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.

 

 

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.

From PROJECTS to PROGRAMS

  • June 27, 2014 1:10 pm

In March we participated in Belarusian Dream Theater with events in Florence and Los Angeles.  This was a pivotal project for us connecting our artists with university students, high school students and community members around the questions of democracy and censorship, torture and freedom of speech.

What resulted from this project was a decision that, now at the end of our third year as The Global Theatre Project, and at the decade mark of this work for myself, it is time to strengthen our assets and deepen our outreach in ways which support and heighten the artistic expression and activism of our artists.

As a result, The GTP will now enter a new phase where all our projects will be housed under two exciting and innovative programs.  In the states our work will focus exclusively on youth with The GTP Creative Corps which was established last year.  Here artists and students bring global questions to the local community through projects which develop their leadership capacity as creative advocates for proactive global citizenry.

Abroad we will focus all of our attention toward completing the necessary steps in the establishment of The GTP Institute which has been developing over the past several years.  Here students will have the opportunity to study and work alongside professional artists in an intensive conservatory-style semester program which will focus on the artist as social activist and community leader.

What has become clear is that there is an undeniable power in the collaboration between our artists and the youth they work with and that the impact potential for these collaborations needs to be strengthened and deepened.  This direction will benefit the immediate communities in which the projects are found, and empower each student toward an independent and unique relationship with the world and the challenges that it currently presents.

The GTP at View

The Global Theatre Project looks toward the future.  We recognize an existing obligation to respond to a globalized planet which is not in service to all of humanity.  We recognize that our obligation is to offer opportunities in which artists, youth and communities can open their eyes, their hearts, their minds to issues of importance to all of us.  And that, at The GTP, we can not only wake up individuals who are unaware of these issues, but help members of the youngest generations to not fall asleep as global citizens.

Where they take their experiences with us, only time will tell.  But, as a recent student participant in Belarus Dream Theater has said:

“This. . . was truly a life changing experience . . . It was my first experience with human rights activism and I really loved it and was amazed by how such a small scale act could have such a large impact.  The experience truly was humbling and inspiring! . . . I don’t know where the future will take me, but I do know that it will involve activism and design and I have you to thank for that!  Thank you for opening my eyes to new possibilities!”

The world will now change because Asia Richter has been engaged with questions and situations that broke open her mind and heart.  Like the hundreds of students we have worked with in the past and the many more we will work with in the years to come, she will not be able to go through life without questioning what is her part in this beautiful gift of a world in which we all live.

Why Belarus?

  • February 16, 2014 6:37 am

Why Belarus?

That is an important question.  With all of the possible issues that are occurring in the world, why would we chose to focus on a country few have ever heard of?  Although this is a question I hope all the artists, youth and community members involved in our current two events will ask themselves, I have been taking a look at it myself for quite awhile now.  Why did I decide to participate in the Belarusian Dream Theater initiative?

Belarus is a small country that many people have never heard of.  Its history is complex, and one never reads about it in the paper, hears about it on the news.  It is not discussed at dinner tables that I have been at (unless I bring it up). There is a silence which hovers over a country where people are not allowed to speak, to write, to perform, to act in any way that is counter to the oppressive dictator-like government.  I say ‘dictator-like’ because, technically, Belarus is a democracy.  And their ‘dictator’ is President Lukashenko who, in the last elections won by an overwhelming 80% of the vote.  Easy to do when you put all your opposition and their supporters in jail after beating them and torturing some of them.

afisha_fidh-300x206So, this country which lies on the continent of Europe is ignored.  It is not politically useful for our governments to help these people.  So they struggle on their own.  Or they disappear and no one hears from them again.

So, here we are at The GTP participating a second time in a call to the world by theatre artists to pay attention.  To wake up.  Why?

For myself, I cannot bear suffering.  I cannot bear cruelty or humanity reaching its lowest common denominator.  I believe, truly, we can be better than this if we just open our hearts by opening our eyes and our minds. But, as the person leading The GTP I think this project has value because our mission is to encourage active engagement with the world.  And what better way than to explore a country and a people we know nothing about.

When we did our inaugural event focusing on the struggles of the Belarus Free Theatre, my sister said to me: ‘Are you doing this because we are Belarusian?’

That question shocked me.  I had no idea that my roots lay in Belarus.  No idea that my grandmother was born in Minsk.  Did it suddenly become personal?  No.  Because I have no intimate knowledge or memory of stories from Minsk.  I only know there was a place which my grandmother and her family escaped from.  And now I know it is Minsk.  But what it did was show me how it could become personal, how the connection from one person to another, one history to another can exist. That if we begin to tell others’ stories, share the narrative of lives that require attention on this planet at this time, we may deepen our experience of our own lives and bring value to each breath we take.  We may understand that we are not singular as individuals, countrymen, religious groups, etc. but communal with a common thread connecting us which we can then decide has value.  And through the development of empathy, we realize and manifest our humanity. We can change what we then see and know as wrong or antithetical to a world we wish to live in.

Why Belarus?  Because I am Belarusian.  On March 25th, we should all consider ourselves to be so because there are people in this prison of a country who are suffering.  People whose stories need to be told for the reason that they are real, and they are happening.

Let’s use Belarusian Dream Theater to begin a discussion which will effect change.  Because this is not a political question.  It is a social one.  It is a human one which belongs in the hearts, minds, voices and hands of us all.

Why Belarus? Join us this month, learn about the country, its people, the censorship issues there and speak about it at dinner tables and in classrooms, at the theatres, in the piazzas and centers of our lives.  If we ask the question enough we may come to understand there is a legitimate answer for us as individuals, and as a collective humanity.

If you cannot attend our events in Los Angeles or Florence or any of the other participating theatres around the world you see listed here, then we invite you to request a packet we will send you which will allow you to participate on the 25th by learning about Belarus, reading the plays we will be doing, and having discussion points with which to begin discussing Why Belarus?

I think about Service

  • January 27, 2014 1:09 am

I have been thinking a great deal lately about this question of ‘service.’  Being of service throughout my life, what that looks like, what it truly means.

For many years I have thought it meant giving fully to the community, being of help when someone needs it, supporting what requires support, yearning to ‘be better’.

And much of that is true.

But recently I have been looking at the concept of being in service from a different perspective.  From its foundation rooted within each of us. From the perspective of Life flowing through me, being experienced by me and being shared.  I am the only Bari Hochwald that ever was and will ever be. And, in the history of apparently over 100,000,000,000 people* who have already been born, lived and died on this planet that is a tremendous statement.  On one hand it can make me feel quite small and insignificant.  My time over 200,000 years of modern human history is and will be quite short.  But there never has been and never will be a Bari Hochwald during all that time or in whatever time is laid out for mankind in the future.

And that is where my service truly arrives from.  This knowledge that I have something unique to offer: my feelings, my perspectives, my talents and gifts, my sensitivities, passions, my intellect.  What enormously valuable commodities these are. And these values should not be wasted or suppressed.  They should be generously shared.

When I turn my view toward The Global Theatre Project with this approach to service in mind, I understand why I created it.  Because The GTP is entirely about the evolution of service in every individual who works with us, studies with us or attends one of our events.  We are asking all who involve themselves with our work, on any level of involvement, to wake up to their own capacity by recognizing similar capacities in our fellow occupants of this planet.  We are asking our artists, our students and our audiences to be of service.

And I am seeing now that this sort of service, when embraced, evokes a high level of celebration.  It is the celebration of the capacity of human beings to live at their utmost individual expression.  And in this way, enhance the experience of all of us who share this planet both at the time that we live, and possibly for a period of time after we die. For myself, if I don’t honor this chance to serve, I miss the point, the opportunity and the glory of living.

This has been on my mind lately.  Particularly as we prepare to participate in the Belarusian Dream Theater project.  Particularly as we think about the approach we will take with our students, with our audience.  And the approach that I will take with our artists.

I think about service. And it fills me with hope.

 

 

*according to the Population Reference Bureau

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.

Of Loss And Lessons: In Memorium to Gerry Hochwald

  • November 8, 2013 2:47 pm

969395_10151843325194203_1799381693_nOn August 3, 2013 Gerry Hochwald passed away.  He was my father and I miss him terribly.  It was an unexpected loss, sudden and sharp the results of it spanning out like the vibrations of one of his pieces of art.

When I established Florence International Theatre Company in 2004, which is the work from which much of the mission of The Global Theatre Project has been born, I wanted to create a ‘look’ for our posters and logos which celebrated visual art in honor of the city in which we were founded.  I went to my father who immediately said yes and then worked with us from 2004, right through to our present efforts in creating a new logo for The GTP.

Daddy was always willing to work until we found the feeling we were hoping to create with each piece.  His contribution was so powerful that those who worked with me in Florence, although having never met him, mourned him with honest feeling for having lost one of their own.

He was always wanting to help.  To offer his art to our vision. One of the most meaningful gifts I ever gave was a baseball cap for his 80th birthday with the letters ‘FITC’ on the front (for Florence International Theatre Company) and ‘Official Artist’ on the back.   And he wore that cap proudly and often.  In fact, we buried him with it.  I truly believe he would have loved that.

I am his oldest daughter with almost 50 years to my name, but I have been reduced in these months to being his little girl seeking contact and comfort.  And guidance.

In these days I have turned toward examining the scope of my father’s work for answers.  84 years of expression and creativity.  He was a father I loved dearly, but I have learned more during this time about the man who lived those 84 years through immersing myself in his art, and wrapping it around my heart.

I was terrified when I sat in front of his coffin.  However I knew I needed this time alone with him so that I could truly allow him to pass in peace, and so I could understand that his life, as I knew it, has ended.  It was impossible to stand up and look at him.  I cried and wailed in ways I never thought capable of.  But then I began to breathe.  To bring honor to this moment between Gerry Hochwald and his daughter, Bari.  This last physical moment in time and space.  Slowly, very slowly I was able to stand.  And slowly, very slowly able to look.  It took an hour but by the end of this time I was, truly, joyful.  And at peace.  My father never did anything he didn’t want to do.

I have only recently begun to ‘come back to life.’  I have looked so hard at the work I have created, at the passions I hold dear.  And at The Global Theatre Project which has been the center of my creative and expressive life.  I have been questioning the point of many things, the meaning behind passion and inquiry, and why it is important to stay on a path which is consciously chosen and engaged with.  Why it is important to create at all, in fact.  And whether trying to have relevant impact in a world such as this truly matters.

Devoting yourself to creative expression comes from a need.  One that my father never articulated to me with words but that, clearly, he experienced through his art.  In quiet examination of his work I see an inquiry into passion, terror, harmony, discord, joy, playfulness, despair, hope, darkness, light, vibration, movement, stillness.  In other words I see the texture of Life being processed through an instrument and a blank surface, or in his later years, a mouse and a computer screen.  And this gift, this legacy of expression that my father has left me, I must carry forward.  Because that is what human beings do.  We create.  And this life that we have.  This one life. . . offers us the possibility to experience and express so much while learning the one essential thing of true value. . . who we are.  Until we know that, I believe we will continue to hurt each other, continue to destroy our world, continue to miss the point.  Creativity and art shines a light onto darkness and becomes a container of the human journey.

This past year I have stepped away from my own creativity in order to focus on structuring The GTP.  And, in doing so, I missed the point as well.  My father said to me on several ocassions that, when drawing, I need to use a lighter grip on the pencil.  I need to let ‘it’ flow.  He is wise in this teaching.  I have kept a strong hand, a strong position, on what I feel I must do in this world.  And recently that tight grip has kept this flow from happening.  So I have recommitted myself to the expressive journey. Without which, it is impossible for me to truly offer a container for others to do the same . . . the core point of The GTP.   And I am fortunate that, just as that commitment was made, our new Producing Director, Larry Minion, appeared to take from me some of the responsibilities that have distracted me from being able to do that.  A gift from my father?  Possibly.

As I said at the top of this post, I miss my father so very much.  But I am clear that this is not the end of our story.  Gerry Hochwald left an enormous legacy through his Love and his art.  And I know we will continue to create together.  And I am deeply, deeply grateful for this understanding and guidance.

Thank you for spending the time to read these words.  Below are examples both of my father’s work as incorporated into a few of the posters of Florence International Theatre Company as well as a few of his recent pieces.

Bari

 

Web - Poster FloodPosterBig Day of Memory

FITClogo Late Night fantasticks_600_webFlyer  Brass Band - Copy Burning Bridge 2 - Copy Cloudy Circus - Copy Clown Serving Lunch - Copy Cornfield - Copy Dance The Old Fashioned Way - Copy Don Quioxte and the Windmill - Copy FANTASTICS 2012 - Copy Flying High - Copy Glass Piece Hallows eve - Copy Horse Race - Copy Last of the summer corn lava Living Room New England Winter Storm Nude Open Wire Parade of the Masque of Death Pennsylvania Landscape Sonata Still - Life Whirlagig Winter Morning Winter Morning1 Wrestler

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!

 

 

 

The GTP Diaries: #3

  • June 13, 2012 4:52 pm

Of Rape and Strike

In 2008 we decided to participate in the global VDay initiative created by Eve Ensler.  Bringing together over 40 US and international students, community members and theatre artists we created 6 events throughout the city which brought attention to the issue of violence against women.  There were exhibits, readings and children’s puppet shows.  The major centerpiece of the week was a production of Ms. Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ which we performed in Italian and English with 28 women from 8 different countries.  The majority of whom were Italian and US university students.

The mission behind this project, raising money and awareness to eliminate violence against women and girls, was an easy one for everyone to stand behind.  But it was the creation of the play, the delving into the emotions, the building of a community that was going through a creative process, which solidified a group of people who never would have met, let alone spent this type of rich and valuable time together.  Some of the women spoke both languages, some only one.  But bonds were made regardless and a common commitment to creating and then sharing their work was palpable.

This event did something else however, it brought US students into relationship with the Florentine and international expatriate community.  It helped erase some of the perceptions about American students so deeply held in Florence.  There was respect for the girls which was a new experience for many of the adults of the group.

On closing night, after the performance, the set was being struck.  Everyone was in the theatre and the lobby packing up and working together.  It was 1am.  I was in the lobby packing a box when a student came up to me:

“Bari, there is a girl in the piazza with a guy and he is trying to kiss her.  She is drunk.”

A few of us went to check out the situation and, indeed, there was an American student with long blonde hair, the typical very short skirt and very high heels being slowly dragged into the alley by a man in his 30’s.

We chased him away, grabbed the girl and brought her into the lobby.  We would have sat her into a chair, but she was too drunk to wait for that.  She slid to the floor unable to say her name, unable to hold up her head.  Her wallet had no ID.  I had seen girls this drunk before.  It is terribly common in Florence.  And terribly dangerous for them.  They drink like they are on an extreme sport team for alcohol consumption, then they loose all their senses and they loose something else…. control of what happens to them.

This one was lucky.  She was saved.  This time.

And who was she saved by?  American students in Florence at 1am doing something quite different.  Striking a set with a community of residents who respected them and came to hold affection for them.  People who built something together of value and made an impact together in the community.

We all stood over this girl with no name who was blurting out her inner chaos to us in inarticulate phrases and I thought, ‘how ironic.’  Here we were: myself, American students, Italian actresses and the theatre manager staring down at the sterotype.  Until this project came into their lives this is exactly how the actresses and theatre manager thought all Americans behaved.

But now they knew better.  Now they had the experience to break a stereotype.  They could never have a conversation again with their friends or family which went ‘all American students disrespect our city and don’t care about other cultures.  They are all so self centered.  They all come here to drink and not to learn.’   They couldn’t have that conversation without their new response which would go something like: ‘No, not all are that way.’

Because, as we stood over the inebriated lump on the lobby floor, we knew she was only one person with a problem.  Not ‘all’ of anything.  So we called for help, poured her into a cab home with her roommates, and went back to striking the set.