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.

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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.  

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.

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.

 

The GTP Diaries: #01

  • April 23, 2012 3:46 pm

Politics and Art

I remember, several years ago, I had a student in Creative Campus named Georges.  Georges was from Egypt and studying international law at the European University in Florence.  He wasn’t an artist.  But he was curious and passionate and he had an immediate understanding of the impact artistic experiences and collective experiences have on society.  He became very involved in a great deal of what we did.

One of his projects, which he created with a girl from the states, was in response to our Creative Campus project ‘the effects of the global economy on the environment.’  This was a theme one of the local professors was interested in seeing developed creatively and I was intrigued as to what the kids would come up with.  Georges and his friend stood in front of the Duomo (the main cathedral of Florence) and handed out a small sheet of paper to passersby in three languages with facts about the effects of smog from over abundant tourism on the over 500 year old architectural wonder.  Then they photographed the responses of people to the paper . . . reading it, throwing it into a ball, discussing it with others.  And these photographs along with their narrative of direct responses to them became their installation at our event.

What struck Georges and his partner most was a comment of an elderly Florentine man who read the paper, looked at them with tears in his eyes, and thanked them for bringing attention to something of such importance which, in his lifetime of living in his city, he had never heard asked before.

A few weeks after the presentation we had a Creative Campus gathering with an important local artist, Marco Fallani, who was speaking about the commitment to a creative life and a creative society.  Georges asked why it was that when dictators come into power they kill the artists first.

Little did Georges know that his creative inquiry in front of the Duomo was a part of the answer to his question. Or, as Robert Frost so aptly put it:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Our Team Gives Thanks

  • November 23, 2011 7:50 pm
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Often working on a show and involving yourself in other people’s stories causes artists to view their own life differently. I asked our team if they are thankful for anything specific after spending time on our rehearsals for the bilingual performance portion of Especially Now: Create the World Together. The replies are beyond inspiring.   -Cindy Marie…

The Fiddler

  • November 13, 2011 10:02 am

Last night I went to see my friend’s daughter play Golda in a high school production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’   This play was first performed the year I was born.  And, of course, I have seen many incarnations of it since.  I have always loved this piece but last night there were a few things that struck me about the entire experience.

The first was the energy in the lobby when I entered.  The excitement, the joy, the sense of expectation.  These are feelings and expressions so rarely experienced in professional theatre.  It was thrilling to be within this moment just as a play was about to be shared.

But it was the play itself that really struck me.  Many of us know the story.  It takes place in a small village in Tsarist Russia where Jewish and non-Jewish Russians learn somehow to live with tolerance of one another until forces push them into positions from which they can’t return.  Traditions are threatened, lives change, major societal changes and power struggle are in the background of people simply trying to live their lives.  The Jews simply wish the world to do what it will and leave them to their peace.  But the world has other plans for them.  And they are forced to abandon their lives as they have known it for centuries and move from their home into the great unknown of a changing world.

This is likely not the way I would have explained the story when I first saw it.  I would have seen a piece about Tevye and his 5 daughters, the shifting relationships with the three eldest as they express and follow love for their future husbands, and Tevye’s faith and love of a god who he personally knows and loves in his own, humorous way.  I never would have felt so strongly, as I did last night, that this story of Fiddler on the Roof is a story about humanity, not simply Jewish identity and tradition.  And that its narrative is continual and current.  Expressed in many languages and in many cultural/religious scenarios even as I write this. 

 When I thought about a particular scene I am directing called ‘Chechnya’ from ‘A Stubborn Woman: a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya,’ which we are about to present, I was struck by the similarities, although of course presented in a musical-theatre fashion, to what ‘Chechnya’ also speaks to.  The ‘clearing of the Russian woods’ of the ‘blacks’ (as the Russians referred to the Caucasian Muslim Chechens).  A continual movement of people from land mass to land mass, or a destruction of them entirely.  There is the importance of dehumanization in order to do this.  Either dehumanization of ‘the other’ or dehumanization of one’s self as is demonstrated by the Constable’s insistence to Tevye that he has ‘no choice.’  Which led my thoughts to the Syrian military pressured to shoot into crowds of unarmed protesters or suffer death themselves at the hands of their superiors.

Although life is not a musical, Fiddler on the Roof became for me a powerful statement of how significant theatre can be in the depiction of the human evolutionary progression.  Is there any people who have no suffering in their background?  No moment of struggle for survival, or historic circumstance with which they have to defend their right to exist on this planet?

Tevye is, of course,  followed by his Fiddler…. his ‘Jewish soul’ who can not become a separate part from his suffering.  But who can withstand the test of time and cruelty of humanity.  The music continues…. even as a whisper in the background of the chaos we create against one another.  It continues as a memory and as a promise.  To us all.

I am deeply grateful I saw this production last night.  It has informed me of two things.  One, that we as professional theatre artists must continue to find ways to create theatrical events which people are as thrilled to be at as parents and friends are at a high school production.  And two, it confirmed for me that my presentation of ‘A Stubborn Woman: a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya,’ must have its own ‘Fiddler’….. its line note of hope to follow us both into the darkness and lead us out of it into the light.