GRAND RIVER COMMUNITY PLAY PROJECT

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY PLAY?

It begins with a conversation and builds towards a unique theatrical experience. The contemporary community play movement got started in 1979, by a play produced by the Colway Theatre Trust. The Company went on to produce over 50 productions worldwide and spawned collectives to create their own community play projects. The process is transformative and through the months leading up to a production there are more conversations, meetings, workshops and rehearsals – friendships are developed. The result is that people feel connected to each other, to their shared sense of place. It is inclusive and anyone and everyone can participate. Whether it’s as an actor, a manager, a designer, a researcher, writer, builder, a musician, dancer, a technician, whatever it is, the production is community led and the two year process to create the play develops the thinking, and the talents, and the skills of all involved – and weaves them together. It is a community game-changer.

THE GRAND RIVER COMMUNITY PLAY PROJECT… is being imagined as an event that runs the 310 kilometre length of the river. We have just started with conversations, collecting stories from those who live along the Grand, and connecting with folks who are interested in participating in the project. Over the course of the summer of 2022 we’ll continue to listen and gather stories and in the fall perform a series of workshop presentations at different locations along the Grand. The work of 2022 will lead to further development in 2023 and take us to a full production in the summer of 2024.

The Grand River Community Play Project is the story of the river created and developed by the people of the river and ultimately told to those who are engaged and impacted by the river. It is a coming together of stories and, as importantly, a coming together of people along the length of this magnificent waterway. It also creates room for the river to speak for herself.

The Grand River Community Play Project is produced by the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity – where we strive to establish an inclusive gathering place, a place for creativity and meaningful participation.

To restore any place, we must also begin to re-story it, to make it the lesson of our legends, festivals, and seasonal rites. Story is the way we encode deep-seated values within our culture. Ritual is the way we enact them. We must ritually plant the cottonwood and willow poles in winter in order to share the sounds of the vermillion flycatcher during the rites of spring. By replenishing the land with our stories, we let the wild voices around us guide the restoration we do. The stories will outlast us.” Gary Paul Nabham

GRAND RIVER COMMUNITY PLAY PROJECT update. The map attached to this post was created by friend, Marcia Ruby. What she writes in the margins are grist for the mill in the creation of this project. The Indigenous story of the Grand River, one that intersects with the Settler story now and again, runs very much independently of it. There is much to learn and over time, with humility and respect, hopefully it will be revealed by the First Peoples who live along the Grand and have done for millennia. There are the more recent stories of the Settlers – those who live on the River, or have been impacted by it – and these stories will also be a part of the project. And there is a third story, I believe – the story of the River herself… how is that story told? Can we hear the voice of the river? What can she tell us?

This next piece of writing comes from Peter Godfrey-Smith’s article entitled, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. While a little bit different than hearing the voice of a river, there is something in what he says that speaks to the awe of being and could be a way forward for the project: “Octopuses and their relatives (cuttlefish and squid) represent an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals. Since my first encounters with these creatures about a decade ago, I have been intrigued by the powerful sense of engagement that is possible when interacting with them. Our most recent common ancestor is so distant—more than twice as ancient as the first dinosaurs—that they represent an entirely independent experiment in the evolution of large brains and complex behaviour. If we can connect with them as sentient beings, it is not because of a shared history, not because of kinship, but because evolution built minds twice over. They are probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien.”

I wonder if there is a way to understand a river in somewhat the same way? Different – but in being open to the relationship – is a different understanding possible?

If your curious about this project, have a Grand River story to tell, or would like to become more involved contact Pete @ peter@ruralcreativity.org