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From Mary – Tales from the Tour – Freedom

September 24, 2018

Meet Olaf.

He was one of a dozen of wonderful young adults that we had the privilege of working with as part of the Human Mosaic Festival we attended in Poland.


We arrived 10 days before the festival started and began working with the 3 community groups assigned to us. Our assignment: create and direct an original piece of theatre on the theme of “Freedom” incorporating the following local community groups: a local rock band, a group of young recovering addicts, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. It was suggested that we incorporate some of the Polish rock songs made famous during the 80’s and the Solidarity movement.


Of course, there was a language barrier, but luckily one of the young adults, Paulina, was fluent in both Polish and English. She was our main translator each day. But one day she was absent and so Olaf stepped up and acted as translator. We could see the wheels turning as he tried to figure out concepts and words to explain, to capture what was being said. At one point he stopped mid-sentence, his brain clearly overwhelmed, and simply said, “W-o-a-h!”


I think we all felt that sense of “woah” at times.

“Woah” … that rock band is incredibly good and has one of the most famous guitar players in all of Poland in it.


“Woah”…these young people are incredibly responsible and trusting and willing to be honest and vulnerable with us. They were quite honest on what it felt like to fight an addiction.

“Woah” … we have an incredible opportunity to do some of the kind of work Touchstone does best: creating original theatre that helps give voice to folks who are sometimes overlooked.


Because of the theme, we focused our activities in our workshops on what “freedom” meant to these young adults. “You are the experts because you are fighting for your freedom every day,” we told them.

They created tableaus with themes like “Freedom,” “Oppression,” “Happiness,” “Division.”


They drew monsters that represented their addiction.

They imagined their internal struggles as an external force of nature, and had to help each other move through the space fighting that force of nature.

We taught them to sing “Children of the Revolution.”


And as we worked with them, the idea for a performance piece emerged. It emerged using the very same techniques we use so often in our work with Young Playwright’s Lab and Building Bridges, and it was exciting to see the way our years of experience, our strengths as teaching artists and collaborators all worked together so easily. We’d adapt a story I often tell. We’d use the broken bike parts Jp and Christopher had found dumped near the half-way house. We made bird wings out of $1.00 plastic table-clothes that Emma packed and brought with her. We’d have Jp tell the story, Emma would sing. Jason would rock-out with the band. Christopher and I would perform with the kids. Lisa would act as stage-manager extraordinaire. We incorporated their dance moves, the songs, spoken word, storytelling, movement, and even the motorcycles.

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On the night of the performance, I got to dance with those wonderful young people from Babigoszcz, all of us like beautiful freedom birds as the famous rock band played and the audience joined in singing and dancing with us all.

And at the end, during the curtain call, the audience started a chant. It was not the name of the rock band. It was not the name of Touchstone. It was “Babigoszcz”: their name. The name of their group: “Babigoszcz” Over and over again. Those young people were the stars of the show.

We had made art that makes a difference. It wasn’t just the kids who had been changed. We all were.



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