Since 2006, the Winter/Summer Institute (WSI) has been making theatre, both in Lesotho and New York, around HIV/AIDS and other critical social issues. Our residency model provides a space for exploration, interaction and collaboration with participants from vastly different backgrounds. We come together to question our assumptions, engage in problem-solving dialogue and, most importantly, create fabulous theatre. We’ve seen the transformative effect our method has had on the many WSI participants from Lesotho, South Africa, the UK, New York, and beyond.
After the 2016 election, WSI decided to create a Field Guide to make it possible for groups anywhere to devise the kind of collaborative theatre we’ve been creating for the past decade.
In early 2017, a group of New York based WSI alumni gathered in Brooklyn to begin work on the Guide and talk about future projects. A suggestion was made that given the deep political and cultural divisions the election had brought to the surface, we should take the collaborative work we do overseas to address pressing social issues and concerns, to the middle of America and see what we might learn.
We took early sections of the Guide on the road to Chattanooga, Tennessee for an intensive four-day residency, Creating Community Conversations. Co-sponsored by the Chattanooga State Community College Theatre Department and working with local community arts and advocacy groups, the residency brought our collaborative process to facilitate dialogue and create provocative, entertaining theatre to a region that, like our country as a whole, is deeply divided along political, religious, class and racial lines.
Chattanooga helped us test-run sections of the Guide and laid the groundwork for a series of Red State Dialogues in the lead-up to the 2020 election. We plan to launch the online version of the Guide in the winter of 2022 and will have an in-the-field version ready to go by the summer.
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