Occupy Bradenton takes to the theater

jsalman@bradenton.comMarch 23, 2012 

MANATEE -- The Occupy Wall Street Movement has borrowed a page from Broadway.

For months, the local spin-off, Occupy Bradenton, has protested in the streets of Manatee and on social media to voice displeasure with corporate influence and social inequity.

Now the group is taking that same message to the theater -- scripting a play based around their concept that 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans are making decisions for the 99 percent of the U.S. population.

Calling themselves the Bradenton/Manatee Occuplayers, several regulars from Occupy Bradenton will preform their play "They Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out" at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Fogartyville, 525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota. The performance is free.

The performance is a dramatized reading adopted from "The Mock Trial of Goldman Sachs" originally presented by Occupy Wall Street protestors in November.

Scenes include their view on financial criminals, commodities speculation and cuts to education.

"I saw the mock trial on the Internet and thought we should turn that into a play," said Selma Sternlieb, who spearheaded the efforts. "This is a story that I wrote, and it's completely made up, but it's a real problem."

Sternlieb, who founded the Occupy group in Brunswick, Maine came to Anna Maria Island in December to spend the winter here.

She immediately got involved with Occupy Bradenton, where the concept for her play was well received.

A cast of seven has gathered for eight two-hour rehearsals and a first show March 9 at the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church. They even have some costumes and stage props.

"We see the 1 percent at the very top and the richest people in this country are doing a terrible job for the 99 percent of us," Sternlieb said. "They're cheating. They're defrauding."

The focus of the fictional play surrounds the recent bank bailouts, where that money was spent and how it impacted the average person. One scene dramatizes the scenario of commodity speculation to the point where the majority of American families can't afford food.

Aside from their new stage venture, Occupy Bradenton can be found almost every Saturday morning protesting their cause around town.

"The play is a very good devise to educate people on the Occupy movement," said James Canfield, a member of Occupy Bradenton.

"The main issue we address in the play is the bailouts. The politicians, CEOs and hedge funders all are in bed together, and it's an issue most people don't know about."

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.

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