Katya Lidsky’s new one-woman show “I’m Sorry: How An Apologist Became An Activist” should be on all your radars for it’s frankness, enlightened monologues, and huge heart. This entertaining and poignant show about finding your purpose and affecting positive change has Katya playing 16 characters– some female, some male, some four-legged – shining a spotlight on contemporary animal welfare issues while tackling the challenges of integrity and self-esteem. Sometimes you have to find something to believe in before you can stop saying “I’m Sorry.” Here’s a taste from this bright new show;
I see animals everywhere. In poetry, in kids toys, in YouTube videos. It’s unanimous – they’re adorable, they’re funny, they warm hearts. They make jokes funnier. We use them to get points across. We parade them around to say something about who we are. And we love animals for it – at least for those few minutes. We take children to the zoo and aquarium, we point at every doggie, “look, a doggie!” When we have our first real relationship, maybe when we first move in with someone, our nesting bodies want a kitten so that we can better play house. We think of animals as practice babies, furry teachers, entertainers for our children, extensions of ourselves. But I am sick and tired of seeing animals everywhere like this.. because we are using them.
We are taking advantage of these glorious beings. We are using the hell out of them. We weave them into our games and feature them in our art, pretending we revere them, acting as if we adore them. And I’m enraged, even as I write now my elbows are shaking at our great hypocrisy. We don’t love these beings. We don’t treat them with dignity. We are a sea of traitors, breathing our contradiction and ingraining it in generations.
“The cow goes moo!” And then what? You tuck your phone into your leather purse? You read a bedtime story about the little chicken who is looking for her mommy, but did you at least teach them to give thanks to the chickens before they ate their nuggets today? Or better yet did you think to serve them nuggets made out of beans? Presidents talk about green energy as they devour their turkey dinners. Women in Beverly Hills prance around in their fur coats as they tell you how much they love their tiny overpriced white pooches, little overly-clean, licking accessories. They do not see their fur coat blending with their dog’s hair. Movies use animals to stir your feelings-pot. Suitors trying to become lovers with presents of puppies. I’m exhausted by the careless, ruinous, obvious ways we use animals. I’m ill from the two-faced insincerity.
Most of us are not directly the “bad guys,” right? Or so we think. We are the purchasers, the consumers, lining evil’s pocket. Our hands do not choke or slash or force, but we are keeping the supply going with our demand, we are voting with our wallets, and we don’t even respect animals enough to consider our role. We all play a role, for better or for worse. That’s the choice we get to make.
Quite frankly, I’m worried I’m going to end up on the 6 o’clock news when I think about this for too long. The burning, the fried sizzling, the blaze inside of me is something I can barely sit with. I’m chocking on fumes. I feel like a stranger in a strange land wondering why nobody cares as the flames take over. I don’t care if I am ugly with scars, I will still tell you: we do not get to use them how we wish and love them, too. But will you hear me? Will you see me? Can you see your own scars, too, or the ones you cause?
Faking it is so easy in our culture. Plastic is everywhere. But real reverence comes with a willingness to change your life in order to uphold your admiration, in order to back your values. You may even have to – gasp, no! – inconvenience yourself a tad bit to do what is right. Or maybe you will continue to look away.
Most people turn their heads. Our species continues to invent new systems that create misery. We are torture designers with our very own high-end brand. We brutalize in factory farms, puppy mills, animal-testing. We sentence animals to lives of confinement in shelters and circuses. Some are hidden; you will never see what they endure. Others are right there on the main stage, dancing and crying while you pretend this is a happy life for them, shoving peanuts into your mouth, shoving lies into your head. And still there is so much more torment than this, beyond what we can fathom.
Yet there is another famous Robert Frost poem regarding a baby bird. All I can think while I hear his beautiful words is, was he a vegetarian? Put your money where your mouth is, mister renowned author. Babe the pig made moguls millions and gave moms a break, a chance to catch their breath, their children watching but not remembering the bacon they dutifully polished off their plates this morning. What? Is? Going? On? Here?
I walk amongst confused furballs. Broken best friends. I wander around worlds of hurt and I’m here to tell you that when they look up at us with questions in their eyes as we demand more and more of them, we don’t even given them the decency of meeting their gaze. I first came to these worlds like a tourist visiting – daring to listen to their cries. Bags packed so I could head home when I was done in the land of truth, ticket in hand. I saw. I heard. The truth. I thought I’d never stop bleeding, cold-blood and warm-blood, and I had to find a way to bandage my empathy. But despite what I thought would break me or close me up, my heart burst open.
You see animals have made me strong. Because I had to learn to be, because I can’t help them if I’m weak and sad and feeling sorry about it. And I’m proud to “get it,” to feel this connection because – and please hear this – I’m the lucky one who gets to know them.
We want them to be “animal” in all their cuteness, but human in their brains. We want them to understand us, to justify our owning them, make sense of our using them. We want life to be easy and handy while we reason away why it’s okay to eat animals or make money off them or abuse and test on them. But if you strip that all away, if you shave the fur into a nice summer cut, you will see that you are lying. Little untruths are leaking like rancid oil from a dirty car, like old filthy fuel. Your humanity could be seeping out along with it, so I’d hurry up and fix the hole before you lose it all.
When will we take them out of our entertainment, take them off of our plate, take them as they are meant to be? Or can we at least admit that we love the power over them, and recognize what we’re really a part of? I don’t think we can believe for a second longer that we are entitled to build with them as we wish, that they are here to be what we need them to be, that they are satisfied with it, and then should just disappear.
I say “we” because every single one of us is at fault. It is not this group or that one; it is all human beings who are to blame. And it will take every single one of us to move this mountain and shift the paradigm. We’re all gonna have to shout every day, “these are lives!” They breathe and feel. You might think we are better. Higher, elevated, superior. Because we can think and invent and speak gibberish. But can you fly? Take belly breaths underwater? Smell cancer? Writhe to move yourself on the ground? Yes, can you? Our greatest failing is that we think we are greater when in truth our using makes us fools. We are not sharing the planet; and we don’t even know what we are missing out on by trying to dominate everything.
The moment I really understood what happens to animals, the second it hit me like a punch to my brain what they tolerate by our hands, I knew I was committed to loving them. I want to be a blood donor for animals, my heart pumping red juice in their name. I used to think I’d have to leave our own kind behind so that I could fight for them. I thought if I loved others too much, if I had a child of my own, if I focused on human relationships, that all my love would be spent on people. It would all get used up and there might be nothing left for animals. But the more time I spend with these other beings – four legged, soaring, swimming, all kinds – the more I immerse myself in their light, the more I realize that love is not limited. Love grows exponentially. I can love them and you – and in fact I love them more because I love you. Each new person is a new opportunity. In loving you well, I hope to help you love them, too. It’s a math equation of caring: keep adding, keep multiplying. Grow. The. Love. That is the only way we will breed compassion. THAT is what animals teach us – if we pay attention.
Furry, flying, dipping, digging millions, they have trained me to come at everything with love, with forgiveness, with empathy. I give them my blood with smiles, beaming. Because every time, somehow, it is I who feel blessed and grateful, getting so much more than I give. My tourist clothes and supplies thrown away, I am moving in among them. I live here. And it’s such a better place.
Katya Lidsky is a writer, actress, and pet-related host. She is also a content creator for Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest nonprofit pet adoption website, founder of ShelterShopper.com, as well as a volunteer for Los Angeles animal shelters.
Tags: animal rights activism, animal welfare issues, Animals, aquariums, chicken nuggets, Dogs, fringe festival, I'm Sorry: How An Apologist Became An Activist, Katya Lidsky, kids and animals, Leather, Robert Frost poem, Zoo's