It's not a contest, I know. But it's natural to want to weigh my professions against each other, see which one tackles the world's problems best.
Last month, some of the people I taught at an applied theatre conference committed themselves to using the art form to help communities here and abroad. I'm so glad of that.
And I've written extensively here on using theatre in a local homeless shelter to good ends. Like this time, and others.
So it was surprising yesterday to receive a letter in the mail announcing that a group of women from the shelter are training for a 5K. Weekly, they attend classes on nutrition and fitness, and they run or walk. Which happens to be the kind of thing I teach now.
I saw in the picture a woman who had spent most of the time I worked there with one foot bandaged and raised, and here she is training for a run. She looks happy.
This could be the ticket. The arts are helpful and good, but this--this could fight the battle on several fronts at once. By starting with the body.
We have a body before we have a name, said Augusto Boal, the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed.
When a new woman comes to the shelter, a staff member interviews her. At the top of the back side of the intake form was the question: Have you experienced sexual abuse?
I'd flip through the binder of forms and see Yes; yes; yes; yes; yes; yes and my father; my father; my father until I couldn't read anything more.
Have you experienced physical abuse? One woman turned to show the hand prints on her neck. Have you worked as a prostitute? Yes.
The babies of these bodies are somewhere else, not allowed in the shelter. These bodies, required to be cleaned before they may stay. These bodies that sleep on the floor.
The theatre, happening between the showers and the sleeping, often emphasized the body. Image Theatre, the branch of Theatre of the Oppressed I focus on, relies on physical imagery and nonverbal communication to get at deeper issues. And it works.
As does training for a 5K. I'm resisting the urge to push one of my professions past the finish line first, in the race to save the world.
Reveling, instead, that the women experience both. Cheering them on as they move closer and closer to the tape.
Read more about them here or donate to the cause here.