Edinburgh Fringe 2023
This show is important. The work that Dennis Trainor Jr. did was important. But it doesn’t stop with him. How do we, as a society, effect meaningful change. Spend an hour with Dennis, hearing his story, and being inspired by his passion and dedication. His riveting story demonstrates how each of us has the capacity to influence outcomes.
Dennis Trainor Jr. was a teacher. He lived in middle class society where people sent their children to private schools and discussed social issues over dinner parties. But he was motivated to make a difference in a more substantial way. His frustrations is palpable. He left his comfortable life to join the front lines of the Occupy Wall Street movement. And then dug in deeper.
Trainor shares his very personal story in this riveting hour of a look at the history and activism in the U.S. the past decade. His writing is smart and packs a punch. His delivery is dramatic, poignant, and, at times, funny. He makes us laugh, he makes us angry, he makes us want to both yell and cheer. And maybe he moves us to action.
Manifest Destiny was a slogan coined by a journalist in 1845 that defined the destiny of the U.S. as a continental and global power, spreading democracy and capitalism. It was, and still is, controversial.
The boomer generation (those born post-WWII) traded in their ideals for the trickle-down economic policies of Ronald Reagan, U.S. president from 1981–1989. His economic policies called for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets. Rather than helping the most disadvantaged in society, economic studies found that tax cuts tended to increase economic inequality rather than reduce it. The divide has only grown greater over the years.
Trainor’s personal pursuit to make a difference for those less privileged and to work to find solutions for critical societal issues took him to many places and jobs. He was the host and writer of the nationally syndicated news and politics show Acronym T.V. He took a job as the Communications Director and eventually Campaign Manager for U.S. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, a physician from Massachusetts, in the 2016 U.S. election. Trainor takes us to the campaign office, describing in detail how he had to juggle overdue staff payments, handle difficult press conferences, and manage his own life while working towards and ideal. Although their team knew that winning the presidency was not a realistic outcome, they understood the importance of her voice. She campaigned for people over profit. She ran on a platform that emphasized education as a right, a just economy, a green new deal, racial justice, and equity. Stein finished fourth in the election with over 1,457,216 votes, 1.07% of the popular vote. Although she did not win, her stance made an impact.
On election night at Dr. Stein’s gathering they toasted to what he describes as “the Shakespearean tragedy that was the Trump tsunami”. Trainor had spent 10 years throwing sand at tsunamis and was exhausted, but he never lost his passion for justice.
In December, 2016, Trainor joined the 10,000 protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to oppose the construction of an oil pipeline on reservation lands on the grounds that running a pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir would threaten their water supply and cultural resources. Many Native Nations, along with non-Native allies, celebrities, and politicians supported the movement, and, like Trainor, and travelled to join opponents at the Camp. Trainor shows us photos of the harsh winter conditions with the thousands of people in vans, campers, and tents. It is a stunning look at people power. Law enforcement officials clashed with protestors, sometimes violently, and made hundreds of arrests. Protestors battled harsh weather but stood their ground. A permit for the 12,000-mile long segment of the pipeline with defeated.
Trainor has spent nearly a decade creating long- and short-form videos about a variety of social justice causes and political movements. Videos of his press conferences, protest activities, and political events are smartly woven into the show and provide perspective as well as historical documentation.
His captivating story demonstrates how each person has the capacity to influence outcomes. Many key victories in U.S. society were won by alternative political parties and groups: abolition of slavery, worker’s rights, women’s right to vote.
Is the show provocative? Yes. Will it possibly challenge some of your assumptions about equality and the political system in America? Yes. Will it spur you to action? Trainor provides an example of how one man’s action can influence outcomes. I’m reminded of the famous line from the film “Network”: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”. Trainor is explosive on stage, pacing, angry, yet hopeful.
So what can we take from this powerful show? Trainor tells us that progress exists outside of the political system. Real power comes from people gaining leverage. It only takes a small percentage of people to effect change. Together they can make a difference. American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It starts with people like Trainor taking action, sharing his story, and inspiring people through many platforms, including performances at Edinburgh Fringe and elsewhere.
Spend an hour with Trainor, hearing his story, and being inspired by his passion and dedication. It is important and it just might change your life.
Trainor is an actor, writer, director, and multimedia storyteller who has appeared regionally and internationally. He is an Associate Professor of Theater at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, one of America’s most prestigious art-focused educational institutions. This show is a world première directed by Broadway veteran and multi-award-winner David Esbjornson (Angels in America, world première in 1991).