From the Editor: Volume VIII. August-September 2013

by Donna Walker-Kuhne

There is an exciting wave of community engagement activities as Marcus Gardley’s the road weeps, the well runs dry sweeps across the country. In addition to mounting the production, each venue has translated their ideas of community engagement to fit their own demographics and resources. The outcome of these efforts celebrates the writings of Marcus Gardley and presents experiences which include storytelling, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions and a combination of visual and performance experience. Each of the four Consortium partners have initiated creative,innovative efforts that engage their local constituents in a smart way – one that is the epitome of sharing diverse experiences in arts and culture.

Next stop on the tour is Pillsbury House in Minneapolis, Minnesota, beginning this month. Last month, Co-Artistic Director, Faye Price hosted an unprecedented conversation with her community that explored historical data on the Seminole/Creeks and African Americans focusing on central themes of the road weeps, including race and migration.

In Los Angeles, an exciting collaboration has evolved between producer, Latino Theater Company and the California African American Museum. They will host an exhibition which highlights aspects of the play as well as host a discussion with playwright Marcus Gardley.  This will provide the audience with an opportunity to be simultaneously engaged with the intersection of arts, culture and history.

The last production for this tour of the road weeps, takes place at University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. Director and theater professor Fanni Green has discovered an enthusiastic group of people eager to share their stories that echo major themes from the play – identity, migration, love, history and family,  The stories reported from their summer of conversations and workshops are funny, honest and poignant.

At the center of all of these events is the fearless playwright, Marcus Gardley, who personally attends many of the events around the country, participates in conversations and provides an openness to queries about his process of writing the play and his personal journey of discovering his family history.

In the last bulletin, Storyteller Joanne Alcantara reported on the efforts and impact of the play in Juneau, Alaska, where the full production premiered at Perseverance Theater in the spring.  What is amazing and speaks to the heart of community engagement is the sustained effort to cultivate those audiences. At Perseverance they are utilizing their experiences from the road weeps, as they launch the new season. The strategy of presenting a thematic season as was done with the road weeps, will be incorporated in their plans for the future. Alcantara notes that the impact of the play, allowed for conversations on diversity and social change which will continue into new experiences.

The power of art to move and transform individuals and communities is limitless. The road weeps, continues to serve as a powerful force engaging communities to explore topics that are very relevant, important and necessary.

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