Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Support ATA

Support the Association of Teaching Artists- led by Dale Davis- she rocks!

Here's a little post I stole from ATA's fabulous blogger Michael Wiggins. I like what Phil wrote at the beginning- quite poetic.

I'm not a teaching artist right now... but I am in spirit!
Why I Support ATA

By Phil Alexander

The soloist enchants us, while the choir provides us with incomparable depth and richness.

The poem delights us, while the book creates an entirely new universe for us.

The sculpture engages us, while the museum opens us up to brand new understandings.

The lesson teaches us, while the whole course transforms us.

Simply put, collective action reaches us deeper and lasts longer than individual experiences.

ATA is the embodiment of collective action, it's a collective voice, a unified chorus of individuals who often cannot be heard. The incomparable listserve , the ATA website, and the blog are just a few of the most obvious tools in which ATA collects and shares the voices of teaching artists. The
board and staff of ATA are committed to hearing the needs of teaching artists, and sharing your concerns with the world at large. We have plans to provide more opportunities and events for teaching artists in the future, such as the first Teaching Artists conference, but with assorted financial challenges, everything must be reconsidered and no opportunity is secure.

During this period of appeals and gift giving, it's hard to claim that one cause is more worthy than others. So I'm left asking this question: What will be heard, if ATA"s voice is silenced?

Philip A. Alexander, Ph.D.
Senior Program Officer
ESP Office of Partnership Support and Research

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Speaking of Communities

Interesting piece on Community Arts Network: The Choices We Have and Our Privilege To Move On.

The ability to choose to enter a community, to make art and to leave once a project or session is complete or things get “too hard” is a privilege of the outsider community artist. When working in a community that is different from our own, it is essential to reflect, address and confront our own privilege in order to become conscious and committed to the work and to the community.

Love, Love, Love: Part 5

It's been about two months. But here's Part 5. In Part 4, I started exploring the first connection I saw between radical love and applied theatre: Courage, Envisioning and Imagining Change.

Just a re-cap on the last four installments: First, I rambled about the question of love and teaching, dove into Freire's concept of radical love, and got together a background on applied theatre. I've tried to sum it up by making connections between radical love and applied theatre in four areas:
So, this post is about Community Work in the applied theatre. How is community work practiced with love?

How do we create a hope of what can be in communion with others? How can we, as educators or teaching artists approach and work in community with new groups? Freire (2000) maintains that educators must enact this work with dialogue as the foundation.

A loving approach to community work requires an immense amount of self-awareness, reflection and openness. Michael Rohd, of Sojourn Theatre, offers,
one way to talk about love is with the generosity of spirit and humility that one has to enter any space or community or circle that you’ve been invited to. If you approach something with any interest to consciously or subconsciously manifest power, be in control or own something, then you are operating out of greed or fear. I think that love becomes a powerful way to attempt to move beyond your own greed and fear and think about what you can give and receive. It’s incredibly challenging to enter situations with love. You have to work to love. (personal communication, April 9, 2009)
Approaching an applied theatre residency without an agenda and with openness requires true listening and humility, both of which lead to and require genuine love. In conversations and literature about love, listening is often referenced. The listening that is required when first engaging and approaching unfamiliar communities is not a one-time occurrence.

Anne Bogart (2007) discusses the importance of attentiveness and listening in the work of directors and actors. She posits, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself.” In looking, listening, and feeling with attentiveness we deeply appreciate others. Henry Miller offers,
The one gift we can give another human being is our attention, and that attention, in turn, allows the possibility of change. We can be available and open to their change. Which means concurrently that we will change too. The gift we give is not to hold on to some way we have decided that this person is. Perhaps this gift of attention is also a gift of love. (as cited in Bogart, 2007, p 60-61)
Dialogue in an applied theatre setting---be it verbal or non-verbal (image theatre, etc.)—must be approached with this attentiveness. Rohd notes that dialogue occurs when participants are truly open to change; change is not a neccesary outcome, but must exists a genuine possibility for transformation (personal communication, April 9, 2009). The applied theatre space must create a context in which this openness and potential for transformation can take place.

Check out these fab books:

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Via Michael Wiggins at ATA Blog, check out the Charter for Compassion, whose road was paved by Karen Armstrong. You can also watch a series of talks by people around the world. Enjoy.

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Friday, December 4, 2009

bell hooks on Radical Love & Buddhism

When I knew how to love the doors of my heart opened wide before the wind
Reality was calling out for revolution.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in the poem “The Fruit of Awareness Is Ripe”

I came across a great piece by bell hooks on Shambhala Sun, entitled Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love. hooks' touches on the emergence of the discussion of love within Buddhism, particularly from Thich Nhat Hanh. This love is not fluffy, romantic love. It is transformative and revolutionary love--so similar to that which Freire speaks of.
When lecturing on ending domination around the world, listening to the despair and hopelessness, I asked individuals who were hopeful to talk about what force in their life pushed them to make a profound transformation, moving them from a will to dominate toward a will to be compassionate. The stories I heard were all about love. That sense of love as a transformative power was also present in the narratives of individuals working to create loving personal relationships. Writing about metta, “love” or “loving-kindness,” as the first of the brahmaviharas, the heavenly abodes, Sharon Salzberg reminds us in her insightful book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness that “In cultivating love, we remember one of the most powerful truths the Buddha taught … that the forces in the mind that bring suffering are able to temporarily hold down the positive forces such as love or wisdom, but they can never destroy them.… Love can uproot fear or anger or guilt, because it is a greater power. Love can go anywhere. Nothing can obstruct it.” Clearly, at the end of the nineties an awakening of heart was taking place in our nation, our concern with the issue of love evident in the growing body of literature on the subject.

Because of the awareness that love and domination cannot coexist, there is a collective call for everyone to place learning how to love on their emotional and/or spiritual agenda. We have witnessed the way in which movements for justice that denounce dominator culture, yet have an underlying commitment to corrupt uses of power, do not really create fundamental changes in our societal structure. When radical activists have not made a core break with dominator thinking (imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy), there is no union of theory and practice, and real change is not sustained. That’s why cultivating the mind of love is so crucial. When love is the ground of our being, a love ethic shapes our participation in politics.

To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there that we can experience firsthand love’s transformative power. Attending to the damaging impact of abuse in many of our childhoods helps us cultivate the mind of love. Abuse is always about lovelessness, and if we grow into our adult years without knowing how to love, how then can we create social movements that will end domination, exploitation, and oppression? John Welwood shares the insight in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships that many of us carry a “wound of the heart” that emerged in childhood conditioning, creating “a disconnection from the loving openness that is our nature.” He explains: “This universal wound shows up in the body as emptiness, anxiety, trauma, or depression, and in relationships as the mood of unlove.… On the collective level, this deep wound in the human psyche leads to a world wracked by struggle, stress, and dissension.… The greatest ills on the planet—war, poverty, economic injustice, ecological degradation—all stem from our inability to trust one another, honor differences, engage in respectful dialogue, and reach mutual understanding.” Welwood links individual failure to learn how to love in childhood with larger social ills; however, even those who are fortunate to love and be loved in childhood grow to maturity in a culture of domination that devalues love.
Continue here!