Born in East Berlin: A Note from the Artistic Director

Born in East Berlin: A Note from the Artistic Director

We are worried these days about our privacy. We feel like thousands of eyes are watching us. Surveillance cameras, the info we must share to travel or get credit, the cameras on our laptops. Recent articles have lamented the number of people being falsely arrested when facial recognition software mistook them for a criminal with a slight resemblance! Laudably, San Francisco recently banned the use of facial recognition. We live in the absolute center of the information age, where the dominant economic powers of our age, bribing us with conductivity and connectedness, gather information on every aspect of our lives. It is not paranoia to fear these intrusions into our privacy or suspect that information gleaned could be used to deprive us of our treasured freedoms.

Rogelio Martinez was born in Cuba and emigrated as a young boy to the US in a flotilla of small boats that braved the ocean miles to Florida. As a child in Havana, he recalls passing a woman who watched him as he walked home from a market with a bag of groceries. Later, after he arrived home, there was a knock on the door and there was the woman, demanding to know what was in the bag. After becoming a playwright, Mr. Martinez struggled for years to write a play about the repressive years of his Cuban childhood, the constant surveillance, the total lack of respect for individual rights and privacy. One afternoon while watching the tape of a concert Bruce Springsteen gave in East Berlin, he knew he had found an oblique way to address his own story.

The East Berlin of the late eighties was a totalitarian state where fear was the governing factor, where everyone was afraid of someone looking over their shoulder, where no one could be trusted. The prospect of a Springsteen concert brought out the worst in the paranoid minds of the repressive leaders and everyone involved in the concert became a suspect, to be watched by watchers who were also watched by watchers. The brilliant juxtaposition of the repression of this government with the freedom of rock and roll serves as a cautionary tale for our own age. We have a choice: to protect the very freedoms represented by our most uninhibited art form, or to live in denial that there are strong forces at work in our time bent on collecting as much information as possible about all of us that they would then use to take away our privacy and our freedoms.

– Artistic Director Bill English

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Bill English is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of San Francisco Playhouse, and in twenty years with Susi Damilano, has guided its growth from a bare-bones storefront to the second-largest theater in San Francisco.

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