I am a theatre maker and I cannot pretend to be anything but, however.. What good is the theatre during a time of atrocity? Ideally, it holds a beacon of truth and deconstructs society so that we continuously develop as a species. Unfortunately, in our time the theatre...

in general is nothing but false hope selling lies and stories, regurgitated produce for profits.

In a time that experiences regular evil, and war define us. When the arts disappear, with poetry, philosophy; the things that create the soul of the citizen, are marginalised. Are we to be just cogs in a machine?

While I was in Greece shooting Dog Years, very quickly I realised that there was more heart, soul, solidarity, and hope in a single refugee than in our entire city. These people: men, women, families, babies and children, grandparents, and disabled, sons and daughters, lovers and enemies, were all people; being left for dead on the border, sleeping in mud, on rocks, with no information, hardly enough aid. And yet these people could smile brighter, the children laughed harder, the people seemed happier than 'us'.

How could it be that 12,000 people found more peace with nothing knee deep in sewage?

And then one day NATO came, helicopters, 4 or 5, some kind of manoeuvre, most likely a photo-recon mission. The refugees, heard them, saw them and screamed- running around in pure terror- panic attacks- children frozen still, tears pouring down their faces.
The refugees on this camp only know choppers that bring bombs, and with the logic of 'they bomb us there, they’ll bomb us here', 12,000 people prepared to die.

The families tell their sons and daughters things like 'were going to grandmas house' before they embark on their journey's towards asylum. Mothers tell their sons hero stories about the needless bombing on their home's streets, they just want their children to grow up to be good people. A 9 year old girl pulling her 6 year old crying sister by the hair saying 'you have a good life!' Everyone dreams of the day they arrive in a place where they can start a life again. All they have is each other.

A little refugee boy came up to me, grabbed my arm, and wrote in farsi with a dry erase marker, 'to stand for someone that makes you smile'. How could the children be so wise? He melted my heart, the children play with so much openness there. I worry that he won’t make it out of there alive to tell his truth. I feel almost that now I have a task in life, to stand for the things that make people smile. Real time with some of the most neglected people in the world has taught me about what is important in life.

I can no longer stay in my life and not sacrifice for these people. It is a categorical imperative that all people go to a place of suffering and give their heart, sweat, for the sake of the human race.

I chose to stay out there to finish off the documentary, complete this experience, and connect deeply with my collaborators. In making this choice, I chose to quit an opportunity to work with Edward Bond on Dea. People think I am crazy for quitting. But what am I if I choose ambition over responsibility for capturing the truth of the most beautiful and painful truth of these refugees. The media exploits these people and distorts truth to manufacture opinion. I was offered a chance to add to this debate and to throw this responsibility away for ambition seemed deeply hypocritical, and I wouldn’t have been able to look at myself.

The theatre, right now, is just theatre.

Society is a heartless representation of cinema, television, and indoctrinated idiocies.
How do we elevate the theatre so that its not theatre? How do we develop society so that it represents commonality and humanity? Where is ethicality, morality? How do we redefine what it is to be a member in this society, in solidarity? I would love to be a part of all of those conversations, shifts in thinking; but theatre seems so small when debated alongside problems with society.

That doesn’t mean the theatre isn’t important, on the contrary, it has been one of the most important tools for enriching debate across society. My point isn’t that we should stop making theatre - but we need to start over. New stories, new ways of thinking, new ways of composition, new ways of training, no more mediocre profit seeking schemes... maybe one day the theatre will have its power to plant real seeds of thought in people again..

But maybe theatre can wait, our dreams inside our society, maybe aren't as important as the reality of the dying refugee who left his home because our leaders destroyed them. When faced with abandoning Craft's documentary to serve my ambition, and dreams in society; quitting on Bond was an easy choice for me.

I was born in Tampa Florida, grew up in St Louis. Poor family, broken home. My entire life has been about achieving success. But what good is a life with a black heart?

Today, I decide to start over. I am just a boy, as human as refugee boy and I want to give the sense of life he has, and stand for things that make people smile.

Dog Years, this documentary is some of the best work I have ever made. Not because it is the tightest film or without issues but because it is real, honest, and attempts to inform the debate in a way that puts solidarity in the forefront of the conversation.

I made this film in the only way that I know how, I structured this piece in the way I structure my theatre work. And the piece is distinctly original, distinctly me, and does not shy away from the harsh reality, beauty, or political diatribe. I’m proud of its raw-ness, and honesty. I’m proud of the experiences we faced, and  I am proud to be participating in the debate.

Dog Years is much more than a film. Dog Years is made for the people that were there, on or around, the front lines of the European refugee crisis. The people that faced it, experienced it, cried over it, cared about it, researched it. It’s for the person who may have been a refugee before, for the person whose parents were refugees, and for the person who is a refugee now.

It’s for the people that have questions, have compassion, and want to hear answers. It’s for the hordes of volunteers answered the call creating one of the largest expressions of solidarity in all of history.  For people left with emotional scars, whose lives changed drastically. For everyone, who has helped a person, or wants to help people. For the revolutionary, for society, for solidarity.

Dog Years will show you the truth and effect the crisis has on real people, tell you the stories, help you feel the human connection and the authenticity in people who experience these events.

And in the parlance of our times, with the rise of Trumpism, hate, more fear, more war, more lies and alternative facts… Dog Years and its message is of the utmost importance.

I hope the piece makes you experience the range of emotion we experienced when we were living the film.


Rocky Rodriguez, Jr.