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Friday Phone Call # 71

Michael Rohd

Today I have a chance to catch up with Michael Rohd, the Founder and Director of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and the founding artistic director of Sojourn Theatre. Michael's been building the Center, and its Catalyst Program, as a means of deepening his decades-long commitment to the role of art in civic transformation. I asked him to share some of the early findings from the Catalyst pilot, as well as to walk us through the language of this field. Close followers of my work know that I am always trying to understand the meaning of the words we use, and to acknowledge the ambiguity where precise definitions are not possible or helpful. Michael's got great clarity about how he's applying these terms in his work, and gives us specific examples from the field of practice to illustrate them. It's always a treat to talk with Michael, as he's a big thinker who speaks in concrete ways that make his big ideas accessible as well as inspirational. Give a listen. You'll see what I mean.

Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theater artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via Apple iTunes or RSS Feed

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Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theater artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via Apple iTunes or RSS Feed.

Friday Phone Call


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Tami- sorry it has taken me three days to see your comment, and conversation with David- I am so happy to hear the podcast has been useful to you, and i look forward to getting a chance to learn more about your work. Round two of Catalyst will announce sometime soon our process for putting a cohort together, and i'll definitely get you info. Meanwhile, be well, and thanks for offering thoughts here.

Hi David, Thanks for conducting this interview with Michael. He's one of our inspirations here at Bricolage Production Company. Our AD required all team members to listen to this podcast so that we could discuss, brainstorm and see how we can implement some of these ideas into our practices. That conversation is happening later today! I'm especially drawn to the idea of the necessity of building "complex audiences." Partnerships seems to support the success of this idea, but it's always been a challenge to invite, not just the choir to events, but varied and disparate voices. This intentional practice is not an easy thing to do and doesn't always align with traditional marketing techniques. I also appreciate hearing you both state the need to "make visible the framework" from which to be measured. The idea of excellence can be boring, especially when the lens through which we traditionally view it is archaic and limited. And of course, I love hearing how inserting art into civic practice allows for the development of the "tools for resilience." This is the work we envision practicing and this podcast is going to prove essential listening for the programs, community and partnerships we are nurturing. Hope to see you the next time you come to the burgh. I am on the AWC recovery committee and appreciated your input in that conversation too. Best!! Tami

Thanks for writing, Tami. If you haven't already done the meeting, it would be great if you could share your discussion-- or any discoveries that come from it-- here somehow. Maybe just let me know if you have things to share and we can organize a phone call as a follow-up. Happy to do that with you and any of your Bricolage colleagues if multiple voices are better. I'm really inspired by the number of different companies and approaches there are in this part of the field. Very eager to develop a more frequent and concentrated sharing space here for all of us to build on.

And yes, I'm still very hungrily following the developments around the August Wilson Center and pulling for a successful outcome there for the Center, the city, and the field. I imagine I will see you in the context of #ReclaimAWC soon enough!

Thanks for writing back so quickly, David!!
Here's a quick and dirty breakdown of what we talked about in today's meeting.
- WOW. This podcast and the ideas laid out here are things we're doing or rather trying to do, but haven't had the vocabulary to articulate outside of our "basement brain" (our offices are located in the basement, below the theatre.)
- process often gets usurped by the result in order of importance. if you cut corners on process your result will likely suffer, but your process definitely will. we talked about putting much more emphasis on the building of partnerships.
- identifying what it is that we really have to bring to the table and what we really need. SO IMPORTANT. This speaks to the above bullet point. we looked back on a former failed partnership and a big reason for the failure was that we cut corners on the partnership building process. NEVER AGAIN!
- when we decide the framework, we eliminate the chance of others defining our success.
- adding a physical/performance/interactive element to our civic dialogues can help remove the mask and allow participants to bring their whole self to the table!
- marketing. what are best practices for generating that 'complex audience?' It takes time to grow a new audience and gain their trust. How do we best use our small (unfortunately small) marketing dollars? We talked about how really defined and intentional partnership building can support marketing problems/challenges in new and exciting ways!
- practice listening. We don't do it enough, and it's one of the bedrocks of acting. We talked about acting exercises that workout and train those muscles.
- It's important that we remember not to "serve a presumed need." All too often well-meaning people are oblivious to actual needs of the communities they serve. This is where effective partnerships can play a strategic role.
- we love this as a reminder of who we are "practicing art making allows you to develop tools for resilience."
- how do we become one of the 8 new a cohort members for the Catalyst Program? (couldn't find application info on line)
Thanks for inspiring this meeting with our staff. We appreciate the conversations you host, especially this one with Michael. It was a great energizer for our team and a reminder that we're on a good path. We'd love to connect with you on a deeper level with a program we're currently growing.