Even in the wake of peace accords, treaties, and ceasefires, conflict must be acknowledged as ongoing and hatreds understood if we can hope to prevent cycles of violence from recurring.
In rehearsal, nothing can be swept under the rug, nothing can be denied, and everything must be on the table. The actors do not need to agree, but each must be able to rehearse something he or she does not believe; each must be willing to adopt an identity and explore it before accepting or denying it. The productions that emerge from this process, forged out of the performers’ memories, multiple truths, and conflicting narratives, are necessarily messy. Yet, within this messiness we find substance and sustenance, a core of vital meaning that we otherwise may never have discovered. When we take each of these productions on the road—to other areas emerging from violent conflict or struggling to address histories of racial, economic, ethnic, and religious oppression—it is also this messiness that allows audience members from vastly different backgrounds to find a piece of themselves in the production.
The work becomes a mirror; opening up a space for dialogue in the talkbacks and workshops we organize after the performances for audience members who most need to hear each other. By partnering with local NGOs leaders, educators, artists, and young activists in every location we visit, we ensure that the audiences who attend our performances extend beyond the theatre-going public; and we train the next generation to carry on the work of shifting perspectives after we leave.
Finally, by filming the development of each production, their tours, and the dialogues they spark, we extend the reach of the work beyond the areas where we are physically able to tour. As our collection of footage grows, we are building a vast educational archive—a virtual dialogue that spreads across conflict zones is begun. The ultimate goal of the Global Arts Corps is to sustain and grow a corps of artists who have gone through this process—a group of theatre artists who are a global force, a go-to resource available for collaboration with peoples emerging out of violent conflict.