On July 25, 2016, Waltzing Mechanics, Chicago's stage for documentary theatre, will host an evening of performances and conversation reflecting current news events entitled We Hear. The gathering will convene at 7:00 PM at the Berger Park Cultural Center, 6205 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago. Admission is free.
Following the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five police officers in Dallas last week, director Andrea Beschel took to Facebook to ask where citizens in Chicago were gathering to pursue a dialogue about these tragic events. "I see outrage behind screens," Beschel said, "but I need to know other people are out there. I need to do something about this, or else I will just sit here and 'like' other people's statuses and say 'it's a shame' from the comfort of my home. I can't do that."
Once Waltzing Mechanics co-founder Thomas Murray responded with an offer of artistic space, Beschel, Murray, and actress Tiffany Mitchenor conceived a program that is part open mic, part artistic showcase, and part group discussion. "Waltzing Mechanics' full-length original docudramas take more than a year to create," Murray said, "and they do not allow us to respond in the near term to current news and events. Since our company was founded to reflect our community's stories and provide opportunities for public dialogue, We Hear will embody that commitment to artistically reflect current events using found texts including journalism, poetry, editorials, music, and oral histories."
What is We Hear?
We Hear is a gathering space for the artistic community and the community at large to react to events both international and domestic that impact our city. Its purpose is to give people a physical platform to express concern, anger, frustration, and grief that is normally reserved for private spaces or digital outlets. We Hear is an opportunity for artists to respond through their medium, ask questions, and hear others discuss issues they are passionate about. The goal of We Hear is to be a space for expression and discussion - a place to publicly react to news and events.
What is the format of We Hear?
There will be eight curated artistic acts chosen ahead of time by organizers to showcase a wide array of responses to current events. There will be four open mic slots where anyone who has something to say or perform can do so. These open mic slots will be limited to 2 minutes. In addition to the staged performances, white boards will be posted for guests to make open comments, and a submission box will be available for questions and comments that may be read aloud anonymously or be discussed in story circles afterwards. Post-performance discussions will be moderated in groups of increasing size to allow everyone inclined a chance to share.
Who performs at We Hear?
While organizers will assemble some participants they know, we believe it is important to keep spaces open for people who may be new to the project. This goal is achieved not only by having ‘open mic’ slots, but also by having an open submission policy for material. In addition to artists and performers, slots could be filled by academics, reporters, and community members who are knowledgeable on a topic of particular interest. Those who share can provide context, pose questions, and further probe a situation being discussed at the event.
When is We Hear?
Whenever the space is needed, it shall be activated. Waltzing Mechanics will aim for theatrical dark nights to accommodate the widest population of the artistic community, but We Hear will occur only when necessary rather than periodically. The first gathering of We Hear will occur on Monday, July 25, 2016 at 7:00 PM at the Berger Park Cultural Center, 6205 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago. Admission is free.