Sunday, February 27, 2011

100th Monkey: An Experiment in Theater for Social Change

For the past few weeks, I have been on the hunt, the hunt for a few good clowns. Literally. On March 19, Answer Coalition will organize another march to resist war.

The idea in and of itself never sits well with me. Marching to resist war. It seems ludicrous in so many ways. War is a natural part of humanity: in some way, resistance just creates more war. And if we can somehow resist it, what good will marching do? Besides those marches are just full of angry people anyway.

And yet I have to be there.

I have to be there because it is one of the only times every year that I am pushed up against so many strong-spirited, hopeful, well-intentioned activists. Sure, not everyone who attends has their heart in the right place. But for the most part they do.

I have to be there because I want the world to know that I too do not believe that war is the best answer and certainly not the default, that it has become.

I have to be there in honor of Jason, in hopes that walking with others will contribute to the larger collective unconscious the message that we must explore other ways to resolve conflict. 100th monkey syndrome.

And if I have to be there, why not dress as a clown?

Well, I don't suppose it's that simple, but I must say I have found in my experience that going to rallies dressed as a clown really does transform the space and contribute to creativity within the context of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

For the past two years I have attended this rally as a clown. See here. The experience is always rewarding and such a blast.

The impetus behind clowning for peace is in essence celebration. Protests in DC are rare moments in this city when people join together and express their commitment to create a more peaceful world. The energy is palpable. Often people’s need to make their voices heard can get bogged down in anger and pain. This is completely understandable. Unfortunately, it creates a sense of panic and confusion for me and others I know. We begin to wonder what the point of a rally/protest really is. Clowning for me has been a way to address that issue. The mere presence of a clown, I have noticed, transforms the space for people into one of celebration, curiousity, innocence and joy.

At the most recent rally, hosted by Jon Stewart, I organized fifteen clowns to march to the mall. In the spirit of Jon Stewart’s rally, we held true to form and remained comedic. For the Answer Coalition rally, I was thinking I could experiment by adding another layer to the circus. What would it look like if a handful of us volunteered to give up the Saturday before the rally to create a piece of devised theater to bring along?

The idea is this: based on the theories and practices of Augusto Boal, we spend an afternoon exploring personal stories that connect us to this march for peace. Using these stories, we create a piece of theater that will move as we move, as clowns. I don't know that it will be linear, we may just work on characters and repitive moments/images that we perform throughout the day.

Above all, the final product should be fun for us and those that see it –in addition, engaging, thought-provoking, beautiful, and motivated by the personal experiences that we, the clowns, bring to the story.

So, as of late February and several hundred email and forum postings, I have around five expressions of interest and I am continuing to put my feelers out there. You can see the promotion I'm using below. I'm passing it around the theater and peacebuilding communities of DC.

It will take more than just me to pull this off though...feeling vulnerable. Are there any other arts activists out there that are willing to take this on? It's a big ask. First of all, clowning in public is pretty intense. Secondly, to try to create something with substance? And then add a layer of humor to it? I am so utterly eager to see what will come out of the other end of this one.

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