This Town Hall will not be televised.
The Revolution will not be televised.” – Gil Scott Heron
It’s 7:43 on a Sunday morning and I’m in a Hampton’s Inn hotel room in Pensacola Florida. Last night was the closing night of our short run of my new play Your Wings Have Eyes (powerfully directed by Scott Hudson) which is being developed with the support of The Farm Theater, three amazing colleges (UWF, SUNY Brockport – an equally powerful production directed by Frank Kuhn – and the upcoming Centre College in Kentucky) along with the hearts, minds and souls of their students. THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO SAY ABOUT THIS PROCESS AND THESE YOUNG ARTISTS. One post will not incapsulate it, but this I want to share:
- The future is in good hands.
- We live in a rich country full of natural resources made up of brave, hard-working, thoughtful young people who are our future artists, leaders, thinkers and citizens.
- The parents, extended family, and community who support them make up one of the strongest infrastructures we have.
After each performance of the play at the two colleges we’ve been at so far (SUNY BROCKPORT and UWF), we’ve had “talk backs” with the audience who stayed even when the talk back was at midnight after the late show. (And it occurs to me that “talk withs” would gives you a better sense of it.) The Farm’s Artistic Director Padraic Lillis asked three brilliant questions which led us into a conversation about the play but then became a conversation about the role of the community as participant or bystander and the power of fear, denial, faith, courage and action.
There is no choreography or handlers, or people with placards placed strategically in front of the camera. It is a quiet, meaningful, honest and personal conversation where the audience (made up of fellow students, parents, and members of the community) generously share what they saw, felt and thought as they watched a group of young people wrestle with an attack that reverberates throughout their community and country.
This is a town hall meeting. It is not blue or red. It is human.
We are talking about a play but we are really talking about values – a word that often loses its meaning in the forum of political rhetoric. What do we value? How does what we value connect us? And it strikes me that this conversation, where everyone feels heard and is an active participant in the creation of something meaningful, is possible because we are not in the blood-sport colloseum of politics; we are in the intimate world of theater where friends, daughters, sons, and neighbors have gotten together to work on and contribute to the development of a new play where they are whole-heartedly engaged.
Through this process, we learn how to ask meaningful questions, listen to a variety of responses, develop a capacity to handle differing opinions, and work together towards a common goal. The World Economic Forum recently released a report on the top ten skills needed to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the 2010 report to the 2015, creativity moved up from the bottom of the list – #10 to #3 in importance, and the rest of the skills listed are the same skills used and developed in theater-making. This is clearly a worthy investment.
We recently found out that the play was nominated for a David Mark Cohen award which is supported by the Kennedy Center ACTF, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and the Dramatic Publishing Company. Not only am I excited by the fact that this nomination is a commendation of the work done by these young people (and their directors), the investment made by their universities along with “the Farm Theatre, but I am hopeful that it will provide the platform for this play to go to every university and community around the country so that this conversation can be continued and the things that we value can be remembered and celebrated.