June 19, 2012
I’ve been immersed in PTW—that’s Performing the World, an international festival/conference/happening I launched eleven years ago. This October, we’re hosting the 7th PTW, “Can Performance Change Save the World?” (recasting the 2010 PTW theme, “Can Performance Change the World?” because of the increasing intensity of the challenges facing humanity. Deadlocked governments, protracted wars, dysfunctional education systems, and a deepening global economic crisis with no apparent solution have become the norm.
At the same time, the activity of performance (and playing and pretending and creating), as an alternative to the cognitive and/or faith-based “solutions” of traditional ideology, continues to spread both at the grassroots and in the university, with non-ideological, improvisatory movements struggling to embody this trend.
Hundreds responded to the PTW 2012 call for proposals and we’ve chosen a hundred or so workshops, performances, demonstrations and panels to be showcased October 4-7 at the All Stars Project headquarters in New York City.
Among the hundreds of performing artists, community organizers, theatre workers, educators, scholars, youth workers, students, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, medical doctors, health workers, and business executives coming to New York City for PTW from dozens of countries are some the world’s most influential thought leaders and culture changers. Here’s a look at four PTW 2012 presenters who are shaping the performance world from the academy to the streets.
He’s a world famous Brazilian pianist who has recorded music from all over the world and performed in the most prestigious concert halls. But what’s unique about this virtuoso is his outreach to Brazil’s favelas and rural villages to organize and train young people as musicians. In 2007 Bratke created Camerata Brasil, a classical orchestra of young people from impoverished areas who have no academic musical training, with the objective of giving them a chance of making a living through music. To date, Camerata Brasil has toured over 30 Brazilian cities and around the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall. Marcelo Bratke will be sharing his work—and his music—at PTW this year.
Diamond is mentor to thousands of performance activists striving to create theatre that engages performers and audiences in the active transformation of themselves and their communities. His “Theatre for Living” has its roots in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, yet works to avoid the dichotomies of “Oppressor” and “Oppressed,” in favor of working with the totality of a community to develop an “emotional intelligence” that allows them to create something new together. He is the recipient of numerous theatre and human rights awards including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Fraser Valley and the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre. He’s the author of Theatre for Living: The Art and Science of Community-Based Dialogue, winner of the American Alliance of Theatre and Education 2008 Distinguished Book Award. At PTW David Diamond will be leading a workshop unpacking the basics of “Theatre for Living.”
A renowned French social psychologist, author and international consultant, Rojzman is the founder of Transformational Social Therapy, which works with large groups (in the hundreds) of people to talk through the ethnic, religious or ideological hatred that has historically kept them in violent conflict. This work has taken him to most European countries, the United States, North Africa, Rwanda and Central and South America, and fostered institutional and social change in education, social work, criminal justice, conflict resolution and reconciliation. Rojzman is a prolific author (How to Live Together is an English translation of one of his books). His work has been featured in the documentaries, “Charles Rojzman, thérapeute social” and “Listening to the Police” an inside look at a workshop with French National Police trainers. At PTW Charles Rojzman will demonstrate his approach and share the breadth of the work of the Institut Charles Rojzman.
Schechner has been a leader in American avant-garde and political theatre for four decades and is a founder and perhaps the most influential voice in Performance Studies. He toured the South during the Civil Rights Movement with the integrated Free Southern Theatre. He founded and was the artistic director of the Performance Group and in that capacity helped to create the practice of environmental theatre. In the 1970s, working closely with anthropologist Victor Turner, he brought into being the academic discipline of Performance Studies, which researches performance in everyday life and theorizes about its significance. Schechner is one of the founders of the Performance Studies department at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and is long time editor of The Drama Review, the world’s premier journal of Performance Studies. At PTW 2012, Richard Schechner will discuss with the Castillo Theatre’s Artistic Director Dan Friedman and others the relationship(s) between Performance Studies and performance activism.
To find out more or to register (July 1 is early bird deadline) visit the Performing the World website or contact Melissa Meyer at 212-941-8906 x 304.
A Brief History of PTW
Performing the World (PTW) was born in a conversation between East Side Institute co-founder, the late Fred Newman, and me at the end of the summer of 2000. We had already “discovered” performance, and its essential role in human development and learning was key to the therapeutic, educational and community-organizing work of the East Side Institute and its broader community. At the same time, Newman and I were also having conversations with Ken and Mary Gergen, leading social-constructionist psychologists who themselves were turning toward performance, particularly by experimenting with new performatory modes of presenting research and scholarship. During the 1990s at annual meetings of the American Psychological Association, we and the Gergens did some joint performatory symposia and Newman’s original “psychology plays” were performed—all to great enthusiasm. We were encouraged, and wanted to do something bigger and of our own structure.
My international travels had introduced me to many different performatory practices initiated at both the grassroots and from within the universities. I met dozens of people and heard of hundreds more who were using performance to help people and communities grow and create positive social change. We decided to reach out to those doing this work/play—from community organizers to business people, from artists to social workers, from therapists to teachers.
The first Performing the World conference was held in October 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11. Hundreds from all over the world showed up at the beautiful ocean side village of Montauk, 120 miles from New York City, as if this kind of gathering was what they and their communities needed at such a moment.
There have been five PTWs since then. The last two—in 2008 and 2010—were held in New York City, bringing the conference to one of the most vibrant and diverse cultural centers of the world and partnering with the All Stars Project as co-sponsor. PTW has been greatly enriched by having the All Stars’ performing arts and development center on 42 Street near Times Square as the conference’s home base and by the inclusion of hundreds of young people and adults who participate in its programs. Additionally, both the Institute and the All Stars reach out to friends across New York City’s many communities to provide housing for PTW participants and broaden the “performance space.” I am inspired by the growth of the global performance movement and the role that PTW is playing in it, as not only a conference/performance festival but also a unique community event bringing people together to perform a new world.