We kick off the West Coast swing of the Second Wind Tour in Seattle, Washington. Be there or be square. After the show we will head south to Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix and close out the week on Friday in Los Angeles.
All along the way, people have been asking me “why are you doing this?” I quickly realized that I really didn’t have a good answer for that question. At the deepest level all I can say is that I am doing this because I have a deep down inside feeling that it is right and it is good. Without words or logic, I can tell that this is an ideal time to challenge our nation’s impoverished understanding of adult growth and development. The youth-centric culture we have inhabited for so long suddenly seems very tattered and frail. I can feel the need for, the hunger for a better, more balanced way of living.
In Baltimore I was asked, “What is the most powerful tool for overcoming ageism?” I answered in a word, “Art.” Facts and figures, research and statistics can do only so much when it comes to opening hearts, and minds, to the possibility of change. It is art that allows us to pull back the curtain on new ways of living, new ways of working, new ways of being. From the beginning I knew that the Second Wind Tour should not and would not be a conference, workshop, panel discussion, seminar or session. From the beginning, I knew it would be something new— it would be a “non-fiction theater” event.
Everyone is familiar with “fiction theater” and its unique ability to help us “feel our feelings.” Everyone is familiar with the rituals of in-services, continuing education and professional conferences. What if we extracted the greatest strengths of each of these traditions and combined them to create something new?
With the the Second Wind non-fiction theater tour, I’m exploring the potential for the arts, in this case performing arts, to convey information in new ways, ways that people can feel and care about. I discovered that I am not the only one tapping the arts in this way. The University of California’s Institute for Research in the Arts has a Desert Studies Project that explicitly uses the arts to help wide audiences access complex information about the desert ecosystem, culture and history. At Kansas State University, a cross-disciplinary group in the Prairie Studies Initiative is doing the same with the grasslands and prairies of that region.
The power of reimagination allows us to blend familiar elements in new ways and, in doing so, create exciting new pathways to change. Non-fiction theater is education and inspiration— reimagined. I believe that it exerts real influence over two seemingly disparate worlds. I look forward to the day when America’s theater stages bustle with a mixture of fiction and non-fiction productions, and audiences learn to savor them both. I see a future in which the cliches that define the world of conferences and workshops are overturned by a vibrant new appreciation for the role that theater and stagecraft can play in creating deeply authentic and highly educational experiences for people of all ages.
The Second Wind Tour is art, it is non-fiction theater, it is a direct challenge to the limitations imposed by ageist prejudice and it is the beginning of a new way of learning and growing– together.