruiz, and Steven Sapp
(L to R) William Ruiz
a.k.a. Ninja,
Mildred Ruiz,
and Steven Sapp
Photo: Michael Ensminger
The collaborative of four writers/actors/singers/dancers—Gamal Abdel Chasten, William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja, Mildred Ruiz, and Steven Sapp—focus on a perfect illustration of this theft of the American dream in the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina's direct hit on New Orleans.

From the beginning, you'll recall that the Bush Administration was criticized for its lack of response to the approaching storm, the breaching of the levees, the evacuation, and the rebuilding efforts. Excuses and apologies were made, but don't think for a minute that this strategy wasn't deliberate.

Mildred Ruiz
Mildred Ruiz
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Ameriville doesn't hit us over the head with these political truths: it doesn't have to; rather, it immerses us in a seamless series of vignettes and percussive events that open windows to the American soul, in all its melting pot glory.

The play opens with a heartfelt spiritual that likens Katrina to a biblical event and leads us into a captivating rap on what it means to be poor and black. The backdrop of images—the rain, weathered cemeteries, historic French Quarter, teeming Mardi Gras, burning crosses and hooded terrorists, and hundreds of equally evocative images—the cinematic inspirations of Brian Freeland, the only Curious Company member in the crew—cap off the fully immersive, 95-minute experience.

(Left to right) Gamal Abdel Chasten and Steven Sapp
(L to R) Gamal Abdel Chasten
and Steven Sapp
Photo: Michael Ensminger
The poignant personal accounts of the destruction of the hearts and minds of the captive residents of New Orleans (and the rest of America in tow) are devastating. We hear their stories and watch them abandon their life-long homes. Children soak up the demented claims of pseudo-Christian bigots. Fear is spread like cloned viruses. Gun sales surge.

We are reminded of key facts periodically with text messages, e.g., "Every year 2 million persons in America are displaced by gentrification." "22 hate crimes are committed every hour." "47.5 million Americans are without healthcare." Or, "Illegal immigrants pay $7.2 billion in taxes."

(Left to right) Steven Sapp and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja
(L to R) Steven Sapp
and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Then, an exquisite lament, in Spanish and English, tells the tale of an immigrant, maid and garment worker, and her struggle to raise her son in her new country. Why did she come here, she wonders?

Non-white soldiers, male and female, return to discrimination and reduced veterans' benefits. Educated homeowners are reduced to begging and shoe shining.

How is a thriving metropolis and cultural center—the birthplace of the Delta blues and jazz, the epicenter of Creole culinary traditions—displaced and brought to its knees by the vultures of greed? Let me count the ways from articles I've collected:

  • Bush administration ignores emergency
  • Bush administration suspends law requiring contractors to pay decent wages
  • Bush administration uses inadequate aid package to justify cuts to other social programs
  • Bush administration awards billions in no-bid contracts to cronies ($12 billion fraud investigation goes nowhere)
  • Bush administration blocks use of $800 million in aid from overseas
  • Bush administration systematically discriminates against black residents
  • Bush administration (HUD) bulldozes public housing (4534 apartments); almost half the population of the city is gone
  • The New Orleans city council returns to a white majority for the first time in 20 years
  • Out of these ashes, UNIVERSES builds a vision of a new beginning, true to the ideals of the poem by Emma Lazarus graven within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands:

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja
    William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja
    Photo: Michael Ensminger
    Five years in the making, Ameriville received its world premiere at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It deserves to be seen from coast-to-coast.

    The regional premiere of UNIVERSES' Ameriville runs at Curious Theatre Company through December 5th: Wednesday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. This is a LIMITED ENGAGEMENT run. NO show Sunday, November 15 or Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26. Tickets: Wednesday-Saturdays $18/$34/$42, Senior/Student/Military discounts apply; prices include handling fees. 303.623.0524 or online at

    Bob Bows


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