Some students at Connecticut’s flagship university are asking questions after a play written in response to alleged racialized violence and police brutality against black men in America was canceled after having been postponed due to COVID in 2020.
Fox 61 in Hartford says the play, “Food for the Gods,” an immersive play as originally slated to make its regional debut at the University of Connecticut in 2020, after it made its debut in New York in 2018.
The pandemic caused the play to be postponed, and organizers made adjustments in order to conduct the performance, described by Fox 61 as “a safe and immersive theater experience” while maintaining the licensing integrity of the play.
“It was exciting, UConn contacted me in 2020, asking to produce the play,” said writer and director Nehprii Ameni. “And I was excited to do so, but of course, as we all know, shortly after making all of the arrangements, the bottom fell out.”
In describing the experience, Amenii said, “This is a piece to keep the names alive and keep them honored. And then it’s to also keep people aware of what is happening.”
After the original play was postponed, cast members said producers took steps to deal with the pandemic and possible issues emanating from it.
“We had taken all these steps throughout the entire process to make sure that we would be able to prevent COVID spread if a COVID infection were to come into our space,” UConn student and cast member Yanniv Frank said.
Frank said, however that despite all the safety measures implemented, two cast members in the play tested positive for COVID, leading the university to cancel the performance.
“It seems like all of the work that we had done was all of a sudden not good enough, even though it had all been approved for this exact circumstance,” Frank said. “We initially got the email that said, all performances of Food for the Gods have been canceled, period.”
Frank said afterward, cast members and everyone affiliated with the production tested negative for COVID multiple times, however the university still blocked the production. That led to questions if the play was being prohibited for student safety or due to its contents.
After a number of students wrote letters to UConn asking for an explanation, the university released a statement which read in part, “The cancellations were directly tied to health and safety precautions and had no connection to the performance’s content.”
The play was eventually permitted to be staged for the UConn community only, however a more widespread public performance was canceled with no contingencies put in place.
“It makes you wonder why this work wasn’t given the respect or treated as it’s important enough for us to figure out what it is that we’re going to do,” Amenii told Fox 61.
According to a description of the play, it states, in part:
“Food for the Gods is a multimedia performance about ‘human value.’ A three-part expression of rage, indifference, and celestial knowing. Inspired by the killings of Black men, this work uses object and puppet performance to explore dehumanization, light, invisibility and well…the magical-less-ness of it all.” [emphasis added]
In other words, the play appears to play off the debunked narrative of police killings of black men. Although that isn’t written, it is certainly implied, since it isn’t likely the writer is referring to the thousands of black men killed in our major cities every year in black-on-black violence.
In response, UConn issued the following statement:
UConn and the School of Fine Arts fully supports the “Food for the Gods” performance and content, and shares the participants’ disappointment that public productions scheduled by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre this month could not take place. The cancellations were directly tied to health and safety precautions and had no connection to the performance’s content.
The decision was necessary because more than one person connected to the production tested positive for the COVID virus, triggering the need to conduct careful contact tracing necessary to determine and stop any potential spread among others. Once that tracing was completed and we had assurance that potential spread has been averted, CRT was able to stage a well-received performance over the weekend for University faculty, staff, and students.
This was possible because UConn employees and students are highly vaccinated populations whose status is reported to the University, and whose COVID exposure is more readily known and tracked than audience members whose vaccination status is not known to the University.
UConn, the School of Fine Arts, and others connected with “Food for the Gods” at CRT fully supports its author, its content, and the important topics it explores and messages it shares.
The School of Fine Arts is deeply committed to anti-racism initiatives, including providing a research grant program to support scholarly and creative projects among faculty, such as exhibitions and programming for “Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning” at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry this year.
The SFA instituted diversity hiring guidelines for faculty and staff searches in 2020; and holds yearly listening sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion in collaboration with UConn’s cultural centers with faculty, staff, and students.
SFA Dean Anne D’Alleva also hosts a yearly Diversity Roundtable with SFA alumni, and the school is working on a comprehensive DEI strategic plan to be completed and implemented in the spring semester.
Anne D’Alleva, dean of the School of Fine Arts said the cancellation of the performances “was not a decision we undertook lightly, and said the university was “grieved at the loss” to discuss the “issues of racialized violence that the play addresses.”
The following article contains editorial content which is the opinion of the author.
STORRS, CT- Sexual predators of a feather flock together. In an unbelievably tone-deaf statement Friday, Joe Biden was appearing at the University of Connecticut for the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the Storrs campus.
During the rambling, babbling speech, Biden was praising former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), lauding his character, and saying that someone is only as good as they treat other people, such as waitstaff.
Apparently Biden was unaware or forgot (more likely given his state) that Dodd was part of an alleged sexual assault on a waitress in 1985.
Fox News reported that Biden was at the university and during his remarks he attempted to honor Dodd, who represented Connecticut from 1981 to 2011. During his address, Biden said he “saw up close” how Dodd “fought for human rights and human dignity in the Senate,” while adding he measured a person’s character based on how they treat waitstaff. Oops.
“People who tell me they care about people and then disrespect the waitress or a waiter. People who tell me they care about how, in fact, people are entitled to be treated with dignity and walk by someone at a shoe side stand [what’s a ‘shoe side stand?] and doesn’t say hello,” the babbling Biden said.
“People who do not do just simply decent things for ordinary people. That’s the real measure.”
“I’ve never seen Chris, figuratively speaking, walk by anybody,” he continued.
Biden claims Chris Dodd, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a waitress, would never "disrespect a waitress" pic.twitter.com/oorUNllgCJ
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) October 15, 2021
In 1990, Dodd and another sexual predator, the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy (D), while intoxicated grabbed a waitress, Carla Gaviglio at the since-closed La Brasserie restaurant on Capitol Hill, according to a GQ profile of Kennedy.
“As Gaviglio enters the room, the six-foot-two, 225-plus pound Kennedy grabs the five-foot-three, 103-pound waitress and throws her on the table, GQ reported. “She lands on her back, scattering crystal, plates and cutlery, and the lit candles. Several glasses and a crystal candlestick are broken.”
“Kennedy then picks her up from the table and throws her on Dodd, who is sprawled on a chair, GQ continued. “With Gaviglio on Dodd’s lap, Kennedy jumps on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair.”
After the incident, the waitress ran from the room “bruised, shaken and angry over what she considered a sexual assault.” Her accounting of the incident was confirmed by the owner of the restaurant, as well as another waitress and two busboys.
Biden’s praise of Dodd should come as no surprise. In 2009, the then-vice president traveled to Connecticut to sing the praises of Obama’s “stimulus package,” where he praised Dodd.
“This is not a political event, but this is my single best friend in the United States Congress,” he said of Dodd, the Hartford Courant reported.
Biden talking about measuring people’s character based on how they treat other people? That’s rich. Guess he doesn’t think too much of himself:
WATCH: Joe Biden calls a Detroit auto worker "a horse's ass" after the voter confronted him over wanting to take away Americans' Second Amendment rights.pic.twitter.com/G7R6PJbcKv
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) November 2, 2020
Kids react to Biden calling this guy fat. “Look, fat…”
Was he gonna call him fatso or something? pic.twitter.com/gtd0oqt02X
— Victor Berger IV (@VicBergerIV) December 5, 2019
Listen to Biden absolutely lose it at this Iowa voter who askes about Hunter and Ukraine. So angry and hateful. Disgrace. pic.twitter.com/gbGReDwQq5
— AmericaFest Poso (@JackPosobiec) October 31, 2020
Guess “treating people with ‘dignity'” and Joe Biden are a contradiction in terms.
Biden and Dodd also have one other thing in common…they are both sexual predators.
Uncle Bad Touch, I know you're probably busy sniffing the hair of girls, or having kids rub down you're hairy legs in the pool, or sleeping in you're chair in the basement, but we got a border you've left open for months, deal with it. pic.twitter.com/Duvnt6IjoD
— Guardian Of Light (@KendallShafer) October 12, 2021
In the spring of 2020, Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer in his Senate office in 1993 claimed that Biden cornered her in a basement hallway, pushed her up against the wall, and penetrated her vagina with his fingers, reported The Day, citing a Los Angeles Times article.
“I want to say, ‘You and I were there, Joe Biden.’” Reade told journalist Megyn Kelly. “Please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”
In a podcast, Reade said:
“I handed [Biden] the [gym bag]. He greeted me. He remembered my name. And then we were alone,” Reade said of her allegations against Biden.
“It was the strangest thing. There was no like exchange really. He just had me up against the wall. I was wearing like a skirt, a business skirt. I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day that day, and I was wearing heels…I remember I was wearing a blouse, and he just had me up against the wall.
And the wall was cold. It happened all at once…his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. Yeah, and he went down my skirt but then up inside it, and he penetrated me with his fingers, and he was kissing me at the same time, and he was saying something to me. He said several things. I can’t remember everything he said.”
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After Biden’s sexual assault, Reade said he looked “annoyed” and said something else she didn’t want to repeat. He then grabbed her by the shoulders, said, ‘You’re OK, you’re fine.’ And then he walked away.”
Biden adamantly denied Reade’s claims. The media allegedly investigated Reade’s claims, but could not find evidence to either confirm or dispute them.
Reade claimed she filed a complaint with her supervisor and senior staffers in his office, however none corroborated her story.
According to The Tribune as reported on MSN News, a former neighbor came forward and said she had conversations with Reade in 1995 in which she told her about Biden’s sexual assault. Lynda LaCasse, a Biden supporter said, “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it.”
In addition, Reade’s ex-husband confirmed elements of the story. Theodore Dronen wrote in a court declaration that Reade had confided in him about “a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office.”
In 1996, Dronen testified that he had met Reade in 1993 when the two worked for two separate members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
He said that Reade told him she “eventually struck a deal with the chief of staff of the Senator’s office and left her position.”
“It was obvious that this event had a very traumatic effect on (Reade), and that she is still sensitive and effected (sic) by it today,” Dronen said.
Some elements of Reade’s allegations were also confirmed based on a phone call made to the late Larry King on his show “Larry King Live,” where an unidentified woman, whom Reade says was her mother, called in and was talking about an issue her daughter was having with a then-senator. The timeline seems to match up with Reade’s accounting.
The women included former Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores, who alleged in 2014 that Biden “smelled her hair and gave her a ‘big slow kiss’ on the back of her head,” leaving her “embarrassed and shocked.”
What’s with Biden and hair???
Another woman, Amy Lappos is a former congressional aide to Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), who alleged that Biden had “touched and rubbed his nose against her during a political fund-raiser,” The Cut wrote.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Lappos said. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
In 2012 at a fundraising event in Minneapolis, D.J. Hill said Biden “rested his hand on her shoulder, and then started to move it down her back, which left her feeling ‘very uncomfortable.’”
Caitlyn Caruso told the New York Times that Biden had hugged her “just a little bit too long,” then put his hand on her thigh after she spoke of an alleged sexual assault, The Cut said.
In 2016, sexual assault survivor Sofie Karasek was approached by Biden, who held her hands and touched his forehead to hers at the Oscars, a scene which just happened to be captured by photographers and of course praised by the bootlicking media.
“He emphasized that he wants to connect with people and, of course, that’s important, Karasek told the Washington Post of the video while talking of Biden’s wont to invade women’s personal spaces. “But again, all of our interactions are a two way street…too often it doesn’t matter how the woman feels about it or they just assume that they’re fine with it.”
In spring 2013, serving as vice president, a White House intern named Vail Kohnert-Yount said Biden “put his and on the back of [her] head and pressed his forehead to [her] forehead” when he introduced himself to her, and called her a “pretty girl,” The Cut reported.
She was “so shocked,” she said, “that it was hard to focus on what he was saying.” She told the [Washington] Post that she doesn’t believe Biden’s conduct constituted sexual misconduct, she said it is “the kind of inappropriate behavior that makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace.”
We won’t even mention the whole obsession with kids thing…we’ll just let this speak for itself:
NOW – Biden: "I like kids better than people. Fortunately, they like me. That's why maybe I like them."pic.twitter.com/V1l32g1d8d
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) October 15, 2021
Yup…but those mean tweets.
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