by Lisa Wields Words
I am writing this, my first post for Spread Information, from a hotel room in Seattle where I am attending the One Theatre World Conference put together by TYA/USA, the American chapter of ASSITEJ (Association Internationale du Théâtre pour l’Enfance et la Jeunesse).
I am a theater artist, educator and arts advocate. I came to this conference because I believe in the importance and value of theater as a social and educational tool to help make this world a better place. At the Conference Opening, Community Organizer and playwright Laurie Brooks discussed some statements that the field needs to think about. The issue that struck me the most was about how to incorporate audiences differently, so that they are no longer just passive recipients of the product theaters create (the play) but become part of the community that creates theater.
In her words she talked about this as a way of “turning monologues into dialogues.”
Now, you may think, why should I care about this? What does this even mean? Bear with me as I try to explain.
Our country faces many challenges right now. And, as the financial crisis deepens, many things face dark days–including the arts and education. I see the two as linked. For me, education fails if arts are not included; but the arts are often the first thing to go. Community fails if education is weak, and if arts don’t exist.
But what if we made arts programming a larger part of the dialogue of community? Think back to Greek times when Theater Festivals were celebrations of the arts, but also religious ceremonies and a means of instructing the masses of the rules of society. Or, think about those times where communities gathered around the fire to share stories in dance and song, or shared information through painting on rocks.
Perhaps the arts have gone too far in the direction of monologue–with the experts dictating what people should want to see, rather than embracing what they really want to see and hear. Artists need to allow for interaction; to create work that embraces true community. In this way, perhaps, the government would be able to recognize that the arts are not an unimportant addendum to life, but are vital to communication and community.
I intend to create and join the dialog. How about you? Join me by the fire and lets create together.
- Teen actors in spotlight in August Wilson Monologue Competition (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Theater of the Oppressed (jimapeace.wordpress.com)
- The Vagina Monologues in Tbilisi (peripateticpedagogue.wordpress.com)
- Audience Survey of Greedy: (btspsych.wordpress.com)
- New York State Arts Official To Run the American Theater Wing (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)