What The Commons Stands For
In the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, when our staff was shaken, we gathered together to discuss a response. We decided to focus on the positive—what it was that we deeply believed in, what we’re working toward, and what we stand for. The result: HowlRound stands for access, art, beauty, connection, creativity, diversity, equity, inclusion, intersectionality, justice, and peace.
But HowlRound is not, and never will be, simply the people in our office. HowlRound is all of us—theatremakers from around the world who co-create this knowledge commons. So we wanted to hear from you. The influx of responses has been incredible. We heard from people across the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Ireland, Germany, Vietnam, and Italy. Many more of you shared these reflections on social media. We are so proud to present a selection of them here today.
We are so grateful for all of you—for bravely and honestly sharing what you stand for, for the incredible work that you do to bring beauty and meaning to this world, and for being in this commons with us.
Inclusion. Sharing. Belonging. I want my art to foster that feeling—even when the work is deeply challenging. I want the sense of ownership and belonging to create a space for rigorous and respectful dialogue. It's art for god's sake—it's meant to get us talking to one another, thinking and learning together. It's an expression and essence of community.
—Christine Brubaker, Director, Educator, and Artist, Toronto, ON
I stand for messy grace and the wisdom of mercy. My art stands for mystery and awe, ecstatic laughter and breath. My art and I both stand for the essential truth that all of us, like it or not, are in this together. We stand for dismantling all structures that work to preserve white supremacy.
—Matt Cosper, Artistic Director of XOXO, Charlotte, NC
I stand for theatre as a space for community, empathy, protest and grace. When we create a world onstage, we manifest a community. The power of theatre, the power that each of us holds in our hands, is the power to make manifest our vision of Who. We. Are. —Lisa Portes, Director, Educator, and Leader, Chicago, IL
I stand for hope, change, dignity, respect, and equal rights of people of color, women, and the LGBT community. My art stands for the celebration and uplifting of Haitian culture and the Afro-Diaspora. My art stands for giving voice to the marginalized, and my art stands for America, the real America...the descendants of enslaved people and immigrants who built this country.
—France-Luce Benson, Playwright, Brooklyn, NY
All of the things on HowlRound's list as well as a belief that through our work as theatre artists, we can lift up people of all backgrounds and beliefs—even those with whom we disagree—to reclaim our shared humanity as the basis for what binds us together and will see us through.
—Allen Hahn, Lighting Designer, From all over
I stand for small impacting work. Sometimes the work we make can feel really small and because our culture does not value small, we think we might not be affecting anyone. But I know I have been changed by art in small and large ways, a lot of times, in mediums outside of the theatre. So I think the small things we make, and say, and do have to be important enough to keep going.
—Erica Vannon, Director, Chicago, IL
I stand for every child's right to an aesthetic education—for the broadening of the mind and spirit through access to the arts. My art stands for the community: the belief that the creation of art is best when it is not the artist's soul that is bared, but the community's.
—Jessica Bland, Teaching Artist, Syracuse, NY
I stand for empathy and the power of the imagination. I stand for the power of the collective to move us forward in achieving a more just and inclusive world. My art stands for the healing power of the sharing of our stories in a live public witnessing. My art stands for unearthing lost, forgotten, or ignored stories and giving them voice.
—Marissa Chibas, Writer, Performer, and Educator, Los Angeles, CA
I stand for waking up my fellow human beings to the power and miracle of their creativity and intellect. My art is made to help them see the world we are currently making through a process which allows them to question if this is the best we can do, while experiencing what healthy community can and should be. I stand for Love and Art as powerful tools of activism and the development of peaceful society.
—Bari Hochwald, Theatre Artist and Educator, Baltimore, MD and Florence, Italy
In addition to all the things you stated, I stand for kindness, awareness, action, self-care (so we have the capacity to care for others), mindfulness, joyful expression, pursuing your passion, movement, longevity, education, acceptance of your flaws while always growing, respect (for yourself and for others), using your voice, and a safe, accepting world for everyone.
—Marcia Polas, Educator, New York, NY
I stand for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in theatre and the arts. My art is manifested into others whom I empower and teach to be leaders or artists. My art speaks to truth and stands for the honesty of others.
—Gabriel Barrera, Scenic Artist, Ashland, OR
For love. For compassion. I stand for what I think of as the values of matriarchy—care for the planet, care for children, particularly the empowerment of girls globally, care for our elderly, an emphasis on health and well-being, an economy that helps everyone, inclusivity, collaboration, community, and deep creativity. My hope is that my art stands for all of this!
—Kristen Lazarian, Playwright, Los Angeles, CA
I stand for authenticity and collaboration. I believe theatre can recreate discoveries in visceral forms for audiences. I think that theatre becomes the megaphone to unite voices into a common cause. I hope that we constantly strive to voice the voiceless in our work.
—Kenny Wang, Actor and Artist, Long Island, NY
I stand for others like myself, who don't have the many fundamental advantages that grant them access to resources in art and the larger world. I stand for the marginalized youth in society who are looking for safe spaces. I stand for real inclusion. It's clear that there are some serious bad asses in my generation who are fighting the good fight, and I'm confident that together we will change the world for the better.
—Joseph Michael Bahena, Director at BadMouth Theatre, Chicago, IL
I believe in the power of violence—the damage its power can do to a community, how the actions or even mere threat of silences and separates us. My art is a stand against violence. Empathy. Collaboration. Justice. Kindness. These are my stances; the values my art relies on to stand up to violence.
—Shelby Converse, Stage Combatant and Actor, Buffalo, NY
My art stands for joy and insight delivered in a format that is accessible because it is entertaining. As an “artivist,” I invite an audience to see new possibilities and new ways of thinking with the hope of opening doors of compassion, empathy, action and understanding.
—Linda Hodges, Playwright and Theatre Reviewer, San Francisco, CA
Equity, inclusion, community, solidarity, courage, imagination, grace, rapture. Speaking truth to power.
—Sophia Skiles, Actor and Theatre Educator, New Paltz, NY
I stand for equal opportunity. My art stands for those who wish to have a voice but can't find the words.
—Ashley Wilson, Actress, Chicago, IL
I, and my art, stand for the pursuit of an ever deepening and ever more present compassion in our actions, our hearts and our minds.
—Kevin Lawler, Producing Artistic Director of the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Omaha, NE
My art stands for inclusion, diversity, and equity—hope in the face of hate, love in the face of brutality, determination in the face of oppression.
—Kate Hurster, Actor at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
Telling stories, all stories. Because by digging past the noise to the what, why, and how behind each individual's actions and words can we actually get to the shared humanity. By telling compelling stories, we invite people to listen to each other, to want to stay quiet to hear others' voices. Sharing stories takes us out of winning and losing into a common space. That's what it should do.
—Maggie Sulc, Playwright, Toronto, ON, Canada
I stand for flat-out, full-on experimentation, traditions that aren't afraid to evolve, evolution as a tradition in itself, democratic socialism, art for art's sake (maybe that's the core of art's impact), curiosity-charged conversations with folks whose views I don't dig, the energy and friction and fresh air that immigration brings, thinking out loud (sometimes with my body), inventing fictions as a means to improving society, joyful mistakes and unabashed risk-taking, offering my coattails when I can afford a coat, counter-intuitive methods and eye-opening metaphors, surfing the booms and busts with generosity. Yeah, that's it. Generosity.
—Emily DeDakis, Dramaturg and Producer, Accidental Theatre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Courage, quality, artistic freedom, interdisciplinarity, institutional development, and the equal development of artistic and personal skills, aperture, the connection between art and management, the combination of different levels of artistic and institutional development, reflexivity, artistic and institutional success, diversity, inclusion, balance, justice, and peace.
—Thomas Schmidt, Professor of Theatre, Frankfurt, Germany
My art is a radical act of self-care. I stand for representation and access, safety and peace, justice, inclusion, and education.
—Amanda Ewing, Theatre Education and Performer, Northville, MI
Me and my art stand for the endless number of stories that are unheard. The inability to tell one’s story is a big part of what perpetuates prejudice and misunderstanding. I want to provide a stage for everyone to speak and listen.
—Shaun Leisher, Director, Producer, and Educator, Allentown, PA
I stand for love. Love as a driving force of humanity, as a healing force for the inevitable rifts caused by the frailty of our individuality, a challenge to look beyond ourselves to the community that nurtures and sustains us, to contribute to other's well-being in gratitude, and urges us to realize our greatest potential.
—Olga Sanchez Saltveit, Director, Actor, Playwright, and Educator, Oregon
Inclusion. Truth. Unconditional kindness. Rejection of greed. Normalizing love.
—Joelle Jameson, Enjoyer and Reviewer, Houston, TX
I stand for inclusion, creativity, bravery, multiple narratives, conflicting narratives, non-linear narratives, music, dance, singing really loud, looking foolish, not being cool, getting it wrong, changing directions, standing up for other people, nonviolence, health, wellness, playful bodies, flexible minds, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, compassion, conversation, collaboration, art, culture, ritual, experimentation, buying local, eating local, tearing down corporations, and finding a big government that works for art, social justice and taking care of each other.
—Rebecca Noon, Deviser, Director, and Community Arts Organizer, Providence, RI
Today, as our team celebrates Thanksgiving (a holiday not without complications), we are so grateful for all of you—for bravely and honestly sharing what you stand for, for the incredible work that you do to bring beauty and meaning to this world, and for being in this commons with us.
—Carl, Jamie, Vijay, Ramona, Lynette, and Adewunmi