The mantra in this title is one that everyone will recognize… but how many people really understand what it means? The lesson of this phrase is one that I have re-learned several times over the last few weeks.
Richard says that, when you get the whole village together, anything is possible. I found this to be true when I needed a ride to and from the Knoxville airport – a two hour drive – for my trip to Florida this weekend. After struggling to figure out how I would get there on my own, I posed the question to the cast and immediately someone spoke up. They drive to and from Knoxville regularly, and would be glad to give me a ride. I have also found it to be true for any number of things that I, or anyone else, has needed for the play.
Most importantly, however, I’ve learned that this is an essential principle of practicing community-based theatre. It is important to focus on the strengths of the community, and trust that the community has within it the ability to do what you need it to do. During a recent rehearsal, we were trying to orchestrate a complicated crate-moving process. There were several problems, and initially the staff tried to direct the re-arrangement of responsibilities for each task. Richard finally stopped us, pointing out that, rather than using this top-down approach, it would be more effective if we relied on the community members to take responsibility for their parts. He asked the cast to take mental notes as they rehearsed of what was working and what was not, and to take actions to correct that. If it means finding someone else to volunteer to take the crate that they had been assigned, it’s their responsibility to do so, and to transfer their knowledge to that person. This methodology has also helped us to find countless volunteers for every little thing that we need to get done – there is always SOMEONE out there to make it happen.
In this way, the task gets taken care of, responsibility is spread out, people feel empowered to do their piece, and no one person ends up with a headache of figuring out complicated movements! This is an approach that applies to almost every facet of this work.
When you have the whole village, anything is possible.