Back in 1981 my mother and I went to a production of "Measure for Measure" at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, in Berkeley, California. My high school Biology teacher, Raleigh Ellison, was in the audience, the man who inspired me to join the Sierra Club as a freshman and to carry out, on my own, and using a (humane) home-made collection device, a week-long insect-population study in a meadow ravine near the school. If I hadn't before, I came to love dragonflies and mayflies. In 1981 I was at home after six years of post-graduate study to write up my MA. I was suffused with Georges Dumezil, Theater, and Indo-European Studies, and at the end of the performance, between the joy in seeing Mr. Ellison and in the elation created by the Berkeley Rep production, I overflowed: 'Shakespeare channelled an aeon of Indo-European concepts of right and power; of the nature of the ruler in synch with and performing the right order; their symbiosis...'. And there was more - connections more richly detailed, with myth, language and material culture throughout the Indo-European worlds, than I could express then, and have no hope now, outside that ecstasy of academic immersion: Shakespeare - I was illuminated by the play and by my immersion in another scholarly world - was a native Indo-European Speaker, a conveying vessel, a transparent articulation of thousands of years of a fully thought-out and canonised philosophy on the nature of change, Order, the ruler's right behaviour, the way that wealth and bounty flow naturally from the king's right behaviour, and so on; and the antithesis, or anthitheses.
So last year, when a Facebook Friend shared a link to an article in "HowlRound Theatre Commons" about All Change at Berkeley Repertory Theater, I dove in. All around me, the organisation I had been part of for 30 years was in the final stages of its own immense change. It had come to the point of transferring its property, including the award-winning Archive and Study Centre and its collections, to a related charity, and was moving to wind up, after 53 years. How did a fellow beacon institution, one so cemented in my affections, go about its own process of radical change?
The answer was: A Masterclass, laid out in a two-part interview with Berkeley Rep's Managing Director, Susan Medak:
It was a process of thoughtful learning, communication, and consultation worthy of therapeutic community at its best, with caveats; and better than most. Very much worth reading. Very much worth studying.
My caveat? The staff team was not seated at the table.
HowlRound Theatre Commons
By way of explanation: The HowlRound Theatre Commons "is a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners." Its Vision is "to democratize the arts by effectively modeling the transformative power of commons based practice." According to its About Us page,
- Generosity and abundance—all are welcome and necessary
- Community and collaboration over isolation and competition
- Diverse aesthetics and the evolution of forms of theatre practice
- Equity, inclusivity, and accessibility for underrepresented theatre communities and practices
- Global citizenship—local communities intersecting with global practice"
This is virtually a statement of much of therapeutic community principles and practice. It is certainly a statement of the principles and practice embodied in the Archive and Study Centre. And it also expresses much of the philosophy of dancing good at the heart of well-performed Indo-European kingship.