Announcing the Festival of Radical Recovery!

Dear Friends,

To continue our end-of-year update on the large, new project called the Festival of Radical Recovery (RR), we are about to gather together a large and inclusive cast of actors from conflict zones around the world, on a single stage where they will all move backward in time to meet their past. They will not know each other. They will all be present in family units created by their country’s underground theatres about the conflicts of the past, some percolating again just beneath the surface, and will morph and shift into their immediate ancestors as they move backwards in time. They will rehearse together, across languages and cultures, to find their differences and their common ground.

The purpose is to use our kaleidoscopic rehearsal process, developed over the last 15 years, to place conflict cultures together where reality prevents them from even knowing about each other. It’s about identity. It’s also about hope and empathy which become the habitat of youth.

In adults, especially in times like these, hope all too often seems like a kind of prayer for help from some outside power. For youth in recovering societies, hope is life itself. In adults, especially in times of perpetual mistrust and imposed reconciliation, empathy is all too often an unwanted moral sanction, someone else’s idea of what is good for us. For youth, it’s a release from inherited enmity; potentially the joy of pure curiosity about others.

Young Cambodian cast members of “See You Yesterday” at the Kigeme Congolese refugee camp, 2016.

We started this large interconnected, global project because we discovered in our previous binary explorations of conflict in single countries or regions that survivors lack the means of communication with counterparts around the world; and miss the opportunity to share personal stories, insights, reconciliation struggles, even rage that would reduce their isolation. Our lens has always been through the youth of conflict nations: the young interpreters of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the ultimate witnesses; the teenagers in Northern Ireland after the Peace Accord who counted among the 60% increase in youth suicides; the orphans and descendants of the Cambodian genocide who found hope in becoming the nation’s “social” youth circus in our current touring production of See You Yesterday,” which is the basis for our new documentary, and which will premiere at ArtsEmerson in May 2019. Our work with youth will now move into a wider global frame through a shared theatre production, rehearsal process, and simulcast to millions from the first-ever Festival of Radical Recovery (RR) over the next three years.

This next production is about connections and intersections. About theatrically connecting our children by going back in time and seeing how we started so pristine and how we came to where we are; connecting youth survivors to each other across time and geography, to their elders and to their past. Theatre is the incubator. Youth is the lens. We should be learning from our children how to survive the future to forgive the past. We have come full circle from our first production “Truth in Translation” to the Festival of Radical Recovery–performed and broadcast from iconic conflict zones across the world.

By traveling through time and across an emotional landscape theatrically, our purpose is to stop killing each other’s children even if we seem incapable to cease killing each other. The trick is: How long can we prolong the kids’ genius for truth before we default to teaching them how to be like us.

For the Festival of Radical Recovery, we have created an incredible Advisory Council of artists, human rights leaders, journalists and scientists; continuing the legacy of our first Institute of Perceptual Change. More about the advisers in our next newsletter. In the meantime, as our constant support group of followers, we want to hear your ideas and any ways that you can help us to launch this bold new GAC Project.

As ever,
Michael