Red Flags, a production of the Baltimore Performance Kitchen at the Arena Players had its final performance on Sunday. I was able to attend and woke the next morning still thinking about the experience. The show included music, dance, spoken word, video and audience engagement that brought the viewers into the creation and conclusion of the event. The production, a collaboration by Bashi Rose, LOVE the poet and Vincent Thomas was commissioned by the Baltimore Performance Kitchen, which is an organization that presents and creates free theatre and dance performances that explore big questions in order to incite meaningful exchanges with their audiences.

This particular performance, as titled, was about moments and experiences that are red flags, things that for you provide a moment that you know not to be right. Experiences that force you to identify what things in the world are unjust and encourage action. These moments create an opportunity for you take up your red flag and stand with dignity and defiance against the injustice that you have been witness to. A collage of spoken word, music, film, dance and performance illustrated individual moments of this. A young father needing to be strong for his daughter, a man trying to protect the woman he loves while at the same time struggling with his insecurity that she is with another, a woman that doesn't want to sacrifice her creativity for the sake of money, another woman whose family will not accept her because of the gender of the person she loves. 

These are just a few examples of the moments investigated in the play. After the performers presented their illustrations of red flags, the viewers who had all been given red flags upon entrance to the theater were asked to write their own. It was difficult for me to think of one thing, one moment in time, one idea that was the catalyst for what I believe in and what I work toward, there seeming to be so many things that need people to stand up. I finally wrote about a time one of my students, a high schooler was propositioned by a man on the street and followed by him in his car when she refused. This was not ok. This I knew was wrong and that something needed to be done about. In thinking again about this experience years later I realize that many of my red flags are related to my being a woman and the role of sexuality in this culture. More specifically about being a woman in a patriarchal society, where yes, we now have rights and freedoms that were not given to women in prior historical eras, but where the history of women's oppression can still be seen in the reflection of how women are treated individually, in the media and in many different capacities in society and especially reflected in how our young women are treated. Also how sexuality in this society is presented as a dichotomy, one or the other, inflexible when in truth there are so many beautiful variations on how people love one another.

Bringing my own red flags into my experience of Red Flags made me very interested in the part LOVE the poet played on stage. She shone in the performance, she was the voice of the collaborative. At the onset of the play this worried me. To see a strong woman onstage with two male performers I worried that she will be used, worn down leaned on too heavily, objectified in some way. This worry was completely unfounded. And the moment when LOVE the poet was uplifted by Vincent Thomas, placed on a platform and given space to speak her truth and share her story I saw the beautiful way that she was supported, uplifted and given the space to shine by the other performers. 

Each performer led a breakout session with the audience. Bashi Rose's group created a sound piece, we are the heartbeat he said. LOVE the poet identified three words with her group: Awareness, Culture and Equality. Vincent Thomas' group (that I was in) created a dance of movements that illustrated our own red flags. Each piece contributed to a whole. This is how these three performers worked together on stage. They each brought their own work, their own experience, their own essence and together they created an amazing piece of work that would have been impossible alone.

And maybe this has everything to do with how we must address red flags. We must identify them and then identify others to work with so that together we can make the changes that we cannot make alone.