Sojourn Institute Summer 2017

Earlier this month, I spent a glorious week with this group of change-makers at the Sojourn Summer Institute 2017. I learned so much, and I want to share my appreciation for the group – and the collective experience.

I will carry this experience with me always. In an interesting way, the week presented evidence of synchronicity – and taught me a great lesson about “water” and its power and grace. Stay with me on this. I choose “synchronicity” because last week’s Institute felt like being in the right place at the right time. With the right people. Not that perfect or “being right” is the thing. The imagery of water appeared throughout the week. In one of our early activities, a question asked was: “What can we learn from the river?” That struck a chord with me.

Then the PlayBuild teen artists at Goodman Theatre shared their “river” of the history of race in America. A long piece of chart paper with dates, events, thoughts scribed by adolescent minds. Performance research on the page. “Water” appeared again when we did the cup activity. Water is an essential element. How do we take care of the water? of ourselves? of others? of our land? of our communities? What happens if we find ourselves in literal or figurative drought?

As I reflected during the week after the institute, I found myself meditating on the words of Bruce Lee: “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” That’s what we did – all week long – at the Sojourn Institute. We made an effort to be water.

We can all learn from the water. As people, humans, facilitators, artists. Be open to the flow. Be aware. Be flexible. When you enter a community, you become part of the community. When you enter a class culture, you become part of the class culture. When you enter a rehearsal process, you become part of the rehearsal process. The possibilities go on.

During that one glorious week, we formed a community. With the Institute. With Sojourn Theatre. With Center for Performance and Civic Practice. With each other. I left Chicago feeling simultaneously filled up and drained out. Just like the river that flows or the oceans whose tides come and go, I was made aware of the power and grace of water. How it can replenish and renew. If you’ll allow me a moment to be poetic and “on the nose” here, I must say thank you because my cup (of water, as it were) runneth over with gratitude, appreciation and inspiration for the experience and the people. Synchronicity. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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