We are truly blessed to have Clearie McCarthy on board as Still Point’s Managing Director. I recently invited her to write a blog reflecting on the value of using theatre as a tool for social justice, which is a big part of our mission at Still point. Please enjoy her personal, powerful, and heartfelt reflections. – Anita Clearie: I grew up in Lansing, MI in a working-class family with both parents and an older sister. My upbringing was filled with love and encouragement and home cooked meals. I grew up skiing in northern MI in the winter and tubing behind a speed boat in the summer. My parents loved me very much and supported all of my interests. In junior high I was a first-chair clarinetist and I was an honored member of the Junior Honor Society. I had many bright, young peers and we did many normal, 11-year-old things. During the summer between 8th and 9th grade, preceding my first year of high school, things took a turn. I got a new group of friends and acted out different behaviors in exponentially dangerous ways. Once I began driving I had complete freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I... Read More.
Theatre in Cook County Jail: Poem and Interview with ‘Most Wanted Actors’ Long-Standing Participant, Teresa LanehartAugust 20, 2019 By Anita Dacanay
This blog was composed by Still Point Managing Director and program facilitator, Clearie McCarthy: It’s Thursday at 4 o’ clock and my colleague and I are in the chapel at Cook County Jail. This is the time and location of our weekly theatre class with individuals in the THRIVE program; an internal treatment program for incarcerated persons struggling with substance abuse. Our class consists of Voice and Speech work (Patsy Rodenberg technique and Shakespearean text), Improvisation and original work by participants. At the top of every class we form a circle and conduct our check-in. We encourage the class to be open about how they’re feeling—whether they are particularly excited about something or they are particularly upset, we encourage them to share. It is important for an ensemble to be aware of what each member is facing before we act together in our exercises. Vulnerability is essential on stage and a functional ensemble must be aware of when to push each other and when to give space. One long-standing member of our theatre class, Teresa Lanehart, is consistently warm and open during our check-in’s. She is always willing to discuss how she’s feeling and why. More often than not, she... Read More.
For many years the staff of Still Point thought deeply about how our organization could address human trafficking in a way that might have some real impact. The True Cost: Stories of Human Trafficking is our answer. Our newest professional touring production gives voice to the forgotten ones: the people who are forced into sexual servitude; the children who are exploited as slave labor to provide cheap goods sold in our very own neighborhoods; the women and men who are lured into domestic work that turns out to be entrapment rather than employment. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are currently 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, serving a $150 billion industry worldwide. In interviews with three female trafficking survivors, playwright Jenny Magnus heard some recurring themes from the women. One thing that was reiterated is that human trafficking survivors might be standing next to us in the line at the grocery store, unbeknownst to us. Perpetrators might appear as respectable members of society; and businesses that appear to be completely legitimate might actually not be paying their workers. Survivors want people to know that human trafficking is happening everywhere, all around us – and that the perpetrators... Read More.
At Still Point, we have been blessed with a large number of talented and dedicated people who have been attracted to our organization over the years. While our artists and facilitators often have the spotlight, we’d like to acknowledge someone who play a less visible but no less vital of a role in the organization: Yahaira Landaverry, Still Point’s current Financial Manager. Yahaira has seamlessly stepped in to take over aspects of the daily operations that, frankly, the rest of us do not particularly relish. Since she joined the company in her position about a year ago, she has been instrumental in helping to keep Still Point in working order: managing payroll, taxes and the overall bookkeeping and day to day financial health of the organization. We asked Yahaira to share a bit about how to she came to work with Still Point, and here is her answer: I met Lisa about 14 years ago, when I started working for the National Federation of Priests’ Councils. The NFPC and Still Point Theatre Collective (among other offices) rented office space in the second floor of a Catholic Church over by Grand and Ogden Ave. The offices later were moved to Downtown... Read More.
The following blog was created from a recent, written exchange between Still Point Managing Director Hector Alvarez and former Persephone Project participant, Yolanda Burgess. Today, Yolanda Burgess is happily married and a doting grandmother to her six grandchildren, including a set of identical twin infant grandsons. She has been working in social services for 12 years, and is currently employed by A Safe Haven, a facility that serves people of all ages who are homeless. Yolanda is very committed to her work, stating that “it continues to feed my passion to give back to society, to stay connected to people and to what goes on in my neighborhood.” Yolanda’s path to her currently vibrant and rewarding life was not an easy one. Earlier in her life, Yolanda struggled with chemical dependency, became involved in illegal activities, and was eventually convicted of a felony. Reflecting on the experience of her incarceration, Yolanda shares, “I experienced a lot of things that just did not sit right with me, especially as far as the way women were being treated and being disrespected… Also, the circumstances behind a lot of the women being incarcerated saddened me… There were a lot of women in there... Read More.
I recently spoke with Sarah Ailey, Professor in the Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing at RUSH Medical Center (pictured center in photo), about an exciting collaboration with Still Point that began last year. Sarah helped to organize the PATH-PWD (Partnering to Transform Healthcare with People with Disabilities) Conference in March of 2017 after receiving funds from the Agency Healthcare Research and Quality and the Special Hope Foundation (now the Working for Inclusive and Transformative Healthcare [WITH] Foundation). The need for the conference stemmed from a growing awareness of inequities for people with disabilities in receiving appropriate healthcare services in the United States. Familiar with Still Point’s Imagination Workshop programming for adults with intellectual disabilities, Sarah approached the organization to participate in the conference by working with several community members to share, develop, and present their real-life experiences in the healthcare system. The participants were chosen to work as public advocates on behalf of the community, and the presentation of their personal stories was quite impactful. After the conference, representatives including Sarah began to brainstorm about expanding their advocacy work by creating a video. Again, RUSH approached Still Point to collaborate. Sarah shared that the two main goals... Read More.
Still Point Interim Managing Director Héctor Álvarez received a Watson Fellowship in 2008 to study community theater companies in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil that served populations who had suffered from trauma. I recently asked Héctor to share in greater detail about the nature of the work that he did as part of this fellowship. Please enjoy his personal reflections and insights in this Still Point blog. – Anita By Héctor Álvarez The Watson Fellowship allowed me to spend a year researching what I call social acupuncture. This idea explores how certain interventions in a community that has suffered trauma can act as catalysts for change, growth and learning. I was specifically looking at performance, which is a field that covers many things beyond traditional theater including dance, ritual, political demonstrations, parades, storytelling, busking, performance art – and also large-scale public events like a New Year’s Eve celebration on a beach under a fireworks display, or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. I was studying how performance can become social acupuncture and what the best practices and interventions in the field might be. One of the great things about a Watson Fellowship is that you have total freedom to structure your research;... Read More.
This photo was taken after a performance of Haunted by God that Lisa performed at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, on the tail end of her participation in the Satyagraha Institute’s summer session in the Black Hills. In a week that has offered us yet another horrifying example of the violence in our world, let us balance the scales with a reflection on some of the people on our planet who are devoted to cultivating peace and understanding. (If you are reading this article, you are probably one of them. Thank you.) The mission of the Satyagraha Institute is to “promote the understanding and practice of satyagraha as a method for social change and way of life”. Mohandas Gandhi coined the term satyagraha, proposing that satya (truth) combined with agraha (firmness) creates a social power that does not rely on violence. One way that Gandhi translated it is “truth-force.” Satyagraha is a way of directly engaging with others to solve problems without resorting to coercion or harming others. Satyagraha occurs when our actions stem from kindness, respect, patience, generosity, and service. From August 4 through August 13, 2017 Still Point Founder and Artistic Director Lisa Wagner-Carollo... Read More.
Grace House is a transitional home in Chicago for women exiting the Illinois prison system. The facility provides interim housing, emotional and spiritual support, and professional counseling to the residents. On February 23, Still Point launched a new performance program at Grace House designed to foster an emotional support system while also building important communication skills. Almost all of the women currently living at Grace House are participating, and the group numbers about 16 at the moment. The women are being paid to participate in the project and create a shareable work of art. The end goal is that the ensemble will craft an original performance which can be toured around the community. The plan is to have a debut presentation at Grace House, inviting donors and friends in the community, followed by a local tour. Grace House Program Director Holly Christian said that she receives an enthusiastic report from the women every Friday morning on what is happening in the sessions on Thursdays. She hears about comaraderie, creativity and joy. The group is clearly feeling a deep connection to Facilitator Mars Caulton (pictured) and to the project. Holly has played a pivotal role in bringing this project to fruition,... Read More.
Still Point’s Sage Theatre Workshop for seniors has recently expanded to include a program at Sunrise Assisted Living that has a unique twist. Still Point facilitator Maria Vorhis began conducting a program at Sunrise at the end of November. The hour long sessions are currently held twice per month, with Maria leading a group of 6-14 seniors. While our other Sage Theatre facilitations follow a model similar to Still Point’s Imagination Workshop, in which participants develop and present an original performance, Maria’s classes at Sunrise have a different focus. All of her participants are from the Memory Care Unit. Some of them have Alzheimer’s disease, some have dementia – all have cognitive issues that affect their memories in a variety of ways. Creating a scripted performance would not really work for this group. So – what would? Maria recounted to me her first visit to Sunrise, at the invitation of Activity and Volunteer Coordinator Rebekah Zhao. Maria noticed a resident walking the halls, talking to herself in a very agitated manner. Maria approached the woman and started talking to her. Rather than trying to get the woman to explain the source of her anxiety, Maria showed her a photograph and... Read More.