“I began to say what I actually think.”

Isn’t it wildly liberating, Clifton?

As I write in “Letter to a Mainstream Straddler: Live Not by Half-Lies” (https://margaretannaalice.substack.com/p/letter-to-a-mainstream-straddler):

“In Upside-Down World, persisting in seeing things right-side up—despite the incessant, relentless, never-ending gaslighting—means you have valiantly guarded your most precious possessions: your integrity and your sanity.”

You have reached what I call the “words-can-never-hurt-you stage.”

“an education system that seems to exist for no other purpose than producing graduates who are significantly dumber upon exit than they were upon entry”

I can’t resist quoting George Carlin:

“There’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason that it will never, ever, ever be fixed.… Because the owners of this country don’t want that.… They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want: They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.… They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q)

Clifton, I previously attempted to reach out to you about the possibility of a collaboration through CJ Hopkins.

You may have seen my video collaboration with Dr. Tess Lawrie reading my “Mistakes Were NOT Made” poem that went epically viral:

• “Mistakes Were NOT Made: An Anthem for Justice (Video)” (https://margaretannaalice.substack.com/p/mistakes-were-not-made-an-anthem-57a)

This demonstrated to me that the right person reading the right words at the right moment in history has the potential to shake and wake the world:

• “Mistakes Were NOT Made: One Poem to Wake the World” (https://margaretannaalice.substack.com/p/mistakes-were-not-made-one-poem-to)

I believe together, we could create another earthquake. You could read one of my poems or essays based on what you resonate with, and we can release a work of art that has the potential to galvanize millions.

Please sign up for my newsletter and reply to the Welcome email to discuss the possibilities. Or ask CJ for my email. Whatever gets the conversation going.

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Their art is going to suffer for it -- indeed, it already is. It's not leftist political beliefs, per se, that are the problem. Plenty of great artists, like John Lennon and Pete Seeger, believed some loony lefty ideas in the 50s and 60s. But unlike today's leftists, they were genuinely countercultural, swimming upstream against the dominant narratives of their day, and that speaks to the bigger issue: uncritical acceptance of whatever the authorities tell you is okay to believe and adoption of a religious-fundamentalist mindset (very possible to do, even if you don't believe in God at all). For the same reason the religious fundamentalist conservatives of the 50s and 60s weren't producing great art, the Marxist-fundamentalist leftists of today aren't either.

Anyway, great essay, and your willingness to be heterodox will certainly facilitate your artistry!

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Apr 21, 2023·edited Apr 21, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

indeed, it was stunning to see the Arts, formerly the haven of misfits, oddballs and talented people who could never handle a regular day job, fall into line with public health policy and even seem to relish it.

to see the Met Opera demand boosters before Gov Hochul (insane person) did and every Broadway theater follow suit was just too much. i started working for the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston, SC as a costumer in 1980. in 1982, i took over as director of costumes and opened my own costume shop in NYC. i left NY in 2016 and finally moved to Charleston with my boy friend spending alternating weeks here with me and in NYC on a show as a stagehand.

when i would not be vaccinated, i lost my 40 year job with the Festival and my BF couldn't go back to NYC to work. he was able to use "retirement" as an excuse and thus avoided the ridicule he would have faced had his unvaccinated status been known.

what was most amazing is that all these companies adopted policies for their audiences that actually violated anti-discrimination laws and cost them potential ticket sales. i am pretty certain that the $10 million per show federal "gift" that each producer received to tide them over came with some strings attached, like adhering to and enforcing CDC guidelines. no excuse, but it does explain the mystery somewhat.

the Spoleto Festival went all out- 2 shots, boosters after 5 months, masks, no children under 5 allowed (shots for babies hadn't been approved yet) and photo ID, something that if you suggest might be a good idea for voting in a national election will get you accused of racism.

ticket sales were poor. imagine living in a state where you can dine in any restaurant or shop in any store without showing papers (this is NOT NY!) and suddenly being expected to produce your entire medical history just to see a concert! only real diehards could be bothered.

many people who i formerly considered friends posted things like "i can't wait for all the unvaccinated people to die." it was stunning to watch.

we were just in NYC for the closing performance of Phantom. my BF was the original technical director and my shop made costumes for all US productions. obviously if the mandates were still in place, we wouldn't have gone. it felt very strange to be around so many people who had just "followed orders."

what happened to the rebels? are Stalin and Chairman Mao whispering in their ears?

these days i have a lot fewer friends and respect many less people than i did before. the greatest loss for me personally is the Spoleto Festival. it had been my passion and my balm since 1980, the reason i moved here after leaving NY. i've been with it through good years and bad, and put more of myself into it than any job requires- as one does when working in the Arts. i imagined i would keep working there until death.

had i died, they would have held a memorial in my honor, people would have made nice speeches about my contribution and maybe dedicated a few performances to me. had i retired, they would have thrown me a party, given me a gift, made nice speeches about my contribution and maybe dedicated a few performances to me. i would have had lifetime complimentary tickets to any event and any time i was in the building, the backstage crew would have greeted me with respect.

because i wouldn't get vaccinated. i was simply disappeared without comment. i'm sure they were pissed off- no one had had to worry about costumes for 40 years. no one called to ask how i was, to say they missed me or anything.

as far as i'm concerned, the Festival has lost all moral legitimacy. It is dead to me. it cannot be forgiven for the way it treated it's audience. i would have given my life for it; now i won't give it a second. it has lost it's reason to exist

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I think a lot of institutions, even if they don't realize it yet, have find lasting damage to their reputations due to pandemic lunacy. I'm sorry you had to go through all of that...but you're certainly not alone.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

Interesting article. One comment struck me "No one can doubt their sincerity" of that I am not so sure. Two things at play here. 1) The fact that this is another rendition of groupthink. The media, Hollywood, et. al. want the public to think that more believe like they do than not. And if you dare to go against that then you found out what happened. Also these actors feel that they ARE what they do and if they go against the grain they are not interested in finding out how they will feed themselves.

I always say everyone has a right to their beliefs. It's the fact that people tell me that I HAVE to think and believe like them or I am wrong. That's what gets me!

I wish I could help you find those compatriots that can help with your career. There are some, but of course they are ostracized too. Those like Mel Gibson, Kevin Sorbo and the like. Good luck!! Keep writing!

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

In addition I didn't llook at the pics in the article and since Holly posted this your pic wasn't at the top. See I don't want to even come off saying the wrong thing right now .... didn't know your race and it didn't matter. Only after I subscribed to your substack did I see your pic.

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Apr 20, 2023·edited Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

I lost a friend of 30 years to this. She studied drama, got a couple degrees, and went out into the world. She's very talented and has a decent career in movies and television. I am not using her real name.

Our friendship waned. Being associated with me became dangerous. Some friends became safe overnight. She lauded them on social media, calling them her "BFFs growing up!" We spent almost every day together starting in middle school. No mention of me, ever.

When I'd see her pop up on a television show (Law & Order, The Blacklist etc.), I made it a point to tell her how exciting it was. "Thanks!!" became "Thank you..." became no response at all.

She hammered the final nail when she began referring to me as "friend" (When she'd speak to me at all.) By now, our decurtate conversations, (always relegated to DMs) included the response, "I appreciate you, friend." I spoke highly of her in a thread by Twitter's Libs of Tik Tok, which showcased a white woman in a Tik Tok video explaining the multitude of ways black students will always be inferior because of systematic white oppression. I tagged her in response and wrote something along the lines of, "Really? Then how do you explain @ Roz being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize?"

Not but a minute later, I received a DM. "I need you to take that down right away. I appreciate your words but do not tag me in anything again." I told her I'd removed the post, and never intended to offend her.

"I appreciate it, friend."

My final words to her: "Roz, it has taken me a while, but I understand what's going on. Being associated with a person like me could potentially harm your career and lifestyle. I am willing to accept that, because I love you and want you to thrive.

What I am not willing to accept is your refusal to use my name. I have given you the clothes of my back. I am Ellen."

She did not reply. Three years ago, I had to block one of my dearest friends. I had to block the teen who called me in tears when she came out, worried I wouldn't like it. I had to block a woman who could be excommunicated if her association with a non-woke gal from the south came to light.

Find the progression in that. Find the courage. Find the heart.

It's not possible.

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Guilt by association is real.

There are a LOT of people in show business who view relationships in terms of career prospects.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

As a far less successful actor who has experienced the same thing, this is a wonderful post to see.

I am a 30 something straight white male (something I would only preface with when discussing this topic) in northeast Cleveland. Prior to covid closings, I enjoyed a 3-4 year period of relative success on the local stages with rarely needing to audition as I either received offers from theaters that knew me & those that didn't.

Before covid, there were theaters I flatly refused to work with as they seemed either completely unwilling or unable to produce plays that didn't have a victim narrative woke bent that towed the typical lines we are all likely familiar with. Which, of course, is fine. They could tell their stories & I was free to just decide not to work there.

Behind the scenes, however, despite the variety of story other theaters were putting on, discussions were largely the same with varying degrees of intensity. Always some version of "left good, right bad", with increasingly creative definitions of what "left" & "right" meant.

One local theater in particular, which I grew up near & was on my bucket list to work at, was run by a highly political director. The green room was an old classroom with one wall entirely chalkboard. On this board was a list of every politician in Northeast Ohio with a frowny face next to any republicans. Every rehearsal we got to hear about what horrible things were happening from the right.

The first theater to give me a shot, for which I am grateful, had a stage manager who is easily the most toxic miserable person I have ever had the displeasure of spending time around. There was not a single day with her that went uninterrupted by some woke comment that gave the impression of being broad in scope but was plainly said to bolster her own self worth. Which wasn't difficult to accomplish as nearly everyone reacted with affirmation.

What really made it all so unbearable, was that I am not a conservative. I had no stake in their comments of "hot takes". It was experiencing the same narrow closed-mindedness that overtook the poetry community. An extreme willful lack of accepting other perspectives. In places that me fall in love with stories & storytelling. In exploring the wonder of the entire human experience.

All of this finally culminated in the blinding fear of Covid. I was cast in a show pre-covid that didn't end up going forward with production until things opened up again. This was going to be my 3rd role as a gay man at a gay-centric theater. Naturally, at a pre-production meeting, the topic of vaccination came up.

I am not vaccinated. Which, as I explained to them, is for decidedly unpolitical reasons. I grew up with a healthy skepticism of the drug system & before the "vaccine" became available for my age group, I started to see the writing on the wall. By this time, there was research from all over the world revealing the reality of the poke.

First I was asked to please get the jab, because they were concerned about my safety. My response was to present them with the facts about the vaccine as well as the uselessness (& possible harm) of keeping their audience masked. I also pointed the irony of a gay theater considering the prospect of excluding someone on the basis of perceived health status.

Perhaps needless to say, I was asked not to participate.

The most extreme irony, is that nearly every woke theater I have worked with has talked down about another local theater which is run by a self identified right wing anti-vaccer. Yet, he is the most open & accepting when it comes to the stories told & people that work there. The theater will put on a show about any topic as long as it is a good story. The people who work there are appreciated & welcome no matter their appearance or politics.

Personally, the lack of theater work hasn't been a drag. I have a life that satisfies me in ways I never imagined possible.

But I know the struggle my peers are going through if acting is their dream.

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Isn't it interesting that supposedly "Fascist" Right-wingers are far more acceptable of opposing viewpoints than the "open-minded" so-called "Liberals" and "Progressives"?

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I was too little to experience the madness of the '50s first-hand, but was I ever shocked, as a young adult, to discover what morons people like Lillian Hellman had been about idiocies like Communism and the monsters who ran the Soviet Union. Reading about Paul Robeson and Itzik Feffer--well, you can read about that too.

Hollywood was always about propaganda, of one sort or another, and actors have only very rarely been people of courage in their off-screen lives. I know it feels awful and unprecedented when it happens to you. But Hollywood gained so many bright lights because of all the people who had to flee Europe as the Nazis rose to and cemented power.

What this Plague Era has taught us is that a Good German lives in everyone and quite a lot of people are thrilled with the permission to let theirs out.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

Clifton, i gotta post a follow up. You’re talk at MISES. I’m not fucking kidding when i tell you it moved me to tears. Maybe that is in part due to your acting skills, i don’t know. It doesn’t often happen. But thanks, and again, keep ‘er lit, as is often said in the backwaters of Northern Ireland. X

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

Hey Clifton, great piece. And yes, you’re absolutely right. I suspect you and I would disagree on several issues, but there’d still be way more that connects us than divides us. It sort of feels like we’re (and i’m using this as an image, people who might jump on the how dare i talk about Mecca vibe) like pilgrims to Mecca, circling the Kaaba. From the Kaaba (my image for power and authority) we’re being set in perpetual circular motion around the never changing authority, artificially divided by grossly amplified minute differences, trying to argue with those at the 12 to our 6 because to us they appear opposite. But viewed from above, we’re all part of the same whirlpool and we need to aim dead centre for that big, unfeeling monolith. And yes, artists, should be in the vanguard. And people’s views, opinions etc are just that. They bear no relation to skill and ability for their art. I love WB Yeats’ poems, abhor his politics, for example.

I do try. And clearly so do you.

Here’s my fart in the hurricane, bedroom basic attempt. Keep fighting and i hope you find a solution.


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Speak it Clifton!

I heard you first on a FAIR in the Arts Zoom.

I look forward to you playing Coalhouse in the Ragtime movie!


Jenny Hatch

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Great piece. At the end, all I thought was Bob Dylan: “when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got... nothin’ to lose” - thanks for sharing - there is a world of independent fans who know that corporate media, in general, is poison pushed on us to dumb us down & sell us products and narratives.

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Apr 21, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

It's hard for me to envision any opportunity for artistic integrity, sustained on any artist's own terms, so long as anyone in the arts remains an addict of social media and its entirely counterfeit metrics of approval or denunciation.

With its rapid rise and thorough subordination of the human experience as a whole over the past fifteen years or so, there are now so many addicts of, and so few abstainers from, this all-encompassing means of interpreting reality that even those with expertise and experience in dealing with addictive behaviors no longer recognize the absolutely and intentionally addictive nature of social-media participation for what it is, because they too are addicts.

I find it actually comical to see terms such as 'freedom of expression' even still in current usage, when these venues of expression which billions of social-media addicts now confine themselves to amount to a voluntary surrender of any form of personal agency over what one dares say or dares not risk saying, all based on those completely meaningless stats and that continual risk of ridicule, and the stifling confinement of an artificial universe completely governed by the programmed interpretations of all such interaction by artificial intelligence systems.

If to create is to rebel, then in my view the primary targets in need of being rebelled against are smart phones, social media, AI and its authoritarian algorithms, and the hi-tech sector as a whole. The extremely powerful people in that industry whom you entrust with the management of your reputation regard you as the product, not the clientele. As long as such a one-sided and thoroughly servile arrangement remains acceptable to anyone, they have already forfeited any meaningful opportunity to express themselves freely, about anything.

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My hope is that as the world becomes more digital, the demand for live, visceral performance will increase.

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I think this is absolutely true, Clifton, as in-person connections are vital to our humanity, and the past three years have left people parched for those rejuvenating encounters.

My dear friend and collaborator Tonika Todorova started the Silent Theatre in Chicago (https://www.silenttheatre.com/tonika-todorova), which of course became another casualty of COVID tyranny. She has had difficulty finding people in the theatre community who are not menticided or afraid to speak out.

Tonika is on Substack as Visceral Adventure (https://visceraladventure.substack.com/) and has been creating amazing video montages, including this piece illustrating one of my vignettes:

• Do You Remember? (https://margaretannaalice.substack.com/p/do-you-remember-video)

I know she wants to start doing more live performances starting perhaps in the fall. Let me know if you would like to connect with her or if you know anyone in Chicago who wants to join forces.

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I do so agree. The art world (I am a visual artist) seems to have 'appropiated' itself being opportunistic as it is. The field which, indeed, most of all should speak out and should keep pushing the boundaries towards freedom in all its aspects, speaks the language of the coward. Hello from Belgium.

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I spent some of my formative years in Belgium! Hello!

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Super! The land of Ivo van Hove, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jan Faber...What has become of the world...

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You lightened my disheartened heart with your calm, reasoned, sincere and well-written opinions and lived experience. Thank you! You've gained a new free subscriber on the way to becoming a paid subscriber if you continue with fine offerings of this quality.

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Thank you!

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

Thank you. As a baby boomer I have been equally mystified for the last three years at the behavior of people I once thought of as rebels. Their shift toward narrative-supporting autocrats took me by surprise.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Clifton Duncan

Beautifully stated. Thank you.

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