In a hospital setting, “Code Blue” is the term used to alert staff that a patient is experiencing cardiac arrest.
In the current digital release from the Wilma Theater, “Code Blue” looks at our “current moment of crisis, that has been exacerbated by two kinds of viruses, COVID-19 and racism,” according to the Wilma’s Artistic Director Blanka Zizka, who also directs the production.
The digital performance, which runs indefinitely, tells the story of two men caught in the chaos of contemporary America. One man — Ross Beschler — embodies the Trump faithful, a particular breed of person who takes the president’s word as gospel. He labels the novel coronavirus a hoax and a Democratic plot, a stance buoyed by Trump’s own divisive rhetoric.
The second man, portrayed by Anthony Martinez-Briggs (who co-wrote the text along with Zizka), works inside a hospital during the COVID pandemic, and comes to grasp the volatility of what it means to be “essential.”
Says Martinez-Briggs, “My character, the second man, who represents the opposite side of the coin, comes to find himself in a world where essential means expendable, and those working for minimum wage are forced to weigh their health against their paychecks.
“Most of my character comes from conversations I had with my cousin who is seen as an ‘essential worker’ in a hospital,” Martinez-Briggs continues. “Those conversations were both painful yet beautiful because we talked about real things happening to real people.”
Originally from Washington, D.C., Martinez-Briggs’ first love was always music.
“But I took an acting class and one day discovered the works of August Wilson. I fell in love and decided to study acting based on that new love,” he says.
Martinez-Briggs moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of the Arts.
“I had never been to Philly before, and never been around so many amazing artists. I fell in love with Philly, and when I graduated from UA with a BFA in Theater Arts, decided to stay here and make this city my home,” he says.
And it definitely turned out to be the right choice for Martinez-Briggs. He’s been leaving his mark in many ways. For example, he’s a 2018 F. Otto Haas Award finalist, and a Barrymore Award nominee. He’s also a teaching artist, a member of the Wilma HotHouse company, a sound designer, and much more while still keeping up with his music.
In fact, even with so many other outlets to challenge and satisfy his talents, he insists he’s never forgotten his music — and never will.
“And if I had to choose between acting and making music, it would be a very hard decision, but I think I would have to choose music,” he says. “It’s the way I get to tell my side of the story as opposed to telling someone else’s.”
However, with the pandemic raging on, being any kind of artist in today’s world is stressful.
“Not being up on stage and facing a live audience makes a difference. We can do what we have to do but it’s just not the same.
“This pandemic has affected every aspect of my life — whether continuing as an actor, a musician, a teaching artist, whatever,” he concludes. “Still, as a community we’re all learning to go on with our work, saying what we need to say and doing what we need to do. We’re all learning.”