I was wrong

  • December 12, 2016 11:56 am

As Michelangelo said during a time of explosive human evolution: “I am still learning.” That is what I am doing.

I’ve been wrong about my definition of my work. I have to be wrong because the times we live in are demanding that I am not only wrong but dangerously so.

Creative Campus Student Tash Nouri

I have always thought that The Global Theatre Project does not do political theatre. I was against that idea. I stood on the premise that we do social-awareness theatre – theatre that woke people up to our world reality and encouraged personal responsibility and action. I believed that politics were for the politicians. About that last sentence, I was wrong.

In this moment of human history we are our politics. We have created forms of government tied just closely enough to the will of the people that our responsibility is to ensure those ties are never severed but made stronger. However, if they are not made stronger by a conscious empathetic citizenry, if they are ties of fear and ignorance, then what our politicians and governments will become is a direct result of our lack of human development both individually and collectively.

The imperative is two-fold: 1) that we, as artists, now guide our communities toward a sense of inter-connectivity, creative and intellectual celebration and communal harmony. This is the necessary political action, protest if you will, that The Global Theatre Project is focused on. 2) that, as a US Not-for-profit cultural organization we recognize that cultural export is politics. And that it affects our lives back in our small towns and large cities because it effects our international relationships.

In 2009 I sat in the office of the Consul General of Tuscany with a project to connect US students and artists with the local community as a counter to the alcohol-binged evenings many of our young people participated in. She wasn’t interested in supporting this work. There was a time, prior to Ronald Reagan, when the United States had cultural centers around the world sharing our art and artists, our intellectual inquiries and discoveries with the hopes of demonstrating the value of a functioning democracy on the international community. Since Reagan those centers have been closed. And yet we still export our culture – through studio film, network television, corporate dominance and warfare. This perspective of our culture is not complete. And it is a danger to us.

We can not necessarily stop the political power machines around us from doing what they are doing…. because they are controlled by people who have lost their sense of connectivity to the planet and to other human beings. But we can, as political protest and necessity, strengthen our tools and our intention and become the social-political artist-activists that are desperately needed right now. We need to . . . , as my mentor and partner in The GTP Institute, Mack McCarter, says: “we need to grow healthy human beings.”

So here I want to say clearly that I was wrong. The Global Theatre Project does do political theatre. In fact, we are building an army to act on this political stage…. Creative Corps. Our first line of attack is the demonization of refugees and those in forced immigration with the project An Explorer’s Desire. Fear and hatred will never solve this issue. Our efforts to work in our communities and to export this project world-wide will hopefully demonstrate that.

Please join us #WeRCreativeCorps #ExplorersDesire

Who Do We Want To Be?

  • June 12, 2016 10:19 pm

I am proud to be a member of the theatre community. On broadway last night we celebrated not only the work of great artists reaching to the height of their creative capacity but we celebrated the expansion of the capacity of humanity to live and create and explore on this planet in peaceful community, respect and celebration of our immense and beautiful diversity.

James Corden

It is not ironic but sadly, in the times in which we live, horrifically appropriate that the Tony’s this particular year with the particular productions of the season occurred the very night of the terrorist shooting in Orlando. Because what it does is juxtapose the choice we have to make.

As Frank Langella quoted in his acceptance speech, when things such as this occur it either defines us, defeats us or makes us stronger. However, it is impossible to become stronger if we do not know who we want to be. And the arts allow us to see deeply into that question. To bravely and courageously open doors that in other avenues of life we may not be encouraged to open. And once we step into those rooms we find ourselves facing ‘the other’ armed with the capacity to know that they are us. Because they are human beings with stories to tell, hearts to open, eyes to see and ears to listen. And this is what a life engaged, or touched by the arts gives us. The tools for empathy. The tools for sanity. The tools for peacefully abiding together. The tools for knowing who we want to be.

We must be strong. And we must acknowledge that we are at a crux of human history where we have a choice to make. We now must consciously work to counter all the violence, all the hatred, all the inhumanity, all the cruelty, all the waste that is occurring in this world. That is our job. We have no other.

APTOPIX Nightclub Shooting Florida

If you sat still enough – even while watching the screen of the television – to feel the energy, the joy and yes Love present in the Beacon Theatre last night; if you listened to the testimonies given to community, to faith, to acceptance, to respect, to partnership, to collaboration, to individual growth, to compassion, leadership, responsibility — then  you would know those are the elements due to all of us. In the Beacon Theatre existed a model for our future. Just as at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando existed another type of model.

The choice is laid out. But the question remains. Who do we want to be? Those who join the community of the Beacon Theatre and expand in numbers so great that no physical space could hold us or those who live in fear as victims and perpetrators in an ongoing cycle of violence and hatred horrifically lived out at the Pulse? In Syria. In Israel. In Somalia. In Libya. In Afghanistan. . .

There will be a call to arms in these days. It has, of course, already begun. I have written before about the bravery required by us in these moments. I believe that the values of theatre assist in confronting the human condition. What I saw tonight on the Tony’s is an army with the true weaponry to save humanity.

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Did you?

 

 

No Longer Seeking Escape

  • March 24, 2016 1:25 am

When I was at Syracuse University we had a week of nuclear awareness events. There were lectures, there were discussions and films. I remember one night I watched ‘The War Game,’ a British drama-documentary filmed in 1965 dramatizing the effect of a nuclear explosion in Britain and the resulting end of their society structure. The film was so powerfully done that it was hard to believe it wasn’t a documentary. That these things didn’t actually happen.

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When I walked out of that building I literally thought the sky would light up at any moment. And, at 19, I wondered what I was doing at Syracuse University studying something so inane as acting.

When I called my mother in desperate tears and fear she said something that has stayed with me all my life. She recounted for me the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the belief they truly had that, at any moment, the world they knew would end. She told me that what was most important at that time was for them to escape that world of fear, to be entertained, to be reminded of the value of life through film, theatre and art.

I am thinking about that now. I have thought about it many times throughout the last three decades, and it comes again to me since the attacks on Brussels and the ongoing attack on Syria and so many other places or moments where humanity is not to be found and violence announces itself as king.

I am not 19 anymore. And the world has utterly changed in these 30 years. In such a way that I am sure it will never return. No matter how many walls we build, or fences we construct. We are now at a time where we can no longer believe in the safety of an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ We will only find our true comfort and our deliverance to a humane and peaceful planet through courageously exploring the challenging journey of embracing WE.

And this, I know, is where the artists come in. No longer to offer escape, but to offer a healthy pathway to community. No longer to only entertain but to encourage the spark of creative connectivity found in every human being on this planet. This is an imperative. Just as I am sure more attacks will come.

Clearly the way we have been heading has not established a way of living together that assures peace. Our leaders – our governments – will do what they will do. But while their actions either are improving our hopes for survival or diminishing them, it is time for the artist to take up the call and expand their personal mission to be responsible to all humanity.

It is a brave act to look deeply at one another. To embrace each other through the fear of our differences, our histories, and to arrive at the moment where we see our mutual beauty. That is a power that an artist can direct, shape and guide.

It is a call to arms for the sake of humanity and the planet on which we depend.

Launching An Artistic Attack

  • January 22, 2016 8:46 am

868648b42fdf6c96052d464cafbe9ef1Reading Erich Fromm – The Heart of Man
are we wolves or are we sheep or are we both or are we neither.
Imprisoned Americans returned and it’s a call to war,
American soldiers captured for 24 hours and it’s a call to war.
War, guerra, war.
This chess board of manipulation where millions follow and few lead.
Is Trump wise, is he brilliant? Did he study Elias Canetti’s Crowds & Power?
Did he?
Or is it instinct so great in him that knowledge is unnecessary?
Or is it not him at all but the thousands who rally behind him begging for answers as to who to blame for their sleepful lives Hiel Trump and onward to glory.

What is it in human nature which elevates so few and the rest are left in a sea of moving parts. I have seen photos by photographer Sebastião Salgado of the gold mines of — Brazil I believe it was — the workers of the world he photographed body after body descending into darkness carrying weight upon weight in service of — of what?

There is survival of course but a bit of bread is that the exchange for such torture?

I am confused these days by my purpose and passion. I am blocked from my heart — which still pumps its power through my 5’6” skeleton. I am one of the most privileged human beings to ever walk on this planet in the entire history of our species — I know that. How grateful I am, how blessed I am to not be in an inflatable boat surrounded by darkness and crying children and the depth of the ocean all around me, nor to be a black mother praying every day her son makes it home to relative safety from the streets of a US city, I am not an indigenous native in South America whose homes and entire world are being burned around him or. . .

or . . . or . . .

So I sit on my newly acquired sofa bed writing about what I am not and how, yes how deeply grateful I am but also how terrified for a species called Homo Sapien which I love and am amazed by .

What is this need to war we hold within?

This territorial separation between landmass or intellect? How is our evolution charted and drawn on the map walls of historic palazzi and palaces. Who chooses the leaders and why, oh why do the masses answer the call? To work the mines or fill the ballot boxes with sleep and dull-minded animation of step after step on the bloody dusty plains and battlefields; of boardrooms and war rooms; of mines and parades. We celebrate collective memory and we write a simpleton version which sings well and loud. Loud enough for subtler voices to be silenced or — better yet — never heard. What is that desire to mass? And what of it lies in me?

I sit on a small hill and hold the hand of my Grandparents, my Great Grandparents, my Aunts and Uncles.     My father.     Here  the air seems fresh and the view seems clear. But the storm rages. And I rage as well.

I sit in my Baltimore apartment on the 7th floor with my father’s artwork on every wall, my meditation corner, my books, my white board and my files. My countless pages of writing. My lists upon lists and untouched piles of financial woes. I sit here looking out the window of a city I barely know and gather my armor to launch my attack. My footmen, my generals I seek one-by-one. My solitude, my heart beating, my continual reflux, my loneliness, my question of movement and time, of purpose and power, my anger at the world for hurting itself so deeply, my desire to do — do— do something but the realization that to do something — to affect, to touch requires deep work — deep mining. Down, down, down into the darkness and bringing up the heavy load. To sit in the boat with the terrified mother and feel the anger lapping on the weakening rubber side threatening — threatening. To wait in the heart of the black boy’s champion as she wrings her hands much too slowly watching the clock tick-the-minutes. To smell the burning of the only world I knew within my nostrils the fresh burnt smell teasing my senses to cry aloud “WHO AM I?”

Who am I?
And what are we? we
gifts of miraculous wonder
we atomic composition of enlightenment
we sensory filled experiences
we temporarily named beings

Erich Fromm writes that we willingly go to war — we willingly believe any truth — because we have no individual emotional or intellectual identity.

How easy it is for our minds to turn
like pages of a book tossed by the wind of a harsh breath from a pulpit
A story with no end.

 

And here I sit in Baltimore
counting days and seeking peace

 

 

Beginning The Conversation

  • December 30, 2015 11:01 am

Rare Steaks“An Explorer’s Desire” which we did in 2013 in Los Angeles and Florence, Italy was originally conceived to demonstrate that immigration is not a ‘local problem’ but a common issue filled with one deeply specific human story after another. There is no ‘wave’ of immigrants, but there are drops of individuals who are either forced or choose to migrate from their home and each carries with them every human emotion, every care, every fear regardless of their skin color, their language, sexuality or religion. When we see them as a wave we forget this. But when we listen and feel their individual journey’s we can see our own. This is what we wanted to demonstrate in 2013. This and the fact that the exploration of the world is a glorious thing — that meeting each other on the stage of this planet is a rare gift.

Now, in 2015, we have come to a point, yet again, in our history where immigration and the immigrant is demonized. And because of this I could not stand by silently. It seemed to me — a second generation American — that some of us were forgetting our history, and that others were allowing the manipulation of words to shortcut logical exploration and discourse.

So, clearly the right thing to do was to re-examine “An Explorer’s Desire” in order to respond to fear and hatred which are rising both in the United States and Europe as many of our neighbors from various and troubled lands seek shelter and kindness – seek a new home where they are safe.

I have always said, and I will again say it here, that The Global Theatre Project does not do political theatre – we do social theatre. We look at social issues and seek processes and approaches which help our artists, students and community members to celebrate the inter-connectivity of humanity.  To find the way to guide others toward remembering we are one human family. That the world as well as our very neighborhood streets function better when we engage on this level. However, I am pointedly choosing to explore this issue during an election year because many of our politicians are using immigration as a tool and this is threatening a social fabric I feel we, as a free people, can not forget. The tapestry of our history.

Throughout the coming months I will share the process with you: What we learn, what challenges we face, what individuals and groups we engage and what art and conversation is created.

Please stay in touch. At some point we will want to include you. Your story is important, your history, your journey — all of it is intertwined through the centuries to this very moment.

Happy New Year,

Bari

Because That’s What You Should Do Y’all

  • November 23, 2015 2:01 pm

For years I have been looking for a mentor for my work.  I always knew and believed that those who have gone ahead of us — walked the path, fought the dragons, built their armor, found their heart — were wanting to assist those of us who were still further behind them on our own journeys, eyeing their footprints while shaping our own. If we could just catch up enough to lightly tap them on the back, maybe they would know we were here in need, only strides behind them.

In September I was sitting at Yom Kippur services in Shreveport, Louisiana next to the man who is the mentor I’ve been seeking. I had been visiting to more deeply understand the work he laid down there twenty years ago which became Community Renewal International.  CRI is an organization which has been transforming communities through identifying and addressing a simple illness — the lack of caring for each other. An illness which leads to every issue we deal with in our neighborhoods, towns, cities, national and international communities.

We were sitting in the synagogue because – in my Northeast culturalization –  I thought it would be truly amazing to hear all the prayers in a southern drawl.  But as it turned out, after days of my ‘full immersion’ into the bible belt of the country – into wonderful homes and classrooms, and community rooms, meetings, gatherings and meals with amazing people – more than hearing a sound, I needed to feel the smallest bit of where I came from as a tiny respite. My ear was pleased for the southern drawls of the congregants wishing me ‘L’shanah Tova,” with that melodic regionalism but, ironically the prayers were said by their rabbi – a Northerner – who sounded exactly like me.

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My mentor is that melodic southern regionalism. He is all that it contains. I am a willing disciple of Mack McCarter…. who is among many things a former paster in Texas, a high school football player, a civil rights activist of the first order, and not at any point in his experience an artist.  If any one of us looks back at how we come to meet another, the road is filled with stories of madness and mayhem. So the question of how did I meet him of course is a long one which came from a thoughtful suggestion in an email and then a phone call, a meeting and then – as Mack likes to say – “Hammathahammata!”

He says it enough that I thought I would see if it actually meant anything. I assume that it must because Mack is an educated and self-educated man. He is someone who has studied societal and communal systems thoughtfully, his pastoral education and experience has made him mindful and sensitive to individuals and relationships, he is a powerful speaker and a champion for humanity.

Apparently Hamma or Hammath is Hebrew for ‘hot spring’ and in one particular case was related to those found near Tiberias (a city established in the first century CE). These particular springs were famous since antiquity for being curative. Near the springs was built a Synagogue from 286 to 337 CE. At the excavation sites one of the images found was a mosaic of Helios the sun god. And now I understand. “Hammathahammata!” is a called from the deep spring of healing to shine a light on our humanity.

That is what Mack does. That is his call to me through our work together. Both in our partnership, which will be shared in more detail as time goes by, and the mentorship I receive through his friendship and generosity of self.

When we sat together at B’nai Zion in Shreveport I felt a bit more at home with the rituals, the prayers and the northern sound. But Mack, who was so excited to join me, knew the people. Practically all of them. Because when the Ku Klux Klanner David Duke was running for governor of Louisiana in 1991 there was fear in the Jewish community of what would happen if Duke won office. Mack crossed the border of his deep Christian roots and went there every Saturday to sit with them during Shabbat services in solidarity and community. A shining sun drawing a cool long drink from the deep spring of humanity. One smiling hand clasp or greeting at a time.

Because that’s what you should do Y’all.

Warriorship

  • April 9, 2015 5:05 pm

As terrorists destroy not only human life, but the cultural history of, in essence, all humanity, there is only one thing that comes to my mind.  Which is that we must fight warriors with Warriorship.

Because we are at war in these days.

That war is taking place in locations such as the blood-soaked terra of Syria, and Yemen, yes.  But when we look in shock and horror at what is being done by ISIS, can we also look to our own society and see where we engage in the destruction of Life’s value? Can we acknowledge the multitudes of children who go to bed starving or whose minds don’t develop with the privilege of education as an inequity that is also a dismissal of our collective value? Can we recognize that, in our mechanized cruelty to animals in science laboratories and in factory farms, we are saying that we have no regard for the sanctity of the miracle of Life which flows through them.

We live at a time when, in a myriad of efficient and effective ways, many lives are being sacrificed and destroyed for the benefit of a few, for the belief of a few.  Lines are being drawn physically, economically, socially and philosophically and war is declared on multiple fronts.

This violence against ourselves and our world disassociates us from experiencing the intimate knowledge of connectivity that allows for fulfilling our capacity for true progress and development.

Because of this, I have come to believe and understand that celebrating the sacredness of life is the most powerful social and political statement that can be made right now.

The process of becoming an artist takes years of training in order to become an expressive, creative instrument.  It requires trust in self, trust in your collaborators and your public.  It invites an energy toward the readiness for something unexpected and, surely, beautiful and uplifting to happen through a collective experience.

And then it does.

It does when we come together in a theatre, when we stand in front of a painting or sculpture and receive what was created for us . . . any conversation between the creator and the receiver is a sacred act.

And sacred acts are our call to battle.  This is why I believe so deeply that the only way out of this darkness is to create an corps of warriors who celebrate Life.  Warriorship defined through the artist and the artistic process.

With the destruction of the 3,000 year old archeological site of Nimrud, the director general of UNESCO called the action a ‘war crime’ that should be taken up in International Criminal Court.

Iraq;_Nimrud_-_Assyria,_Lamassu's_Guarding_Palace_Entrance

And she is right, it is a war crime.  But this war requires masters of culture and of life, not soldiers with military hardware or the ‘impartial’ arm of justice to imprison the perpetrators. Because the long term view of victory will require that we embrace a better understanding of who and what we are, and from that understanding take action and render justice.

I envision a world guided by young artists who understand that all lives are imperative.  Warriors that understand they cannot train, create or work in a void because they are needed and necessary in  the public spaces of this moment of human history. Their education and their work process should include another element contemporarily integral to becoming an artist: community engagement and social service.  Their Warriorship is the training to stand in the face of this violence and devastation and be a fully creative, expressive and celebratory human being regardless.

And, in doing so, remind us that we are – all – the same as well.

This, to my mind, is the only way we will win this war.

This, to my mind, is the only way we will win our human magnificence, sanity and dignity back from both the terrorists and the terrorism of our own societies and our world.

Defining Conflict

  • December 24, 2014 7:46 am

I have begun a collaboration with Human Rights attorney and professor of Sydney University, Rita Shackel.  Her work has, for many years, focused on sexual gender-based violence in the conflict zones of Uganda, DRC and Kenya.  We began exploring this partnership with the question of how we can create a theatre piece which not only brings attention to an issue, but affects both global and local policy.

As we deepen this query it’s become quite obvious that although Professor Shackel and I speak relatively the same language (Australian and American English) we don’t often speak the same language of profession.  Words can mean very different things.  Or the subtleties of what they do mean can be, at times, confusing and misguiding.

At a recent conference in Carrara, Italy we presented a workshop on how interdisciplinary collaborative relationships can be valuable in affecting global communities through creative works.    In preparing for this workshop Professor Shackel and I had to find a common ground upon which to stand.  We both want the same things – we want our work to have impact, we want to be of service to a horrific issue affecting humanity globally and locally, we want to inform, we want to motivate people to action.  And, not the least important, we want to learn from one another.  And then we ran into the word ‘conflict.’

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An important aspect of Professor Shackel’s work is observing and analyzing conflict. She is a researcher and this issue of conflict brings her very important information from which she can eventually make policy suggestions toward societal change.  So creating environments which will offer abundant opportunities for conflict to be present is desirable in order to draw useable data.

Conflict in theatre has a different value.  Although we use conflict to create drama – intention versus obstacle resulting in conflicting needs and wants then leading to action – we structure that conflict in a crafted manner either through a script or through delegation of roles in improvised scenarios.  The point of interest for us is not the conflict itself as much as how it was resolved.  And this may seem a subtle difference, but it is actually quite a vital one when we were structuring the exercises and approach for our workshop participants and when we were clarifying our individual and collective goals.

Both of us are interested in analyzing human behavior.  But the difference is that Professor Shackel analyzes behavior that is actual.  Theatre artists analyze human behavior in order to apply it to storytelling.  We create artificial environments which reflect human truths and then we ‘behave’ within that artificial environment depicting our humanity as specifically, intimately and theatrically as possible.

I was given the opportunity, once again, to be reminded of how very powerful the theatrical process is.  And how deeply necessary toward both engaging and analyzing human behavior.  In working to find a common ground, I had to consciously deconstruct the theatrical exercises and reframe them in order to communicate more clearly their value and power.  But, in doing this, I was also given the gift of seeing them from the window that framed the gap between conflict and the resolution of conflict.

And this gap offered me the opportunity to begin thinking about the actual future project that will be developed between us.  If in only looking at this one word – conflict – we might find that the process we develop will become more valuable then the final product.  And that, possibly, a final product will not best serve this project.  Possibly the presentation of a play only allows an audience to passively experience empathy.  But in designing a theatrical experience for the audience which is centered on the question of conflict – both personal and communal – we might be more affecting.

These are questions which arose during working with Professor Shackel.  No doubt they will unfold as we move forward.

Legacy and Learning

  • December 1, 2014 11:01 pm

Recently I have come to understand something. About my work and my approach to The Global Theatre Project.  And I feel it is important because it connects to how we will continue in the future, how we will approach educating students and creating work.

I have been taking the perspective that there is basically something wrong with the world and it needs to be fixed.  That we, as a species, are on a destructive course from which it seems we will not repair our wrongs.  I have observed myself so very angry at what we do and at other times inconsolably saddened by our ignorance and cruelty.  I have taken the perspective that we have to use our projects at The GTP to mirror the horrors of our own making so that we can face them and address them with a sense of responsibility and ownership.

And now I feel that I have been very, very wrong in doing this.

This perspective works in contrast to my belief – actually more than a belief it is a knowing – that the world is basically good.  That Life, when it is allowed to flow, is miraculous and abundant.  And that human beings are capable of extraordinary things.  Every single one of us is exceptional and miraculous.

So really it is not that something needs to be fixed.  Because in addressing the issues that surround us by attacking them aggressively we are, actually, participating in the malady of mankind.  The action that I believe must be taken is to explore a sense of goodness, of rightness in humanity.  Our obligation is not to undo but to do.  The world we experience daily – glancing in open kindness into a stranger’s eyes, observing a person helping another through a moment of life – offers the courageous simplicity needed to build faith in a healthy humanity.  And from that perspective of both the observer of the wonder and the makers of wonders is where the work should focus.

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The challenge I am presenting myself with is to consider how to create work that doesn’t hide from the truth of what we are currently creating in our violence, wars, environmental destruction, but resists deconstructing what we oppose and puts efforts into constructing what we stand behind.

It is from this perspective that I hope to guide The GTP Institute, Creative Corps and all future projects of The Global Theatre Project.

But this also requires a deep level of inquiry, of exploration. . . . and this is where the question of Legacy and Learning takes a front seat. As many of you know my father passed away not too long ago and this, along with my 50th birthday, brought to question what is passed on.  What is left behind.  But I don’t think we can keep that question in a place of individual concern.  I think it is a collective one.  What are we leaving behind?

When we think of global citizenship, which is in the heart of The GTP mission, that question has to be asked, and asked, and asked again.  And that is where the learning enters.  So, I have been thinking about the influences on my perspectives.  A lot of it comes from my recent return to studying Shambhala buddhism.  And a lot of it comes from my love of theatre and its processes which is imbedded with a recognition of the power of community.  And, of course, my past teachers and mentors.

As we prepare for the eventual launch of The GTP Institute I have been thinking about the reading list I want to create for our future students.  But then I thought these books had great influence on me and I would like to share them generally.  And then I wondered what else was out there.  What do you feel are texts, videos, poems, songs, artwork, etc. that could be added to a preparatory list for exploring global citizenship and creative, celebratory leadership?

These are a few of mine:

The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasures

by Sakyong Mipham

Crowds And Power

by Elias Canetti

Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict

by Cynthia Cohen and Roberto Gutierrez Varea

Being Peace

by Thich Nhat Hanh

New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development 

by Arlene Goldbard

Aristotle’s Poetics

VIDEO: Music and Memory

SEND US YOURS AT: info@theglobaltheatreproject.org AND WE WILL BEGIN A RESOURCE LIST TO SHARE WITH OTHERS

Looking back, thinking forward

  • November 12, 2014 7:17 pm

In 2010 and 2011 we did a play about Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya written by Stefano Massini. It spoke to her experience in reporting the events of the Russian-Chechen conflict non-biasedly and the result being that she was murdered for it.

Nord Ost

We developed the play in Florence, and then put it in the center of an event in Los Angeles where we partnered with Amnesty International to ask two questions: why is it important to protect journalists in conflict zones; and how would this protection be linked to healthy democracy. In other words, why should we care?

Sandy and Kala in discussion

I have never felt quite done with this piece of work — the production itself or the potential for the event created around it.  I have always felt that there was more we could do with it, more people we could involve and impact.

Then I read this blog about what is happening in Ferguson.  In our own territory’s conflict zone.

When we sit for a moment silently and think about what a journalist — a REAL journalist — is, it seems to me we have more than an obligation to protect them.  We have a responsibility to embrace them for enlarging our own intellectual capacity to process complex information and form opinion prior to taking action.

When our societies  create an environment that literally beats or murders that level of inquiry, that level of curiosity, that test of what is real and what is not, that grey area where black or white can not survive and has no place . . . when that is strong-armed out of existence, we are threatening the true value of being a human being.

We are capable of complex processing and thought; of intelligent, enlightened action.

Without information, uncensored and freely reported, we cannot reach this potential.  Either collectively or individually.

I am, every now and then, frightened for where we are headed.  And yet I hold honest hope and faith that we can turn a corner away from this deep rooted.  . . fear . . . of the challenges of being human and living together in this shrinking world.

Maybe we will do the play again.  Maybe we must.  And soon.  Because within only 3 years, a question which seemed somewhat difficult for our audience to grasp personally is now clearly in our heartland.  Journalists need protection so that democracy can legitimately thrive. Everywhere. Including within the landscape of our personal analytical processes.

We need to be brave enough to look at our world, created by our hands, through their non-biased reflections.

And if we need first to reflect on why that is, then it is the artists’ call to answer.

Stefano Massini, the author of ‘Stubborn Woman: a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya’ has said: “Art is the strongest reason man has for being on the planet.”

Every day my reason for making art becomes stronger.

There was a time in history when art celebrated the glory of man.

I feel a desperate need some days to create work in order to help us all remember we are glorious.  More glorious then we seem to know.