I depart Thursday for my first stop in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. It is the furthest west county in the Oklahoma panhandle and the least populated with just about 1200 people in the county seat of Boise City (pronounced "boys city", I'm told). One of the most striking differences (besides racial and ethic diversity) might be population density. Cimarron County has less than 2 people per square mile while New York City has about 17,000 residents in that same average space. In the 2016 election Cimarron County voted 89.2% for Donald Trump with 6.6% voting for Hillary Clinton. Compare that with my home in Brooklyn where 79.5% of people voted for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received 17.5% of the vote.
I've had some excellent help from people in the community working to connect with with residents and business owners. Everyone from the local paper to the heritage center to the County Clerk have passed along my info, offered advice, or even posted my contact details in the local paper and encouraged folks to reach out. I'll be spending 4th of July weekend there and am hoping that will provide a chance to meet some people I might not otherwise cross paths with during my trip.
Before I depart I'm spending a bit of time this Wednesday in Union Square here in New York City asking strangers about their expectations, impressions, and experience of these parts of the country. If you want to join me on Wednesday just reach out, I'd be happy to have some company before I depart. I'll be sure to check in along the way.
Scott Illingworth is an Assistant Arts Professor in the Graduate Acting Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a freelance theatre director.