In my early and mid-20’s, I discovered that I was becoming part of a professional field known as community-based art. I was so excited to discover artists who believed that art-making processes could be used to make real change at the community level and beyond. I learned the techniques of Theater of the Oppressed. I attended an Alternate Roots Conference. I became a regular reader of the Community Arts Network. I studied with Michael Rohd and Cornerstone Theater Company.
In 2000-1, I devised and directed my first large-scale community-based theater piece for the StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance in connection with UNC, Chapel Hill. The piece was called, Wave When You Pass, it explored notions of home in a midst the changing demographics of North Carolina’s rural Chatham County. My collaborators and I (Derek Goldman and Peter Carpenter) worked with a multi-generational cast of over fifty performers – from local residents to students at UNC to seniors from the Chatham County Council on Aging.
When I moved to the Bay Area, I was surprised that this kind of work wasn’t really being produced here. My hypothesis was because San Francisco is the known for its independent spirit. It’s all about declaring our personal identity. Solo performance thrives here. Creating work collaboratively as a community just hadn’t found it’s place. But, when I met my buddy, Rebecca Schultz, who also had a deep passion for and experience in community-based theater, we knew that it was our job to bring in to the Bay. We founded OutLook Theater Project in 2007.
Our first production reunited me with seniors. This Many People was a 3-year project that honored the stories of LGBT seniors and performed to sold out performances as part of the National Queer Arts Festival in June 2010.
And…here’s a bit of me talking about our process…