Brushy Fork Annual Institute

Story Bridge: Story, Performance, Relationship, Conversation, Action

Track Leaders: Dr. Richard Owen Geer & Dr. Qinghong Wei

Have you ever wondered what kind of world it would be if everyone listened to each other respectfully? While this may be something we all recognize as important, putting it into practice remains elusive.

Through story-to-change training and community performance, groups of every sort have discovered pride in their identity, a sense of limitless possibility, and the deep bonds of relationship.

Through more than 20 years of collaborating with towns, neighborhoods, youth groups, religious organizations, schools, universities, and others, we’ve found that what begins with the simple act of sharing stories can produce performances so powerful that they become synonymous with a group’s very definition.

Such performances often mark the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. This process has brought towns back to life, revived economies, re-purposed aging organizations, and uplifted, refreshed, and revitalized groups of every kind.  The secret of the work is simple.  It taps into two “lost” human technologies: the reality-forging power of story and the re-patterning power of performance.

This track explores the process of building deep, strong relationship through the currency of story and the medium of community performance. The process is driven by the values of diversity, inclusion, reverence, tolerance, personal empowerment, empathy, and acceptance. Together, we will explore a new (and ancient!) geography for theater at the intersection of local story, ordinary life, and virtuosic artistry

Through this process, we will seek to:

  • Bring shared values to the surface
  • Commit to work within those values throughout the process
  • Give everyone a voice — and a safe, nurturing place to tell their stories
  • Honor those stories
  • Perform those stories with reverence and professionalism
  • Create a new web of relationships upon which to build community
  • Empower every participant

Four things will make this workshop a valuable experience. First, you. Second, the rest of us. Third, you already know everything (although you may not know you know it). Fourth, you’ll come away with faith that the crazy scrabble letters that you and your community have been given actually spell a high-scoring word.

Let’s be real. You most likely won’t figure out that high-scoring word while you’re at Brushy Fork. You’ll need your community for that. But you’ll go home with the game, and with the confidence and insight to play it. (Just ask the Monkey Dumplins theater group out of Manchester, Kentucky!)

The workshop is centered around the Story Bridge Method, begun 25 years ago in Colquitt, Georgia, with Swamp Gravy Institute, and evolved in hundreds of towns and organizations since. You’ll have the experience—Story, Performance, Relationship—with Richard. Along the way your experience will become grounded in proven methods and practical applications with Qinghong. Finally—Conversation, Action—you’ll find your Brushy Fork allies, and pack it up to take home.

Everyone is welcome in this track — especially those who might not think of themselves as artists.

Track Capacity: 40


Dr. Richard Owen 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.” In addition to leading Community Performance International, Geer teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California, is a board member of Intergenerational Schools International,  artistic director of The Intergenerativity Project, senior consultant at pARTicipate, which utilizes Story Bridge methods in its program in the People’s Republic of China, and a member of The Society, an organization for innovative leadership in positive aging. Geer is co-author of Story Bridge: From Alienation to Community Action. Kentucky-ARC Flex-E-Grants have enabled Geer to work with several Kentucky communities, and he is a frequent collaborator with the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy.

Dr. Qinghong Wei received her doctoral degree in urban and regional planning from Florida State University. Her original research on empowerment pathways and creative programs is a significant contribution to the field. Dr. Wei has a decade of diverse development planning experience working with governments and communities. As a senior consultant working with one of the top planning consulting firms in the world, Dr. Wei crafted scores of community development plans for many municipalities and communities. From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Wei had an exceptional opportunity to serve as the President & CEO of Overseas China Education Foundation (OCEF), one of the most influential nonprofit organizations in the Chinese American community with assets of over $1 million and over 5,000 registered volunteers worldwide. In 2014, Dr. Wei co-founded pARTicipate, an award-winning innovative social enterprise that offers arts-empowered education and community development programs.

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