Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Performance as Interlude

The more time I spend with Sojourn Theatre, the more impressed I become with their work, both its quality and its philosophical foundation. Whereas many people use theatre as a vehicle to spread their message, Sojourn honestly seems concerned with primarily getting people from different viewpoints and backgrounds to listen and interact with one another in respectful and meaningful ways.

Recently they did a project around the issue of gentrification that took them to three different cities (including Portland, where they are based). In the same situation, some groups might have written a play that expressed their views on the issue; some might have gone around and interviewed people and made a documentary drama. Instead, Sojourn spent time with various communities affecting and affected by gentrification and developed an interactive event that allowed those diverse groups to come together to explore the issue in a setting that was framed by occasional site-specific performances developed out of experiences with those groups. From what I can tell, this combines the best of allowing people to be heard, listening to others' stories, and interacting cooperatively and creatively with people who may differ is someway.

There's an interesting video of the gentrification project, called Built. It doesn't have a lot of explanation, but you can sort of figure out what's happening.

BUILT @ PICA:TBA 08 from Sojourn Media on Vimeo.


Elana said...

I have such a theatre crush on these people.

Ben Colahan said...

I know, right!

Also, I feel I should say that while Sojourn doesn't come in with an agenda, its very structure and purpose seems to have political (and I would say theological) implications. Encouraging diverse groups to talk to one another is inherently a challenge to the status quo because people who were once ignored or vilified can be seen as fellow human beings who share the same complex and meaningful lives as everyone else.