Donna Orlando and Jesse Thomas know a guy who, by virtue of his profession (firefighting), is a city employee. Nothing sexy there so far, until you learn that the feds are suing this fellow for his work on an alternative source of automobile power. Give him a couple glops of fatty-food waste from your local restaurant; word is he can turn it into a clean-burning gas substitute all night long. In fact, he lives in Arizona, driving back and forth to San Diego without stopping for fuel.
The U.S. assails his production process, calling it “unlawful conversion.” Orlando and Thomas assail the U.S., calling the lawsuit a box of bullshit. They find an irony in government's role at both ends of their friend's life—one branch employs him as a valued civil servant; the other turns him into a number amid his efforts to help the country conserve energy. It's a classic case, they say, of government (however well-intended) collapsing onto itself at the expense of personal freedom.
If you've guessed that Orlando and Thomas are Libertarian Party supporters, you've just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Barcelona. Orlando, whose San Diego-based Orlando-Ward & Associates uses theater as a corporate training tool on issues like diversity and sexual harassment, has gone back and forth (mostly forth) in her persuasions. Thomas is pretty hard-core, having garnered 3.6 percent of the vote in his 2008 bid for the District 39 state Senate seat. The two put their heads together in opening Hillcrest's Café Libertalia about five months ago—now, they'd like to take their Internet-café venue to the next level, with productions of original libertarian-flavored scripts at its core.
Libertarianism espouses little or no governmental oversight, across-the-board privatized business, stringent fiscal discipline and, above all, personal responsibility for one's successes and failures. The two major parties, Thomas said, can't relate. “They both are part of lots of examples of government interference… that just destroy opportunities,” he said. “One cannot predict what the free market will make, but we can predict that it will be significantly better than government-owned, monopolized business and territory, because the true free market has worked better throughout history. There's no incentive for government to do anything right, because the rewards system is [set up] for failure.”
Them's fightin' words when you're talking theater, as political an art form as you'll find. Bertolt Brecht used it successfully in his advocacy of the socialist state; Sam Shepard sees his plays as calls to arms, warning that today's divisiveness in the name of democracy may put us “an inch away from totalitarianism.”
By comparison, Orlando said, the libertarian viewpoint gets little stage time. “Generally,” she explained, “libertarianism is not communicated about all that well. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it is. To me, it's a good idea to do theater about libertarian ideas, to try to clarify some things and let people see how libertarianism, or the lack of it, relates to everyday life.
“Also, as a person who uses theater as a training tool, I know it works as a way to illustrate people's situations without actually pointing the finger at them, without making them feel on the spot or having to get defensive about it.”
Café Libertalia (3834 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest, www.cafelibertalia.com) sports an all-purpose space way in back, with for-sale art on the walls and the most comfortable sofa this side of the galactic vortex (on my recent visit, I hadn't realized I'd been sitting for five solid hours until I stood up). Orlando and Thomas also use the space for comedy improv, a variety of meetings and showings of second-run and indie films on Sunday nights. There's space for a makeshift dressing room; a corner riser or two, and you'd have a perfectly adequate venue for a two- or three-character play about governmental inequity.
Orlando and Thomas are gearing up to solicit scenarios for just that purpose. All topics and levels of expertise are welcome, as long as the slant is decidedly anti-state.