Ann Arbor performance artist Holly Hughes says she was “despondent” after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. However, with one casual Facebook post Hughes unwittingly transformed that feeling into an international artistic protest event.
Shortly after the election, Hughes wrote a post proposing a cabaret-style event in Ann Arbor to take place on Presidents Day, featuring a variety of performers offering their artistic responses to the new president.
“I was thinking maybe we’d get 100 people at some dive bar in Ann Arbor,” says Hughes, who is also a University of Michigan professor. “Within a couple of hours, I had almost 2,000 people contacting me through Facebook and was quickly overwhelmed by people wanting to do something like this.”
With the help of fellow artist Lois Weaver and social media coordinator Mary Jo Watts, she worked with artists across the globe to build a loose network of over 35 Presidents Day events spanning the U.S., Britain and Italy.
Most of the events use some variant on the names “Not My President’s Day” or “Bad and Nasty” (derived from President Trump’s reference to “bad hombres” and his description of Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” during the presidential debates).
There will be three related events in Michigan on Monday. Light Box in Detroit will host “Bad and Nasty,” the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor will host “Bad Hombres and Nasty Women: Not My President’s Day,” and Ypsilanti’s Dreamland Theater will host “Bad and Nasty Cabaret.” The Detroit event will benefit the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti events will benefit Planned Parenthood.
Light Box co-artistic director Stefanie Cohen says performances at the Detroit event will cover a broad range of media, topics and tones. The event will include short plays, performance art, musical performances and a video.
“There’s satirical work, as well as quite cathartic, dark responses and works that celebrate vulnerability and pleasure and joy,” Cohen says.
The other two local events promise similarly diverse range. Ypsilanti’s event will be heavy on stand-up comedians, with a troupe of “drag kings” also making an appearance. Nationally acclaimed Michigan-born comedian Erin Markey will headline the Ann Arbor event that Hughes is spearheading, but dance and spoken word pieces also will appear.
“We left it kind of open so people could interpret what they wanted to see happen, what they thought they could pull off and what the community needed,” Hughes says.
Some internal debate occurred among event organizers nationwide as to whether to use the “Not My President’s Day” terminology. Although Ypsilanti event organizer Patti Smith chose not to use the more provocative title, she says the performance will still be a very vocal rejection of Trump’s policies.
“I’m a grown, rational, intelligent woman,” Smith says. “I realize that, yes, he’s sitting in the White House. That is a fact ... but it’s also a fact that I’m not going to accept it inasmuch as I’m going to sit and watch my country fall apart.”
Monday’s events are just the first of more anti-Trump performances to come. Cohen says “Bad and Nasty” will kick off a monthly performance series at Light Box titled “12 Months of Resistance.”
‘Bad and Nasty’
6 p.m. Monday
8641 Linwood, Detroit
$5-$10 donation to ACLU of Michigan requested
‘Bad Hombres and Nasty Women: Not My President’s Day’
7 p.m. Monday
The Neutral Zone
310 E. Washington, Ann Arbor
Donation to Planned Parenthood requested
‘Bad and Nasty Cabaret’
7 p.m. Monday
26 N. Washington, Ypsilanti