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Project Description

Creating Abundance:Telling Stories

New York City Dialogue Workshops

Documentary Film

New York City Dialogue Workshops

During Febuary of 2002, The Working Theatre and Snug Harbor in partnership with an extensive network of collaborating organizations will convene a series of three workshops in New York City, led by project artist Marty Pottenger. Each workshop group will include approximately fifteen participants, and each will meet twice during a one-month period. The dialogue will be grounded in both the participant's sharing of personal experiences and in an energetic exchange of thinking about the issues raised by those stories among the group. Participants will also employ their own artmaking, storytelling, using photography, Haiku, Quicktime Movies, and other mediums, as an integral part of the dialogue process. Workshop participants will include business leaders and managers, mothers receiving public assistance, New York City government employees, union members, f ormerly homeless people, and political officials. These workshops will include people from the widest array of economic experiences whereas the individuals interviews will involve only those at either end of the wage-earning spectrum.

The methodology employed in this Workshop process follows directly from the learning achieved by Marty Pottenger and The Working Theatre during their recent collaborative project, TheaterWorks! Working with members of different union locals in New York City, Pottenger assisted participants to develop short (1-3 minute) performances about their work. Workshops focused on many aspects of work in people's lives, including the work itself, unions, employers, co-workers, family, money and retirement. Participant's use of storytelling, movement, poetry and song made a truthfulness, sassiness, directness, warmth and vision possible in the resulting performances. TheaterWorks! placed a strong emphasis on building relationships among the participants in each workshop group and on individual relationship-building between Pottenger and each participant.

Following the initial Abundance Workshop process, Pottenger invited fifteen of these 45 workshop participants to join an ongoing New York City-based dialogue group. This group will meet once a month over the course of 8 months to explore issues of the personal, local, national and global economies, again using art-making as an integral part of its process.

In-depth Personal Conversations

In addition to these New York-based participating organizations, Abundance will engage a network of affiliated friends of Abundance partners nationwide. During 2002, Pottenger will travel across the county to ten cities, in addition to New York: Houston, Texas; Burlington, Vermont; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Francisco, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Boston, Massachusetts; and Honolulu, HI. In each of these communities, local partners will work with Pottenger to arrange meetings and interviews with people whose personal wealth exceeds one billion dollars and people who are employed in minimum wage jobs. The minimum wage workers will reflect the tremendous diversity of nationalities and ethnicity's of people in the U.S.A., offering the opportunity to work with several different groups, each bringing a unique historical relationship to the United States, as well as the added insights of "insiders/outsiders" to the workings of our economic system. The billionaires will be chosen with an eye to representing an involvement in a range of key economic sectors including Energy, Transportation, Media, Arts, Communications, Technology, Finance, Fashion/Beauty and Insurance/Healthcare.

During the course of these meetings nationwide, Pottenger will eventually invite twelve people (six minimum wage workers and six billionaires) from around the country to become long-term participants in the development of Abundance, and will continue to engage each of these twelve individuals in one-on-one conversation throughout the following year. Their experiences and observations will become a major element of the Abundance performance.

Critical to the conception of Abundance as a useful player in the national conversation is a web site that creates a platform for participation and dialogue, as well as an ongoing travelogue of ideas, information and experiences. The intention of Abundance is to carry on the project simultaneously in the most intimate settings of one-on-one interviews and small group workshops and at the same time in the most public media arenas -- broadcasting the progress, discoveries, and experience of Abundance to readers/viewers/ citizens/ participants locally, nationally, and internationally. allows every visitor the opportunity to take the interview and respond to the questions that Pottenger asks the minimum wage workers and billionaires. People can both email their responses back to themselves for further reflection and send them to the Abundance Project for possible inclusion on the website and/or performance. from the workshops contains the photographs, refrigerator poems, stories and collages of the ongoing workshop participants.

Towards this end, the Abundance site is linked with those of many other groups, projects, and publications, including Barrons Financial Weekly and, the Communications Workers of America Local 1180 newspaper, The Unionist (the publication of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Social Service Employees AFSCME Local 371), The National Performance Network, Art in the Public Interest, and The Center for Digital Storytelling. Together, these will extend an awareness of or participation in Abundance to hundreds of thousands of additional citizens and artists. These prospective participants, too, will be invited to contribute creatively to the Abundance site with stories, photographs, poems, and other texts to articulate their perspectives and experiences in the area called Abundanct Art. Our partner web sites and print publications will also document the ongoing process of the Abundance Project, including excerpts from Marty's interviews, reports from the ongoing conversations and workshops in New York City, and links to other sites pertinent to the dialogue.

Abundance: The Performance

During 2002 and early-2003, Marty Pottenger will write and direct a multimedia performance with an ensemble cast of six professional actors, developed from the materials shared in the workshops and interviews cited above. This performance, when completed, will function as a catalyst for an even further and wider series of public dialogues. Produced by The Working Theatre, the performance will have a month-long run in Manhattan and a week at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. In addition the performance will begin a national tour by traveling to the National Performance Network co-commissioners The Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont, Diverseworks in Houston, Texas, Dance Place in Washington, DC and then Painted Bride in Philadelphia. All presenting organizations have a long and impressive history of conceiving and hosting performance-based community residencies. The performance tour and associated post-performance dialogue activity will most likely extend through the Summer of 2003.

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