Cynthia Cohen, coeditor of the Acting Together anthology and coproducer of the DVD Acting Together on the World Stage has asked us to pass on some thoughts about World Theatre Day, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year on March 27th. This occasion was created by the International Theatre Institute of UNESCO to highlight the contributions of theatre to a culture of peace. Her comments are below.
Dr Cohen reminds us that working in zones of violent conflict, and often at great personal risk, theatre artists create and share works of great beauty that aim toward more just communities and a less violent world. In celebration of their contributions, she passes on the words of Dr. Salomon Lerner Febres
, the former president of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who enlisted artists’ vigorous participation in his country’s transitional justice process. At the December 2011 “Just Performance
” Brandeis symposium, Dr. Lerner highlighted the power of art even in the face of violence that appears irredeemable and immutable. In his own words:
Violence attacks meaning by breaking down the bonds between people and dehumanizing them. For this reason, the violent act is unintelligible. It defies understanding because it goes against our natural inclination to recognize the dignity in our fellow human beings. Nonetheless (and sadly), it continues to be a human act. Indeed, only we human beings are capable of creating, through meticulous and perverse methods, such complex, now direct, now so subtle, mechanisms for provoking suffering in fellow members of our species… Real theater is the exposure of truth through the potent act of exhibiting the symbols that give shape to experience. This occurs through repetition and, therein, ritual. It is the persistence in this ritual, the willed return in the name of rediscovering and reconstituting our human bond, that bestows upon it its great dignity, and empowers it to recover some of the meaning lost in the maelstrom of events…
Art restores meaning in bringing us, as responsible human beings, face to face with the undeniable facts and circumstances. Through this encounter with the undeniable, with our collective life as captured in a work of visual or dramatic art, we are perfecting our moral judgment and, above all, feeling the challenge and hearing the call to act, for the sake of our own ethical identities. This may be the key to the transformative power of art over a violent past that seems irredeemable, immutable, but which is always subject to the creative force of our imagination.
The Acting Together Project and New Village Press invite all readers to read the anthology, explore the resources of the toolkit, and screen the documentary in schools, organizations, theaters, and communities. To order copies, please visit New Village Press. In honor of World Theatre Day, New Village Press is offering a 15% discount on all Acting Together materials this week with the code “WTD.”