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What’s the Point?

One of the many things we treasure about the Staging process is the opportunity to work with professionals in other fields. In this case, Emily Piro, case manager at St. Patrick Center, has provided invaluable advice, support, and programmatic guidance throughout Staging. Below, she shares a little bit about her role on the project and some of her observations of the company. (St. Patrick Center is the largest provider of homeless services in Missouri and valued partner for Staging Reflections of the Buddha.)

Emily leads her “IP” group at a recent rehearsal.

It was a surprise (to say the least) to be asked in on the Staging project.  In growing the program, new members were to be selected from the homeless clients of St. Patrick Center, and we were to lend our expertise as case managers to help participants maximize their time with the program.  Our resources to problem solve and address housing crises, transportation issues, and processing trauma and recovery in the context of the program were expected to help people, even in the darkest of circumstances, have fair opportunity to grow and experience the full richness of the art and project.

I was charged with a weekly group helping the company of actors tie their experiences and new knowledge from Staging Reflections of the Buddha with their personal growth in programs at St. Patrick Center.  I decided to call my ½ hour session the “IP” group – Integrate and Process.  We talk about the impact we have on the art and process – but more so, we repeatedly ask the question: “What’s the point?”

It’s a big question – “What’s the point?”  What’s the point of the seemingly ridiculous theater games we play every day?  What’s the point in sitting around talking about ancient sculptures?  What’s the point of putting on a play in an art gallery?  What’s the point of bringing a caseworker in to talk about all this stuff, rather than a curator, staff, or professional actor?

Today, I had a whole plan of what to do in group.  But, after asking one person to share what’s been on his mind over the past week, suddenly it seemed the floodgates were opened.  Unprovoked, hand after hand raised, so many eager voices to share their experiences, too.  As much as I attempted to redirect the conversation back to my original discussion points, they continually returned to that broader question – how my life is changing.  Why my life is changing.  Why me, here, in this room, with these people, on this project.

In the end, there wasn’t even enough time in the group.  I ended by saying, “You know the impact this program is having on you.”  They do – no doubt.  We are ready to help guide them on the way, to make that connection,  to answer the question–What’s the point?

But sometimes it’s so good not to be needed.

1 comment

  1. Elisabeth Price says:

    For about 15 years I have been leading groups for the mentally ill, of whom a high percentage were former prisoners, veterans, and homeless. People who have been or who feel disenfranchised need, above all, the invitation to share their experiences and to be taken very seriously. The arts, with other deeply felt expressions of experience, will be highly respected by that population, as soon as they realize the depth of meaning that is present within them. And the opportunity to engage with an artistic medium is usually deeply valued. Like you, I have found that not much explanation is needed beyond perhaps placing a created object or text or piece of music in an understandable context of its creation. They will indeed take it and run with it in a way that is very affecting to anyone watching the process. Thank you for doing it, and please make sure that it is done in more places more often!

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