Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram

Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram
This diagram was created by the co-producing artistic directors of Rude Mechs to depict the complexity of creating and crediting collaboratively devised work for theatrical performance.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blog Assignment #1, 2011

Please post a paragraph-long question in response to the reading for Wednesday's class by noon on Wednesday.

The reading can be found at this link : read through each link of the toolkit


  1. These suggestions for advocating for places of personal importance depend on the stories of people who care about "places that matter." Often, people who have the most interesting stories are those who are most timid, for one reason or another, to share their stories. How can they enable themselves, with others' help perhaps, to tell their stories and persuade us to see the beauty in the stories that matter to them?

    Separate from the last thought is the question: If we take a place that is beautiful and cherished to a small group of people and invite the world in to view it does that diminish the wonderfulness of the place, by changing it's charm or dynamic, for those that originally loved it?

  2. After reading through the website, I was curious about the concept of change in a well loved place. The site seems to try and fight change and to preserve the past, which is all well and good. However, I would like to question if it would be better to not only restore these kinds of places, but also to give them new uses and new opportunities and ways to create stories and feelings of community for multiple generations.

  3. Reading this article has inspired me, slightly. I'm not going to go on some prophetic tangent but I do have some goals for my old home town now. I remember many sites of great interest back in my very small town (such as a century old "primitive" furnace and tobacco barns) that I would love to help preserve. Only problem is, this article addresses sites within large cities; how do the obstacles in my path change when I'm in the confines of a much smaller town?

  4. After reading this toolkit, I found myself wondering whether or not I had personally come into contact with a "place that matters." To be quite honest, I can't think of one that I would have enough connection to and history with to be willing to work through the efforts of protecting it. (Perhaps that is only a personal shortcoming..) Despite this, I definitely had a lot of images of abandoned buildings that I've encountered since moving to Lexington. After thinking about these, I wondered whether it would be possible for an outsider could promote the preservation of a place without having had a personal connection. Furthermore, would it be possible for a person/group to convince others to preserve a place without having an emotional tint to their efforts and arguments?

  5. Though I suspect the page about 'collecting information' would be the most immediately useful for many people who read through this toolkit, I am most personally compelled by the idea of working to mitigate threats to the 'story' of a place. Paul pointed out the potential bias of this toolkit towards fighting change and preserving the past (often noble and worthwhile causes) while I am reminded of many community and interventionist projects that are undertaken specifically to reclaim sites and to create new stories for them, to erase the stories that they have come to represent.

    One example would be the creation of artwork, benches, and meeting areas in an alley that had been inhabited by people selling drugs in Cincinnati--this compelled the people selling drugs to leave the neighborhood. It also created a new story for the space, a story of overcoming the unwanted narratives connected to a space, a story of reclaiming a neighborhood as home.

    I am interested in this kind of space, too. Spaces that have become sore spots within a neighborhood, spaces that need to be reclaimed in order for the neighborhood to feel like home again. Though this is, in some ways, oppositional to the kinds of spaces discussed in the toolkit, I wonder if the same approaches and intentions can be considered?

  6. I noticed that the tool kit included a lot of advice that urged those seeking to save a place of importance to think about the place from the view point of the community as whole. This was particularly interesting because it easy to focus so much on what one's own relationship with a place is and perceive one's own view as the same of most others. I find myself often falling into this trap only to find out later that the places I love and the reasons I love them are not the same or do not have the same value as those around me. Yet, at the same time it is a deeply individual love for a place for and one's own individual relationship with that place that gives the initial burst of inspiration to save a place—the spark that lights the fuse if you will. It is this strange dichotomy between a personal and communal relationship that give place value worth preserving.

    As another note, I like what is being said about sore spaces, and the need to also move forward with creating new spaces/new uses for old spaces. Is there a formula that can be used to somehow preserve the past while also providing for spaces for the important cultural and communal events/groups/phenomenons of the present and future? Does the shear fact that we are premeditating such spaces influence what these events/groups/phenomenons will be? Does this somehow muddy the intentions of those trying to change, preserve, re-shape such spaces?

  7. I really enjoy where these conversation threads are going and look forward to discussing this tonight in class. There are a lot of activities and websites out there devoted to discussing the meaning of place and space within a community - large and small - which I thought was relevant to the work that has been done in this class that has been place (and space) based in the N. Limestone area. Not only what buildings have been to people, but how the community has altered space to change it from a negative space to a positive space.
    I would challenge you to not only think of what place means in your own lives, but what place means within this course and the community(ies) you are working with.
    What are reoccuring ties to place or space that you hear through collecting stories and talking (or interviewing) residents - new and old? It doesn't have to be a building or a physical space with 4 walls, but what space makes up the community? parks? streets? storefronts?
    How could this survey help unify or draw attention to the needs or changes in the community?

  8. Every place has new people and new ideas. I like to think that I am interested in how the people live their lives in different places. The truth is that I am completely oblivious. I wonder what visitors and new comers think of a place? However, then I think again- Does that even matter? A place should be for the community it is in. I often think places are designed to attract new people or how much money can be made off of it. In the end, a place/space should be designed to unite the community and their thoughts of the past, present and future. How can one create a space that the people who live there will enjoy? How can we be sure that the space won't be overcrowded with people from around the world looking for entertainment? I think a good space should be somewhat secret to those who live there. It should be something special.

  9. The comments about how the toolkit seems to encourage people to try to perpetuate the past activities of a place are interesting, and in some cases seem to hold up. However in the examples of important places listed several of them had been repurposed, and even renamed as in the case of the building that has become the Brown Building and a part of New York University. Perhaps the best way to truly conserve the community building values of a place, in the case of places that are viewed as positive locations, is to acknowledge that while one activity has been the central use of a place for a very long time, the community itself will be drawn to that place if the activity for which it is used continues to change to fit the needs of the people living around it.

    Only one of the reasons for preservation was 'activity' however, so the writers of the toolkit acknowledge that not every place worth saving must be stuck in its history. It seems to me that the goal of the toolkit is to avoid the destruction of places that bring the community together in ways that people may not even realize almost more by the act of getting together separate groups who use these places in the attempt to save them, than in the preservation itself.

  10. The toolkit put together by Place Matters begins with an assertion that “If asked, each of us could probably point to public places in our city that connect us to the past, sustain thriving communities, contribute diversity and distinctiveness to our surroundings, and add to our well being. But most of us are never asked.” The rest of the site suggests ways to identify such places, to determine how they might be threatened (physically or by being forgotten), and to take steps to protect them.

    My question has to do with the stories of people and places that appear obvious, already known, perhaps even a bit tedious at some point. How do we remember to remind ourselves that there may be more than the official, well-known stories? How do we access the memories that contain these stories, some of which may have been silenced by official versions?

    This question was born out of my recent awareness that there is a lot that is not known about the history of Third Street Stuff, the coffee house at the corner of N. Limestone and Third Street here in Lexington.

    Easy to dismiss as a hub for self-proclaimed local activists, marked by eccentric but ultimately predictable patterns, selling coffee too expensive except for the upper-middle-class folks who gather to start revolutions, Third Street Stuff appears all too well-known, even a bit of a cliché. What is not known is that it is the brain child of a woman who in opening the coffee house actually scaled down her ideas; a woman married to a man whose favorite color is gray; a woman unaware that people look up to her and admire her oddness, eccentricity, out-there-ness.

    How to access her stories and the history of Third Street Stuff, what they might teach us about our town and the people who live in it, then, are questions worth considering, even if the coffee house seems always already known, familiar from so many other towns and cities.

  11. I have three major questions that have been touched on by prior comments.

    First of all, as James pointed out, the Toolkit centers around strategies utilized within NYC by a NYC-based company. NYC's history is older and denser, its population (and pool to pick "stakeholders" from) is vast, and more locations are threatened daily as the city is constantly remaking itself. How would our strategies have to differ and be adapted in order to be properly used locally?

    Secondly,I was very interested by Kurt's comment on "sore spots". My concerns emerge from a concern for those "sore characters" that inhabit them: by pushing out drug users simply by reappropriating their space for more tasteful usage, doesn't one simply drive those users into neighboring communities? I realize this is more a concern for people typically considered the "scum of the earth," than it is for their upstanding neighbors, but I feel the question must be asked. Isn't there some way that these locations could be reshaped in order to serve and aide society's misfits as well?

    Finally (sorry about the length), when reading through the toolkit, I have been thinking about the location of the mural we will be doing alongside Sav's Grill. The neighborhood is one of the oldest in Lexington and its history--both past and present--are rich. For example, a neighboring business called Two Keys Tavern is so named because of its past as a jail meant to contain human property during slavery. Along with its past history, the neighborhood continues to thrive with a mixture containing but not limited to: college students, alumni, hospital staff, local business staffs, tourists, diners (with a wide range of price and type of food), etc. I'm sure many UK students would love a big wildcat mural, but it just won't do. How are we to create a mural to capture the spirit of the community when it is so diverse?