If You See Something, No You Didn’t: “Cointelshow: A Patriot Act”

Presented by ArtsEmerson 
Produced by Mondo Bizarro Productions
Written by L.M. Bogad
Performed by Bruce France
Composed by Peter J. Bowling
Virtual backend by Dan Pruksarnukul
Directed by Nick Slie and Dan Pruksarnukul
Scenic design by Bruce France, Dan Pruksarnukul, Nick Slie & Yamil Rodriguez
Additional collaboration: Yamil Rodriguez

March 8-12, 2023
Virtual Event
Zoom access required
Zoom closed captioning available

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“Listen, I can’t even get my dog to stay down. Do I look to you like someone who could overthrow the government?”

-Critic, playwright, and screenwriter Dorothy Parker in Parker’s home in April 1951 responding to FBI interrogation about Communist party activities. The dog, smelling dirty rats, began barking as soon as the agents entered the premises. 

Good dog.

ONLINE — Cointelshow: A Patriot Act is brought to you by the letters H, U, A, C and the numbers 1,9,6 and 9. It’s a niche theatre project that will appeal to folks invested in streamed live theatre. It will intrigue folks who see the internet as the new frontier of civil liberties. We are the ones who must watch the watchers. 

Cointelshow: A Patriot Act is righteously, gloriously subversive AF. It dresses its subversion up in parody, parades it in front of an audience of judgmental peers, reveals its subversion as an unreliable narrator with mental illnesses, and then proclaims its subversion as completely normal and meme-worthy. Here kids, have a Tiktok. 

Google search results for COINTELPRO, the FBI program on which Cointelshow: A Patriot Act is based, are of past tense articles. The FBI website says “The FBI began COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States.” The program expanded in the 1960s to include other domestic groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party. All COINTELPRO operations ended in 1971.

Of course, COINTELPRO doesn’t exist anymore! It wouldn’t when the NSA has officially existed since 1975. 1971… 1975… Funny, huh? Anyhoo…

Attendees of Cointelshow: A Patriot Act receive an email from ArtsEmerson with a preshow survey, instructions, and a Zoom link. Please read your email and reminder emails carefully! They are necessary. 

Please fill out the survey. It is part of the show. Telling you how or why will ruin the surprise.  

Keep your camera on. Keep your microphone muted. (It is 2023. Auto-mute your microphone in settings.) If you see something, consider who is listening when you say something: do you trust your Zoom monitor enough to tattle on your neighbor for a small infraction? Maybe you shouldn’t. 

Art from the email you’ll receive as an attendee. Agent Christian White doesn’t blink nearly enough.

Bruce France as our host, extra special agent Christian White (guy with a racist chip on his shoulder), has the manic energy of 1980’s Max Headroom with the starched suit but without the quirky speech impediment. White is ready to charm the gun off the right people. If you’re the right person, you should be ashamed of yourself and the government branch chomping at your wibbly bits to hire you.

France is all too believable. He plays the part of a conservative cuckold and true believer well. France’s smile is a little too tight. His knees are a little too locked. It’s creepy. It’s even creepier that his creepiness reads so well over Zoom. 

There was a man who fell asleep during our performance of Cointelshow: A Patriot Act. (L.M. Bogad was that you?) Cointelshow is cerebral. It requires some deeper thinking about what isn’t being said or shown on your computer screen during the show. That can be scary. Some humans react to fear by falling asleep. 

Or, Cointelshow might not have been the right fit for this attendee. Zoom theatre is not for all comers. That’s okay, too. No matter what your theatre preferences are, the government is watching you anyway.

Comedian Ron Funches has a great bit about how he decided how much he trusts the American government: Funches is a father; he’s in charge of just one child. He says that the government is put in charge of all of the American people. 

Funches loves his son very much. He lies to his son all the time.

The government is many things, but it is not loving. The government is definitely lying to us. I don’t go in for conspiracy theories (much), but Funches has a point.

Funches tells it better.

I would be shocked, honestly and sincerely shocked, if this blog wasn’t monitored by some agency or another every so often. We advocate for and support civic engagement, equity, and liberty for minorities and the oppressed. We do it in every post.  

Whereas, the govt. has historically shown a vested interest in systematically maintaining the status quo with murder. That isn’t a conspiracy theory. That’s the US history Florida is trying to suppress.  

So, I hope the NSA agent reading this article gets a chuckle out of it. I have two education degrees in performance from fancy schools. I’m trained in being watched, and the New England Theatre Geeks like to party. There’s no party like a vigilante justice party because a vigilante justice party happens offline and can only be traced to this blog tangentially.

Want to learn more about your civil liberties online? Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Cointelshow: A Patriot Act brought to mind this scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation “Chain of Command, Pt. 2.” 

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