How did we get here? Where do we go from here?

In these days of late 2016, with the tumultuous election, the events at Standing Rock, the massacres in Aleppo and the fire that devastated the arts community in Oakland, it seems that our world is bracing for another seismic shift – politically, culturally and even spiritually. As we wonder what this will mean for our lives in general, Agile Rascal has also been considering how it will affect our upcoming 2017 Summer tour.

Admittedly, we picked the state of Montana as the location for the first of our regional tours somewhat arbitrarily. It was an unfamiliar landscape, home to Adventure Cycling Association, and we had a standing invitation to perform at The Whitefish Bicycle retreat. Additionally, we wanted to perform for more rural communities than we had on our last tour and Montana seemed an ideal place to prioritize this.

However as we planned our tour, we also watched the news unfold. We began to consider the implications of a Bay Area-based theatre troupe, with artists from primarily coastal, liberal cities, with plans to travel through and performing for, a more rural, conservative state.

We also reflected on what it will mean to bicycle through a part of the country that is central in our country’s dependence on fossil fuels. Montana contains more than one-fourth of the nation’s estimated recoverable coal reserves. At the same time, The Standing Rock Souix Tribe and their allies are currently peacefully resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline just across the state line in North Dakota. Many people in this part of the country depend on the fossil fuel industry for their income. At the same time, everyone is dependent on unpolluted water and uncontaminated land for their lives.

These considerations have put our project into much sharper focus. They also clarify the topic of the play that we will perform across the region’s varied physical and cultural landscape. While it’s impossible to predict the shape of a play before we’ve created it (we won’t create the play until our residency in Montana,) we can decide on a “point of entry” to inform our creative process.

For our 2017 tour of the greater Montana region, we have decided that the focus of our play will be the following questions: “How did we get here? Where do we go from here?” with an eye on the specific region, including its history, culture and people.

On the road, these same questions will inform the conversations we have with the diverse communities we encounter. We will listen more than we talk, and we will document our experience through blog entries, photographs and video.

This past election has reinforced the illusion of uniform beliefs, represented as colors on a map. This idea also gets perpetuated by the mainstream media.

But in truth, this depiction of clear-cut divisions is a massive distortion. People are are varied and complicated, and their needs and beliefs are equally varied and complicated.

Agile Rascal intends to challenge the illusion of this division and begin a dialogue across state and party lines that encompasses a multitude of diverse communities, ideas and beliefs. Through bicycle touring theatre, we will explore the stories we tell about ourselves and each other, the personal and political histories that we emerge from, and the shared future that we envision and work toward.

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