“Transforming Stories created a space in which women who don’t necessarily get heard can be heard. And collective action is very powerful. Poverty, homelessness and oppression of all types thrive on isolation. So, when you can breach that isolation and get disparate people together and find their commonalities that’s transformative for individuals but also for the community. It’s also the audience that is transformed. The audience, who may think that they are quite knowledgeable about an issue, is challenged to question assumptions and create new understandings of really complex, really difficult issues.”
— Katherine Kalinowski, Chief Operating Officer, Good Shepherd Centres, Hamilton.
Since the early days of our project, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have strong support from a number of people in Hamilton’s non-profit social service and policy sectors. Two of our most passionate advocates who signed on as part of TSDC’s Leadership Team are Katherine Kalinowski (Good Shepherd Centres) and Patti McNaney (Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton). Katherine and Patti shared our concerns about the exclusion or under-representation of the voices of marginalized populations in public discussions about our collective future.“We often understand that asking a person with lived experience to stand in front of a room to tell their story can be tokenistic yet we rarely come up with a different way to include their voices. This is the way we know how to give voice to people with lived experience even when we recognize the inherent issues. TSDC was completely different. The participants were performers and we were watching them be artists. The process transformed them into performance creators and artists.” — Patti McNaney, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. To our delight, they were also enthusiastic about exploring how a performance-based approach to storytelling might be used as a creative mechanism to address the issue of exclusion in an ethical way.
If you’re reading this, we take it as a positive sign that you might be considering collaborating on a performance-based project. Yay! If you’re a member of a community service organization, we recognize that with the multiple demands on your time, considering this kind of collaboration is no small thing. So, to further entice you to continue reading (or to seek out potential collaborators!), here are some ways our community agency partners have told us that they believe TSDC plays contribute to their work and benefit the communities they serve:
- The plays present personal stories in a way that focuses audience attention on the cultural and structural conditions that lead to social problems, rather than on individual choices.
- The plays work to activate solidarity and self-reflection in audiences, rather than blame or pity for the storytellers.
- The plays have the potential to contribute to democratic participation in rapidly diversifying post-industrial centres like Hamilton.
- Service users and community members have experienced the performance creation process and the performances as transformative and empowering.
- Engagement with embodied creative practices introduce new tools for collective problem solving in communities and in agencies.
TSDC, and the plays it facilitated, would not have been possible without the multiple contributions of our community partners! The creative team relies on our community partners in so so so many ways including:
- Helping to identify and recruit participants with lived experience who might be interested in developing a play.
- Sharing their knowledge of the structural and social contexts of the lived experience of the participants.
- When possible, providing the support of a community worker with knowledge of the lived experience of the participants to take part in the workshops and post workshop conversations (see Importance of Community Partners).
- Drawing on institutional networks to mobilize structural support for the project (meals for workshops; workshop and performance spaces; transportation support for participants; etc.).
- Helping to identify suitable audiences for performances, and taking part in hosting performance events (see The Performance Event).