Brushy Fork Annual Institute

Keynote Presentation — Going Between to Go Beyond

Dr. Richard Owen Geer
Founder and Artistic Director of Community Performance International
Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

We’re glad to announce that Dr. Richard Owen Geer will be delivering our keynote address. Geer is the founder and artistic director of Community Performance International, an organization that works with communities across the nation to find, craft, and tell their stories.

People Magazine says “Director Richard Geer heals troubled communities with the magic of theatre–and the gift of new hope.” Geer has founded over a score of Community Performance groups, including Georgia’s Official Folk Life play “Swamp Gravy,” which was part of the Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta, Georgia, and also featured at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In partnership with the International Storytelling Center, Geer and Community Performance International are pioneering ways to bring this transformational work to organizations and communities nationwide.

American Theatre Magazine calls Geer’s work a “gem of cultural democracy.” It has been showcased across America, as well as in England, Scotland, Brazil, and Chile. Geer holds a PhD. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University.

Here are a few words from Richard about what to expect from his address: Going Between to Go Beyond.

What does “the worst place to live in America” have to do with the beauty of community? What is the choreography of Alzheimer’s prevention? What if “impoverished communities” were innovation zones? What if an 87 year-old with dementia won volunteer of the year? What does the speechless mother of a dying child teach us about voice? What makes rural Kentucky a learning zone for the United States and China? What if “no money” is the prime resource?

For twenty years I was a director of regular plays in regular theaters. I was a little kid with my shoes on the wrong feet. I didn’t know what was wrong, but it didn’t feel right. For the next twenty years I facilitated projects in communities using theater to empower individuals and communities. I got to know real folks with real lives who wanted their theater to be as real and useful as everything else they did. They taught me that theater is a part of life and has to be accountable. I loved it. Then came 2008 and the disappearance of money from communities and neighborhoods. Flopping about like a goldfish in an empty bowl I found myself talking and working with every collaborator who would give me the time of day.

Best thing that ever happened. I’ll share a bit of what we’re learning from each other and we’ll have the chance to hear from one of those collaborators, Dr. Qinghong Wei.

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