When the lights went out, they kept dancing.
That’s what happened during opening night of “Summers at Seabreeze,” now playing at TheatreNOW through July 25. The beautiful, entertaining and distinctly non-political original show—penned by local, multi-talented artist Zach Hanner—builds a bridge between yesterday’s Seabreeze, a predominantly African-American resort community off Snow’s Cut, and our ever-growing Cape Fear community.
My wife and I saw the show on opening night, in the middle of a heat wave, with cool drinks, tasty clam fritters, and early evening thunderstorms. What could go wrong? Yep. A crash of thunder knocked out the lights and sound during the first dance number, choreographed by Kevin Lee-y Green.
The performers kept dancing, and a human audience (no sharks), bridging genders, ages, races and ethnicities, applauded the effort. Black, white, old and young clapped with joy and helped keep time. Quite an inspiration given the week I had.
Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for theater: oppressive heat, work, shark attacks and Charleston showed that “praying while black” is still a criminal offense to some folks. Charleston hit me hard enough to make me want to curl up in front of soothing cable news prophets, predicting the end of days.
A few days before Charleston’s homegrown terrorist tragedy, I packed my daughter and our dog into the car, took a right at Seabreeze Avenue over Snow’s Cut Bridge, and headed to our usual spot at Fort Fisher. It struck me as odd that the lifeguard was still on duty after 7 p.m. But I guessed those Oak Island shark attacks spooked folks and some beach patrols might have extended hours. Given that we are under attack by these ocean demons—and our sacred Second Amendment still applies—I was surprised the lifeguards weren’t packing more firepower. Nothing. Why not? Where is the NRA when you really need it? At Bible study?
Now, I don’t mean to be morbid during the height of the tourist season, but every time I take a long swim, I figure it could be my last. Things happen. Death doesn’t ask permission whether you’re an old white guy bodysurfing or a black man at a prayer meeting in South Carolina.
Not that I want to get eaten by a shark, but I wouldn’t be upset at the shark. The shark isn’t attacking me because his beliefs are true and righteous, and mine are false and dangerous. He wasn’t raised in a culture of hate. He isn’t proving his sharkhood to his Sharkstika-flying sharkhead brethren. He wouldn’t be executing me for the capitol offense of “swimming while human.” Nor would he kill me softly by flying the Sharks and Bars flag on the South Sharkalina state capitol to defend his hate-filled heritage. His shark synapses haven’t short circuited. The shark isn’t insane; neither is his shark culture. He’s hungry and I’m juicy—a little sinewy at my advancing age, but still juicy.
Charleston’s aftermath will contain the sad, predictable sound bytes about Obama and guns: “never happen again,” “one crazy kid acting alone shouldn’t spoil it for everyone,” and “let’s not sensationalize or politicize tragedy.” In other words, let’s not learn from this one, either. People will talk in double-summersaults as to not have to actually do anything about the “anything-but-Christ-like” culture of violence we live in.
The most aggravating gymnasts for me to deal with after these incidents will be the gun-toting, ever-persecuted, prosperity bootstrap Christian NRA folks. Especially when they operate under the insane delusion that accumulating vast earthly fortunes, maintained by superior firepower, is somehow Christ-like. Maybe faith is translated as firepower in some versions of the good book—I recall consistent calls to more faith and none to more firepower—but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are verses where wealthy warrior Jesus physically beats down, strangles or slashes a political, religious or personal adversary. But for Christ’s sake, he did tell Peter to sheath his sword in Gethsemane.
Far as I know, Jesus made enemies and had opportunities to armor up, yet consistently chose to armor down. Maybe he hoped to teach us all a better path that seems to include looking clearly in the mirror at ourselves and building bridges, rather than blowing them up.
I’m getting hot. It’s time to cool off and take another swim with the sharks. Apparently, it’s safer than praying if you’re black in South Carolina. I might even head back to “Summers at Seabreeze.” The more tragedies life throws at me, the more important it is to find ways to build bridges and keep dancing when the lights go out.