Teresa’s Weekly Update: ROOTS Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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I hope you enjoyed your July 4th weekend and are sinking into summer-or for many of you, launching your builds and rehearsals for the fall or some combination of the two! The weekend after TCG’s National Conference, I traveled to Baltimore – my hometown – for Alternate ROOTS’ National Learning Exchange and ROOTS Fest 2011: Many Communities, One Voice. Originally an acronym for “Regional Organization of Theaters South,” the 35 year old Alternate ROOTS is based in Atlanta and is ably led by Carlton Turner.

I was struck by so many things at this convening, some of them directly building on themes from our own Conference. ROOTS has a strong inclination in the direction of social activism, and this particular festival took place in West Baltimore on that city’s “Highway to Nowhere,” a partially constructed road project that was abandoned decades ago after displacing thousands of residents and demolishing 20 city blocks of row houses and churches. This location has always been a symbol of divisiveness and frustration in Charm City (Baltimore). Covering multiple city blocks of rarely used greenway, the festival brought artists and community members together and demonstrated how this type of convergence can help repair hearts and minds. This project was ambitious and if you talked to Carlton and others at ROOTS, I’m sure you would learn of the many challenges associated with partnering on an undertaking of this scope in a neighborhood that has never attempted anything quite like it.

Fans of go-go would be envious to know that the DC-based Chuck Brown gave a long, top notch concert on the main outdoor stage. I also attended a performance from Jo Carson, the great storyteller and author (published by TCG), who performed A Tale of Two Charlies with Al Bentz. Luis Valdez and John O’Neal made an appearance at one of the tents for a conversation about how they started their respective theatres, El Teatro Campesino and the Free Southern Theater, during the Civil Rights Movement. It was fascinating to hear their stories, including how they first learned of each other’s work and conversations they had when they first met in person in the 1960s. This experience was just another example to me of how interconnected our theatre community is and how much our community is doing to try to make the world a better place-whether it’s one student at a time, one audience member at a time or one whole neighborhood at a time.

Meanwhile, over at the Capitol, the House has just released a draft of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Bill and the NEA and NEH levels are $135 million. This is $20 million below FY11 ($155 million) and $11 million below the President’s request. The Subcommittee markup was last Thursday and the full Committee markup is sometime this week. We are unclear when it will go to the House Floor. Advocates were all surprised at this deep cut, which is about 13%. The Performing Arts Alliance sent out an Action Alert urging Members of Congress and, especially, the full Appropriations Committee to maintain NEA funding levels and to oppose attempts to further cut the NEA. Learn more from Laurie Baskin’s post on the Circle yesterday, and please send your emails to Congress!

Lastly, check out the National Conference section of our website to view some of the highlights, including videos of sessions, Whatifestos and information on the 2011 TCG Awards recipients.