IPTN: Deep Conversations

Dalit_DrumI have been writing about the conference from the position of one who, although having performed Playback for many years, has attended only two Playback conferences, this being the first truly international one. In contrast, many of those who attended had attended several conferences, and friendships among them may go back scores of years. In writing about the conference I have attempted to listen, and to give voice to a range of beliefs and attitudes. Still, the writing is based squarely in my own experience and thought, and reflects my experience.

There are many forces at play in any international gathering, especially when social change is on the agenda, and this conference was no exception. On the last day of the conference, as so often happens, some of the deep conversations that had alluded us as a group began to take place. Continue reading

IPTN: Our Workshop

Theatre X: PlaybackOur workshop provided an opportunity for directors, and individual performers, to think with us about disability, inclusion, and aesthetics. The time allotted to the workshop passed much too quickly as we engaged in a deep conversation about these difficult topics.

One  of the most challenging aspects of any conversation about theater and disability is making the distinction between theater for, theater by, theater to, and theater with. Still other categories have been suggested, perhaps in an effort to thicken our understanding of this thorny topic.

These distinctions have evolved to address the difference between theater practices that nominally include persons with disabilities, those provide programing to persons labeled as disabled, and those that seek to be truly inclusive. The latter may originate in group or individual work by disabled persons, or by ensembles of “mixed abilities,” in which the presence of disability is acknowledged, but normalized, resulting in an aesthetic that explores the differently abled body-mind as a vehicle for storytelling in myriad ways. Continue reading

IPTN: Conundrums and Burning Issues

DSC00701Montreal was hazy, a thin layer of smoke hung over the city. Tens of thousands of aces of forest were ablaze in northern  Canada, and the smoke from those fires rode the westerlies to Montreal. Some days were worse than others, resulting in hacking coughs and burning eyes.

At the conference, this haze was a thread running through the fabric of our days. The unofficial theme of the second day was life at the intersection of identity and social justice; many stories were shared, narratives echoing older, sometimes archetypical  stories, yet vibrantly alive in the present. We were reminded that we embody ancient human concerns, desires, and aspirations, that we are, somehow, walking in the footsteps of the Holy Ones. Continue reading

IPTN: Making Room at the Table

Playback_MomentLast week we were at the International Playback Theatre Network (IPTN) conference in Montreal, where along with marvelous summer festivals, the city was discussing the Oka crisis of twenty-five years ago. In a very familiar conversation, Federal and provincial governments were heralding the great improvement in their relations with First Nations people, while many Indigenous communities maintain not much has changed.

At the conference, there was a general absence of Aboriginal voices. The conference organizers attempted to enlist local First Nations people in opening the conference but were unable to do so till the last moment. In the end, the young Innu woman who invoked the spirits and blessed the conference participants was magnificent. Continue reading

Thoughts on the 4th of July

Gardens:_Shelburne_FarmsThe July 4th holiday has past, last night’s fireworks following a torrent of rain from an impressive thunderstorm. For a few days I have been thinking about the strange, or perhaps, not so strange, tension July 4th holds for me. My parents, as far as I know, did not face the holiday with the same discomfort, my father, in particular, taking great pride in his thirty years of military service.

I’ve been puzzling over what it is, exactly, that I find so discomforting. Perhaps I am most concerned by what is absent from the day: the simple fact that the colonists were as motivated by a desire to take more Native land as by their frustration with British taxes. The founding fathers greatly disliked any constraints on westward expansion. Soon after independence, Thomas Jefferson began the militarized acquisition of Native lands. He envisioned an ever-growing America, but needed a constant supply of “empty” land to fuel his dream. Later, Andrew Jackson would follow his lead, ignoring the Supreme Court to carry out the forced dislocation of most of the Native people of the Southeast. I wonder how the ceremonies and other activities that mark the 4th would be different if they included conversations about this history. Continue reading

From Lived Experience Springs Hope

Following_MomAfter another wet day, the sun is again shining, the sky clear and blue.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself in several conversations about the interweaving of the experience of being other, creativity, and social issues. These discussions have proven inspiring and hopeful. This morning I was going through the blogs I follow, and came upon two posts that addressed these themes, and simply demanded to be shared. Although each arises from the experience of the ethnic other, both speak to the human capacity for using life’s challenges as material for inspiration and creativity. Continue reading

Summer

P1080007This morning the sun came out, following another rainy spell. Now, fair weather clouds have blossomed in the cerulean sky.

Vermont is green, those rich early summer hues that saturate the landscape. From here it is very difficult to imagine the cold to come; even so, last evening we gathered with others to acknowledge the Solstice, and thus, the turning year. Truth is, tonight will be a tad longer.

Last week was perplexing, the sort of week that leaves one scratching one’s head, and pondering life’s complexities. The gardens finally showed life, with even a handful of bean plants breaking the surface. (I guess we should replant the beans, again.) Politicians blamed the victims of the Charleston shootings, and surprisingly few people seemed to object. The theft of Native lands continued unabated, as did the cascade of youth suicides on reservations. Continue reading