Last Monday night I rode my bike to El Collegio Charter School.
It was time to show the world a little bit of Breaking Ice’s show about… what exactly? Gentrification? Changing neighborhoods? Revitalization? Development? Words get tricky in this context, so I leave you to choose your own.
The night was a beautiful one, warm and clear in late September and perhaps as a result our crowd was a light one. There were some friends and colleagues and some faces that were unfamiliar to me. There were men and women and children of various racial backgrounds watching the show this fine night.
As with just about any Breaking Ice performance, there was a structure in place that left room for mistakes to happen and discoveries to be made. An actor drops a line and another picks it up. The energy lags in one place then surges forward a moment later, riding the wave of a collective impulse to reach our audience, to connect with and communicate with them. We performed montages of misunderstanding, movement based sections about the challenge of the new in your neighborhood, and short scenes where family members disagree about how to be and move forward in this world. We end with a song, and then, thank you very much, we’re done.
But not really.
The best part of any Breaking Ice show is what comes after the show, or at least what the audience thinks is the show. After the semi-scripted portion of the event comes the talking. On Monday, Heidi Batz Rogers led our small band in a discussion about what they just saw, and this conversation was no different than most. Slow, halting at first and then the audience finds the topics that light their collective fire and they’re off to the races.
This group said things like, “I recognize everyone in this show,” and, ”Just when I thought I knew someone, they did something that surprised me,” and, ”That was just like my bus stop.” Did I mention we do a scene at a bus stop?
We strive with every show we do to hold a mirror up to the group we’re performing for so they can talk about what they see. That’s how Heidi always begins the talks: What did you see? It’s not always easy to see yourself, or the people you work with or live with or love dearly, onstage. Because we show people at their wisest, most generous, most thoughtless, most selfish, most human. Embracing the fullness of that humanity can be really challenging. Talking about the parts of yourself you don’t admire requires a special kind of bravery, and doing it with strangers means believing that people will listen to you and hear you and not write you off.
It ain’t easy.
Still, we all share. We all laugh at ourselves and we allow others to laugh with us. I hope you’ll join us if you can. We’ll be at Bancroft Elementary (1315 E. 38th St, Minneapolis) on October 7 at 7:00 pm, and Bethel Lutheran Church (4120 17th Ave S, Minneapolis) on October 14 at 7:00 pm. We’ll be there no matter the weather.
It’s a special room to be in. With you in it, things get just that much better.