On July 4th of 2004, the Pennsylvania state legislature – in a late night decision – past Act 71 that expands gaming laws to include stand-alone slots in two areas of Philadelphia. As a response to the state governments ambitions to bring casinos to Philadelphia, a movement called No Casino Philadelphia was born. For several years this grassroots organization worked to expose the state the governments true intentions, that were shrouded by talk of increased revenues to the state and projections about local employment. In creative and thought-provoking ways, No Casino Philadelphia leveraged media to illustrate hidden costs to our public welfare, ambitions of predatory gambling and the ailments of increased crime and addiction that typically are felt by communities that have been sold on the idea of gambling revenues. Unfortunately, that movement felt a huge blow on June 25th, 2009, the same day as their event Anti-Casino Circus, when the Sugarhouse Casino Plan was approved. Now, heading southbound on Delare Ave, just along the Delaware River, we pass this Casino. Appeals are currently being sent to the state legislature.
However, on that day I witnessed something amazing. Something interactive, something that stayed with me, that got me to think about how to engage the public over social justice issues in a way I’d never seen before. In the heart of Philadelphia, just adjacent to the most center point of the city at the cross section of Broad and market, the home of City Hall, No Casino Philadelphia members and local supports held a type of circus. It was sarcastic, it was fun, it was interventional and embodies some of the qualities that I see present in Brecht’s work. They had fun games that promoted their narrative, that the public had is being sold a sham, that the state legislature was acting like a circus, not actually working in the public interest. Ever feature of this event demonstrates the qualities present in Epic theatre, activating ‘spectators’ as they are thrust into a position of action, inquiry and critical awareness about the narrative – in this case our local government, their intentions and the truth behind predatory gaming.
you’ll see every element of the performance channeled back into the narrative that the state legislature and Sugarhouse Casino are deceiving the public into thinking that casinos will bring the city its communities revenue and employment, when in fact they will prey on the community with hidden costs, increased crimes and gambling and alcohol addictions.
Check out the Anti-Casino Event event page here