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Dec 4, 2016

ASHER HARTMAN is a transgender playwright, director and respected practitioner in LA's experimental theater scene. His provocative play The Silver, the Black, the Wicked Dance was commissioned by LACMA and explores alienation, violence and the pervasive feelings of shame, anxiety and fear in American culture. (47:38) EXPLICIT




A friend had an extra ticket to a play at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and asked if I wanted to go. I must confess, I didn’t know much about museums commissioning performance art, as LACMA had with “The Silver, the Black, the Wicked Dance.”

The dark comedic play was written and directed by ASHER HARTMAN and it was, at least for me, a real mind bender. But then, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with experimental theater.

My friend knows Asher, so once the house lights in the 600-seat Bing Theater came up, I suggested we go back stage and talk to him about what we’d just seen. I had questions – a lot of them. But, as it turns out, being back stage immediately after a show isn’t the best place and time for a PIERSON TO PERSON-style Q&A. Fortunately, Asher agreed to be my guest.

In DRAMATIC EFFECTS, Asher talks about the running themes in much of his theatrical work, such as racism and gender inequality, and what he was exploring specifically in “The Silver, the Black, the Wicked Dance”: alienation, predation, violence and the pervasive feelings of shame, anxiety and anger in American culture. Pretty over-my-heady stuff, but Asher didn’t flinch when I told him I didn’t really “get” a lot of what I experienced.

Compared to what others say, I was being polite. Asher tells me some people “loathe” his work: “I’ve even had friends say, ‘Wow, I really, really hated that.’” Harsh criticism like that can still sting, but Asher accepts it as something that comes with the territory for practitioners of experimental theater: “We do put people through a lot … but I don’t think you, as an artist, really should be in the business of pleasing everyone.”

Asher is an artist that strives to be his most authentic self – not only in his work, but in every aspect of his life. Not always an easy path. It means taking risks; like coming to terms with, albeit later in life, the realization that he was not the “she” the world knew him to be. Asher is quite candid about being transgender and I was fascinated to hear his view that humans are changing as a species: “I can’t say we’re evolving, because that implies a certain kind of progression. But we’re definitely augmenting ourselves in many ways.”

This episode includes a few clips from “The Silver, the Black, the Wicked Dance,” but be warned: Asher’s dialogue is, at times, quite coarse. However, don’t get the wrong idea. That’s not the way Asher talks in real life. In fact, throughout our conversation I found him to be a real gentleman.



Many thanks to the composers of the music featured in this episode royalty free through Creative Commons licensing:

1. "Ray Gun -- Faster, Faster, Brighter" by Blue Dot Sessions -

2. "Dolce Beat" by Podington Bear -

3. "Strings & Blips" by Adam Selzer