Patricia Ariza Enters the Stage

  • November 2, 2014 12:32 pm

I am newly arrived in New York.  The city of my birth.  And an energy I have not lived in for over 25 years. But I am home.  I know I am home because within days I was sitting on the floor in a room of about 20 people exploring the question of our own experience and perspectives on violence against women.  Against ourselves, others. A deep and immediate conversation with strangers who were there for one reason: to tell the story. The woman holding the container flew from Columbia to be honored by the League of Professional Theatre Women.  Patricia Ariza was to receive the Gilder/Coigney International Award for her work of the past 23 years.  But for now she was practicing trust and craft.  As all of us were.  As each stood and told a story. A truth. And then, over the next four hours, art was made of it.  And then, the next day, shared. Patricia Ariza Patricia began this work about 23 years ago.  Collective Creativity is what she calls it.  A process which takes in all contributions.  And then funnels those contributions to make an impact on an audience, on a community.  So they can recognize themselves.  Can so deeply identify themselves in a moment or an evening, that they hunger for what the artists are giving them. Patricia focuses her work mainly on women artists and the social movement of Columbia with victims of violence and displacement.  As I sat at the awards ceremony and listened to the Consul of Columbia speak about what a heroine Patricia is for Columbia, it struck me powerfully how true her words were.  Patricia has said the same, but in her own humble way: “The important thing is not me, but what I do with the women’s movement and social movement in Colombia. I am confident that the theater serves to achieve peace.” Peace is not easily achieved.  But unless we seek it, unless we are willing to be strangers sitting in a room sharing truth and crafting it into a journey out of darkness, we may never arrive at its shores. Certainly I intend to act on Patricia’s and her colleague Carlos Satizábal’s invitation to become a part of their world.  To bring The Global Theatre Project into active conversation with their work. I envision a world of creative warriors who enter the stage prepared, as Patricia, is to guide, to listen, to witness. And am grateful I am here in New York and was in that room.  

In Mourning Of Innocence

  • July 10, 2014 9:18 pm

When I think of the events we have done in the past years and their focus: violence against women, human rights abuses, censorship, violence against journalists, freedom of expression, Russia, Belarus, Congo, Chechnya, I know we have touched people to awaken to issues they have not paid much attention to in their daily comings and goings.

But lately, in watching the news, reading articles, seeing video and documentary about the state of our world I realize that each individual focus – each subject or theme we have embraced – are only residual aspects of a greater challenge.

We are loosing our humanity.

When I say ‘we’ I mean the collective ‘we.’  I mean that, as a species, we are expressing so much violence, so much self-hatred, so much destruction of ourselves and the planet that feeds, nourishes and protects us that it can only be reflective of an illness or a misalignment which is screaming out to be addressed.

There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ in a global reality.  As much as we would like there to be.  We have left that time. We are interconnected, our actions in one country affect another, we feed each other, we clothe each other, we entertain one another and share information on a minute-to-minute basis.

And yet there is a frightening movement in the last few months toward the use of children as pawns in our self-hatred and in the darkness we have entered.  Certainly the rape of girls in Congo as a tool of war and the kidnapping and training of child soldiers has been going on for years, and now we see Nigerian girls kidnapped as a motive for terrorizing a nation, and teenagers murdered in Israel and Palestine as . . . what?  As instigations for launching rockets and air raids?  We are now using our youth as the territory of our violence.

These are our children.  These are the flowers of the miracle of Life.

iPhoto Library

There is no hope but what we make.  I see darkness all around.  But innocence – pure and true – can be nurtured to embrace a reality that I believe is the only one that will truly save humanity.

On our homepage is a question we have asked you to answer.  The question is: ‘Who Is The Enemy?’

But I will be removing that question soon and canceling that project.  Because the answer is clear and need not be explored all that deeply.

We are the enemy to our own selves.

And I do not want to engage any further in the violence of this world.  I don’t believe in it.

What I do believe in is Life.

So, as we move forward on these new programs: The GTP Creative Corps for youth and The GTP Institute for university students, we will focus on one thing.  The development of creative thinkers who will work to maintain a balance to this darkness, will seek a light to shine on our lost pathway, who will be encouraged and guided to believe in a power greater than hatred, fear, violence and the destruction of our humanity.

This will be the focus of our work.

In honor of all the innocence being destroyed as I type each. . .  one. . .  of . . . these. . .  letters.

Calling For An Evolution.

  • January 2, 2014 2:51 pm

Evo-lu-tion: A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.

 

46494_10151141618802569_929889223_nThere is a lot that theatre can do.  But I believe, at its best, theatre can evoke evolution in society. And, at this moment, we are in sincere need of exactly that.

We are living in a time when so much is at stake.  The global ‘community’ seems to function perfectly for mega-corporations, governments, the military industry, but not quite so much for the average citizen.  And yet we are affected by this globalization, both directly and indirectly. For us, the borders are becoming more closed and difficult to cross, our freedoms are being restricted for ‘our protection,’ our food supply is being poisoned for ‘our benefit,’ our wages are decreasing, our fears rising. The world is becoming smaller, yes, and we do connect through internet, this is true.  We learn about what is happening in other parts of the world.  We spend hours on Facebook and Twitter.  And we do credit these social media sites with instigating revolutions.  We recognize the power of collective action — even through cyberspace – to invoke change.  But is true human evolution possible relying only on this cyber-environment to connect us?

Without intimate contact, we cannot truly come to know one another. Without the glory of creating together . . . which is what human beings do best . . . we will not advance as individuals or societies.  We will regress.

It is not that I am calling for an elimination of our progress and advances technologically.  But I am calling for an active recognition that, at the foundation of it all, we need to know each other.  We need to experience directly and globally what we most value: compassion, understanding, joy, laughter, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, playfulness, celebration, self-expression, curiosity, imagination, patience, Love.

These instincts and faculties, I believe, we are all born with.  As Nelson Mandela said:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart then its opposite.”

Theatre, particularly, explores the caverns of the human heart and the expanse of our collective and individual stories.  The live interaction between the artists and the sharing of their discoveries with the audience through language, visual art, music, choreography, passion and intellect stretches all involved toward the fullness of our miraculousness.  At its best, theatre gifts all those present with a unique moment of time which exists only because they are there together.  Never to be repeated exactly the same again.  We leave the moment better somehow, larger, deeper, more alive and curious about ourselves and our world.  We become sensitized and alert.  We evolve with a knowledge that only comes from an experience which invites us into a space where we sit elbow-to-elbow with those we don’t know and patiently, listen.  We let a world unfold into our eyes, ears, mind and heart.  We see other human beings, who look so much like ourselves, soar for us to heights of human expression.  To the joys, the humor, the loss, the weight of struggling with life as it is.  And we leave feeling more alive in our bodies and, if given the opportunity, in our communities, our world.

The Global Project is not a theatre company.  It is an offer of evolution.  It is a love affair with theatre from the knowledge that, in the world in which we live today, an art form such as this – – presented in ways that involve and engage, question and observe, will celebrate what we can become: human beings living in harmony on this planet.

It is possible.  But it requires an evolution.

And we are calling for it.

Campaign for Finance

  • July 6, 2012 11:10 am

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

On July 3rd I read an article in the Huffington Post which said that in three days: “Nearly 65,000 Democratic supporters have contributed an average of $35. . .”  I took out my calculator.  That is $2,275,000.  $1,000,000 of which was raised in 24 hours.  On a Saturday.

And I had to think: ‘what is wrong with our nation?’

We are turning our backs on our arts. . . our culture. . . for ‘lack of funding’ but when there is a political battle to be waged, we fill the war chests and face each other from across the aisle wearing our blue and red t-shirts and crying our support and love for this great nation.

So I read what Martin Luther King said.  And, although he is referring to our military, as our parties amass their enormous accounts so that they can destroy the opposition in order to win, I am beginning to see no difference in the potential outcome.

Just following September 11, 2001 I read a book by the Nobel Prize winner, Elias Canetti, called ‘Crowds and Power.’  In this book Canetti demonstrates how we move from individual thinkers to non-individualized beings.  He shows the various ways in which we lose our personal power and join our energy to a crowd energy.  He explains this as a product of the ‘human condition’ and gives many examples of how very quickly it can occur.

It seems to me that we have all agreed we are a country in economic crisis that simply must allow the ‘extras,’ which enhance the quality of life and expand our potential as human beings, to be pushed aside and buried as unnecessary ‘luxuries’ during this time.   And then the political machine goes into gear…. and we, with our ‘average of $35′ contributions, follow.  Writing our checks and scanning our credit cards with passionate enthusiasm for our vision of ‘the future’ embodied in a candidate we likely will never meet who will not fulfill all our dreams of an utopian United States of America no matter how hard he or she attempts to fulfill their campaign promises.

I simply wonder what would happen if we didn’t.  Could you imagine what would happen in this country, in your town, your city if that $1,000,000 raised on that Saturday had gone to support the arts and arts education?

Who are the victims of this war?  In my mind, the victims include our communities, our children, our future.  When over two million dollars appears in less than a week to support our passion for taking sides and overcoming the opponent (who, by the way, are our neighbors and family and friends), but theatre companies, museums and dance companies are closing, children are losing their exposure to arts programming and educational support for their creative development, and therefore the future of our society is being eliminated. . . I think the victims are clear.

We, as a nation, have found more interest in the power of politics than in the true daily occurrences in our own lives and the lives of our neighbors.  When the campaign is over and the television networks, who are major ‘winners’ in this fight, announce who is elected, or re-elected to the various offices we can look at the most costly and expensive race for power in the history of our country and know who the true losers are.  Ourselves.

We can choose differently, if our priorities as a nation were different.  It is possible that we can awaken from this ‘crowd mentality’ to realign our focus toward the values which can reflect the truth of who we are.  A nation of individual cooperative people, a generous nation, a nation which reflects the world as a prism through the individuals found in our schools, our parks, our stadiums, and our theatres.  A nation which values what we create and, yes, this likely requires we insist the money flows from supporting campaigns in the hundreds of millions of dollars to creating tangibles in our communities we can benefit from and be proud of.

The Global Theatre Project, and so many organizations in this truly great nation, are your neighbors and friends who are working to make our country, and our world a more holistic and communal place.  If there should be money raised with vigor and passion it should be for those organizations and individuals who are working to bring us all together through positive creative and socially impacting work.

I must admit I am appalled by the amount of money pouring into this campaign.  We are not at our best when we move into a mode of automatic response to the war of Democrats versus Republicans.  I believe we then reach the precipice of ‘spiritual doom’ that Martin Luther King identifies.  But, like Mr. King, I have a dream.  My dream is that one day very soon we will wake up from our slumber, see the waste of these resources, how appalling it is and choose a different path.   I propose a campaign for finance of our arts and education. . . what if, this Saturday, we simply raised $1,000,000 for support of the arts.  Obviously, it’s not really such a difficult thing to do.

Bari

As Artistic Director and President of the Board, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest a donation of $35 or more would be put to good use by The Global Theatre Project.  You can click here to learn more. And feel free to tell 65,999 of your friends and colleagues!

 

 

 

Belarus Free Theatre: NOW

  • December 1, 2011 8:53 pm

AN UPDATE ON OUR FRIENDS FROM THE BELARUS FREE THEATRE:

Early in 2011 the national and international theatrical community rallied together behind the Belarus Free Theatre as they struggled to find a way to not only continue their powerful work in the theatre, but bring awareness to the truth of the situation in their country of Belarus.

Human rights infringements, horrors of torture, disappearances, and unjustified imprisonment were brought to light as a result of these brave artists fleeing their country and arriving in New York to perform at the Under the Radar Festival.

That act of courage brought many of us around the globe and throughout the United States to add our voices to their cause. ‘Free Belarus’ was video taped and chanted in places and by people who may never heard of or given much credence to this country prior. But it was the passion and commitment of Natalya Kolyada and her husband Nikolai Khalezin who awakened many of us. These founders of Belarus Free Theatre brazenly put not only their art into the world, but gave shape, feeling and articulation to the cries of their countrymen who otherwise would have been silenced to international ears.

In New York, London, Chicago, here in Los Angeles and many other cities throughout the US and Europe vigils were held, readings of ‘Being Harold Pinter’ (created by Nikolai and based on the work of their supporter Harold Pinter) were staged in solidarity.

But relatively quickly, the focus moved from Belarus to the Middle East. And the members of Belarus Free Theatre could not return home without risking grave personal danger. And nothing changed in Belarus. Except that more of their friends and colleagues were arrested and put in jail. As Natalya once shared with me, Belarus has no value. Only people. No oil, no resources. So who will come and help a country whose leader has been called ‘the last dictator of Europe?’

However, they tirelessly continue to bring focus to the abuses of power and human rights violations. They meet with diplomats and politicians with hope that they will apply pressure on the Belarusian government to release political prisoners and bring an end to enforced disappearances. And, they make their art. They must. Because as long as they make theatre and tell the truth of this story, it won’t be ignored utterly. It will not be forgotten. As they have stated on their website: The Belarus Free Theatre is a “project” which will be ended when the situation in Belarus changes from dictatorial regime to democracy. Within the current political and world climate, that does seem unlikely any time soon.

So what happens until then?

c. They are also busy creating new pieces they hope will make a difference, one of which, A Reply to Kathy Acker: Minsk 2011 was presented at the Edinburgh Festival. It received a top award of the festival, “The Scotsman Fringe First 2011″ Award for “Innovation and Outstanding New Writing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe”, as well as The Guardian’s “The Very Weighty Topics Award.”

And what can we, the international theatre community, do to help them now?

Natalya and Nikolai are in the process of officially registering “Belarus Free Theatre” for charitable status (not-for-profit) which will allow them to grow their organization at a more substantial level. The goal of the first leg of this campaign is £9,000 (approximately $14,000) and they are more than halfway towards that goal. The deadline is December 12th—if they don’t reach the goal by that time, they will be liable for a high penalty.

We often have very weighty and interesting discussions of theatre and its relevance. And here we have one of the most relevant theatre companies in the world who need our help. Not only are they giving a voice to a country suppressed, they are artists of the highest caliber in our profession. I know that my association with them has opened my eyes and my heart to the true power of what place art and artists take within our world.

To learn how to help them on this next phase of their life, please click here

Our Special Guests for “Especially Now”

  • November 22, 2011 9:19 pm

We are pleased and privileged to announce our special guests for  

ESPECIALLY NOW: Create the World Together

December 11 at 7pm

UPDATE: Mike Farrell also joins with our Amnesty Action in Act 3!

MIKE FARRELL is an American actor, best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the television series M*A*S*H. He was a producer of Patch Adams (1998) starring Robin Williams, and has starred on the television series Providence (1999–2002). He appeared as Milton Lang, the father of Victor Lang (John Slattery), husband of Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) on Desperate Housewives (2007–2008). Mr. Farrell is an activist for many political and social causes. He has worked with Human Rights Watch, was on the Board of Advisors of the original Cult Awareness Network, and has been president of Death Penalty Focus for more than ten years, being the first person to be awarded their Human Rights Award, subsequently named after him, in 2006.

 

We welcome back the brilliant actor James Cromwell. He will stand with Amnesty International and all our participants for Act 3 of the evening. Thank you James!!!!

Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie Tech, James Cromwell – the son of noted film director John Cromwell – studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon. He went into the theater (like both his parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays. He started doing TV in 1974, gaining some notice in a recurring role as Archie Bunker’s buddy Stretch Cunningham in “All in the Family” (1968), made his film debut in 1976, and goes back to the stage periodically. Some of his more noted film roles have been in Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and the surprise hit about a charming pig, Babe (1995). He garnered some of the best reviews of his career – many of which said he should have received an Oscar – for his role as a corrupt, conniving police captain in L.A. Confidential (1997). IMDb Mini Biography By: M.S. Burton <suburton@u.washington.edu> 

 

Act Two: Panel Discussing the impact on civil rights and democracies when journalists suffer violent reprisal for reporting the truth 

KALAYA’AN MENDOZA has been an activist, organizer and mobilizer for various issues ranging from Queer rights to Tibetan independence to anti-racist organizing and beyond. He is currently serving as Amnesty International-USA’s Western Regional Field Organizer, coordinating with human rights activists in Southern California, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming. Prior to working at Amnesty International-USA he was the Grassroots Coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet International during the Beijing 2008 Olympics campaign. In his role as Grassroots Coordinator Kalaya’an launched and coordinated numerous social network-based campaigns globally, utilizing social media platforms ranging from Facebook to Twitter to Youtube.

 

 

SANDY TOLAN is a journalist, teacher, and documentary radio producer. He is associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.  He has reported in more than 30 countries, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He has produced dozens of documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International, and has written for more than 40 newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and The Nation.  Much of his focus has been on land, water, natural resources, ethnic conflict and indigenous affairs. He has received more than 25 national and international honors, including two from the Overseas Press Club, the DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, three Robert F. Kennedy awards for reporting on the disadvantaged, a Harry Chapin World Hunger Year award, and a United Nations Gold Medal award. He was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I.F. Stone Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught international reporting. 
In 2006 his students won the prestigious George Polk Award for their public radio series on the early signs of climate change – the first time students have received a Polk Award.  Sandy is the author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2006), based on his award-winning documentary for NPR’s Fresh Air about a Palestinian man, an Israeli woman, and their common bond: a stone home in the town of Ramla, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The book was Booklist’s “Editor’s Choice” for best adult non-fiction book of the year. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2006 Christopher Award. His first book, Me and Hank (Free Press, 2000), which the New York Times called “a solid hit,” is an exploration of heroes and race relations in America through the experience of baseball slugger Hank Aaron.

More information on ESPECIALLY NOW: Create the World Together

Facebook Event Page

 

 

 

 

 

“This is the power of art” -Amnesty International

  • November 18, 2011 12:21 pm

Bari Hochwald, President & Artistic Director 

When the opportunity arose, in the support of the Belarus Free Theatre, for us to take our model of theatrical international engagement and apply it to essential issues such as human rights and free speech, I knew that I wanted to expand the experience by involving an organization that I have respected for years. I am thankful that they immediately understood and embraced what we were doing back in February.  And now, with our upcoming project, we have the opportunity to deepen and expand that relationship in a variety of ways all in one evening.  I am deeply grateful for this and feel sure that, as time goes forward, we will be creating innovative and exciting events together that are creatively, intellectually and spiritually provocative and that engage not only our artists but our audience into a participatory experience such as we will be doing in Association with Amnesty International on December 11th.
 
We asked Amnesty International Representative Jessica Farley to share why she’s involved with The GTP.
 
Amnesty International

JF: Amnesty International (AI) was founded 50 years ago to speak on behalf of prisoners of conscience, those who have spoken out and been detained, tortured or killed for their political or personal beliefs. Anna Politkovskaya was a heroic human rights defender and a prisoner of conscience. Her courageous investigative journalism in Russia and Chechnya did what AI activists all hope to do, be a voice for the voiceless and hold people accountable for human rights abuses. It is for this reason she won the 2001 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. The Global Theatre Project uses artistic expression to draw awareness to human rights issues around the world, now on behalf of Anna Politkovskaya, and those of us at AI supports this important work on behalf of human rights and are excited about our relationship with The Global Theatre Project. 

Amnesty has maintained a strong relationship with artists because it is easy to make the link between creative expression and freedom of expression. I grew up studying theatre and became a member of AI when I was 14 years old. I am an artist and a human rights activist. So, I know theatre has the potential to create an experience that provides us a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and live in the world. I love that The Global Theatre Project urges us to understand not only some of the darker human experiences that we must not forget, but also offers us the opportunity to be touched by the lives of incredibly courageous people.  

Q: How is Amnesty and The GTP’s work similar and how is it different?

JF: Amnesty and The GTP share underlying values. AI has over 3 million members in 150 countries. I believe most of our members consider themselves to be world citizens. Part of The GTP’s mission is to build and promote creative cross-cultural relationships. AI and The GTP advocate for human rights and global understanding with the participation of an international community. AI members and staff may spend more time writing letters and issuing reports whereas The GTP is primarily an artistic organization, but activism can take many different forms, though our vision for a more humane world is the same.

Q: Why is Anna Politkovskaya’s voice important to be heard?

JF: Amnesty International’s emblem is a glowing candle encased in barbed wire. This symbol represents those that shine a light for others in the darkness. Anna Politkovskaya was, and remains, a light for those in Russia and Chechnya. She sought the truth in the midst of a terrible war and then shared this truth with the world, knowingly risking her life. Human rights abuses are often justified by those who commit them, but Anna Politkovskaya reminds us that such abuses are never justifiable and should never be hidden. Her work is a stand for human dignity and reminds us to have the courage to speak out, even when governments or society would have us stay silent. Her voice reminds us that we are all responsible for each other and have a say in the kind of world we share.

Q: How did you feel after the first read-through of the script?

a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya by Stefano Massini

JF: I felt both excited to be part of this project and saddened by the reality exposed. I have heard many stories about human rights abuses, often first-hand. It is never easy. The script is moving and evocative. It gives us a glimpse of what Anna Politkovskaya’s life was like, what she discovered and the challenges she faced. This is the power of art. It brings things to life. The script brings Anna Politkovskaya to life along with those who were victims in the war between Russia and Chechnya; this is difficult to experience, but I feel it makes us better people.

Q: What about the panel interests you the most?

JF: We live in strange times. Amnesty has worked on many human rights abuses in the USA and abroad. However, we have the freedom to host a panel on human rights, and not everyone does. I am interested in the expert voices on the panel and the diverse perspectives they will bring to this discussion about freedom. I am interested to hear the questions from the audience because I imagine everyone attending will be part of a community interested in expression and humanity. 

Q: Can you please describe an Amnesty Action?

JF: Amnesty members spend a lot of time writing to oppressive governments and authorities who are able to directly make a difference for those suffering human rights abuses. We write on behalf of specific individuals or groups advocating for human rights to be upheld. It might be hard to imagine that such action would have an impact, but it does. Prisoners are often released or we receive information that their treatment has improved. We keep in touch with many former prisoners of conscience and they tell us our support gave them hope when they were alone in a cell or that their interrogators specifically mentioned calls, letters and campaigns by Amnesty International before their release. Our work shows human rights abusers that the world is watching. 

Our Amnesty action on December 11th will be for Majid Tavakkoli. Majid was studying ship building in Iran when he was imprisoned for giving a speech at his university criticizing the Iranian government in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election. His charges included “participating in an illegal gathering” and “insulting officials”. He has been sentenced to serve more than eight years in prison. He is a prisoner of conscience who was jailed simply for expressing his opinion. Majid will be part of our Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon where we will join thousand of people around the world and call on the Iranian government to uphold human rights and free Majid Tavakkoli.

Especially Now: Create the World Together

  • October 24, 2011 5:52 pm

In thinking about a name for our upcoming event the questions associated with so many aspects of our work kept coming into play.  Why are we delving deeply into the development of new creative work at a time like this?   How can we put a focus on issues abroad to Americans at a time like this? How can we possibly hold a fundraiser at a time like this?

The answer, of course, is obvious.  It is Especially Now that we should be doing the work we are doing.  It is Especially Now that we need to build the most responsive, innovative, visionary and positive cultural organization we can possibly imagine.

Thus, the name of the event came easily.

But this event brought on deeper contemplations for me than assigning it a title.  It made me think about our work in general.  I do see, of course, that The Global Theatre Project is an extension of my own experience of life.  It is my response to the world I see around me and so it is subject to those responses.  In many ways it is a living thing.  So what is it that I see? A world in dark transition struggling to find its light.  It is a real struggle.  Played out now in almost every country around the globe.

And the only way I believe we will achieve moving through struggle to real peace is through experiencing and understanding our commonality.  Then we can move forward.

As I mentioned in my last post, I recognize my ‘naive’ perspective on solving conflicting global issues through theatre.  My perspective on life in general has been called very ‘American’ from time to time by some of my international colleagues.  Of course I am aware that there are complex challenges and systems, structures and cultural divides (as well as economic, social, political, etc. etc.) that we hold as reasons for the tensions and conflicts which are becoming more and more articulated.

But, at the same time.  I recognize that there are more and more people around the world who are reaching across those divides in spite of the complex challenges.  They are motivated by one thing.  Human connection.  Because once you make that connection. . .once you see yourself in that other person or people. . . you create possibility for change. 

In our work it is important that we always celebrate our connection.  Even when we are addressing difficult issues, such as we will do on December 11th.  It is the process of exposing what is, breathing life into it through communal and public experience and moving forward armed with an awareness that can no longer be ignored that interests me.  How can theatre and all the aspects around creating it do this?  And how can it do it better and better?  How can we take this evening and apply as many prisms to the experience for our participants and our audience as we possibly can?

These are my questions.

Because, to me, it is Especially Now that we must focus on how we can Create the World Together.

In Memory and in Questioning

  • September 10, 2011 5:43 pm

On September 11, 2001 a horror happened on US soil which, in  my observation, did two particular things.  It woke us up and it closed us in. 

I watched back then as the extremity of positions were identified and then held with no middle ground.  The left, the right – everyone took sides.  Up to that moment I generally followed the lead of my party.  I voted without thinking, I believed ‘we’ were in the right and ‘they’ were in the wrong on any given issue.  But my observation after 9/11 was that this became even more extreme.  And that, as each day went by, ‘my side’ looked and sounded very much like ‘their side.’  The words were possibly different, but the energy and fear behind it all seemed very much the same.  And that is when I stopped.

For about a year I didn’t sign petitions, call my representatives, write letters without reading as much as I could about the facts.  I stopped believing just because I heard it on the news, whatever ‘it’ was and whoever was reporting ‘it’, that truth was being reported.  I questioned everything and everyone.  And, for a long time, I took very little action.

I believe that, clearly, The Global Theatre Project is a result of the events of September 11th.  A slow decade-long development of a response to a day that I, like all others in our country and many around the world, will never forget.  Too many things were put into motion that day.  We could no longer collectively deny that there were some who truly hated us as a nation and a culture.  In our terror we looked to our borders and began, slowly, to close them.  But in those ten years something else has happened.  We stopped talking to each other and started screaming at each other.  We stopped discussing.  We took positions, found the borders which gave us comfort in confirming our sense of self.  And we held our ground.  Immobile.  Right.  All others… wrong.

Also during that time we have lost a good deal of respect in many foreign countries, and are now a military nation weakened both in our economic power and our legitimacy as the shining, pristine example of democratic values.  And during that time we have watched a generation of young Americans entering college who are defined over and over again by their parents and educators as having too strong a sense of unearned entitlement.

These, of course, are my personal observations.  How do they connect to The Global Theatre Project?  Because my burning question based on these thoughts has been: given where we are, what do we do now?

I believe there is only one answer to this question.  Which is to learn a deeper truth than ‘us’ and ‘them.’  To step away from positioning and holding ground which continues to remind us that the world is a hostile place, while we participate daily in its growing hostility.

We are all connected.  The question is do we choose to continue creating a world where our most significant connections are based on violence, territorialism, intolerance and injustice or are we ready to make a sincere effort toward a global change that is, in my mind, the only one which will secure a healthy future for us and, yes, as importantly, our neighbours.  That sincere effort requires new systems and approaches which lead us to an understanding that our connection is found through exploring what common ground we stand on.  Who we are…. As individuals, cultures and nations and how that serves an expansion of our understanding of what we are as a common humanity.  From there we can shape our future proactively, not reactively.  In my mind, this is our only hope for survival.

The Global Theatre Project launched its work by bringing attention to the situation in Belarus and the struggle and enormous courage and talent of the Belarus Free Theatre.  Our most recent project included staging a work by Florentine playwright, Stefano Massini, which was inspired by the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in ‘Una Donna Non-Rieducabile’ (A Stubborn Woman).  With each piece the artists, students and the public associated with it expanded their knowledge of suffering in the world.  But to me, that is not the true point of their work.  Or of ours.  The true point is not to bring attention to suffering so we can point to it from a distance.  The true point is to FEEL their situation and know it is our own suffering we feel.  Human suffering.  Needless and pointless.  But it exists.  It exists for as long as we choose.  And, in order to even begin to imagine that it could change, we must take a look at the core of this issue.

The anniversary of 9/11 has inspired us to take a theme that has strongly emerged for me this year at The Global Theatre Project and expand it into a multi-year inquiry.  That theme is ‘Who Is The Enemy?’ which I am announcing now as an open inquiry which we will explore in various ways over the course of the next five to ten years.  It will include everyone from children to adults, it will partner with varying institutions, cultures and individuals, it will reach beyond the discipline of theatre and of the arts,  it will evolve into its own life.

In the scene from ‘A Stubborn Woman’ entitled ‘The Intelligent People,’ Massini demonstrates so elegantly and devastatingly that taking sides is an intellectual decision and that, in the end, the viciousness of the Chechnians and the viciousness of the Russians is simply. . . viciousness.  At the graves of children and innocent people, taking sides becomes utterly irrelevant.

Ten years ago I began to see that the view from one immobile position might make us feel secure, but it requires demonizing ‘the other.’  There is no future in that.  In order to move a way from this view, we have to be courageous enough to look ‘the other’ in the face and ask ourselves in as many possible ways as we can imagine ‘Who Is The Enemy?’

Possibly with this question, we can find a reason for the loss of life on September 11, 2001.  And the loss of life that, needlessly, continues.

In memory and honor of Laura Rockefeller.  Who I made theatre with when I was young.

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