Breaking Ice helps work through the hard stuff

by Paul De Cordova

I’ve been performing in the Breaking Ice company off and on since 2001. In that time we have, in part, addressed issues of diversity and justice as they effect us at work and home. We always have facilitated discussions after our shows and it’s at those points that I’ve heard voices tremble with the effort to hold back anger and also tears. I’ve seen people who looked like they wanted to disappear. I’ve stood in the presence of folks who honestly didn’t know there was a problem and the folks who assured them there was.

After 12 years, you would think we had talked it out, aired it out, figured it out. What else is there left to say? The word “diversity” itself is coming to seem quaint and cliched, like a flip phone in a smart phone world. The ongoing request to talk and talk and talk about these things can feel deeply unappealing, like something no one in their right mind would want to do. Because, frankly, even after all these years, it’s still uncomfortable. And it’s uncomfortable because the issues remain with us no matter how many people imply or outright assert that we’re in a post-racial nation.

When I do a Breaking Ice show, I have to acknowledge and wrestle with my own white male privilege. That’s not comfortable. I have to be in the presence of all kinds of very real emotions that belong to other people and that also belong to me. UN-comfortable. I engage in conversations about things that seem to have no solution and which may be partly my fault. Is everyone uncomfortable yet?

I’m wearing my own clothes. I’m saying words that I chose myself. More than most shows I do, when I do a Breaking Ice show, it’s really me up there. And while it’s a safe space and people can have honest dialogue, it’s never easy to deal with conflict and confront the difficult parts of being a human being in the here and now.

One time at a Breaking Ice discussion I heard a woman say something that I found fascinating and that I paraphrase from time to time. She said, “People react to and deal with each other on three levels, and we’re real good at the first two, and not so good at the last one. The first level is the one on which we’re all the same, all just human. The second level is the one on which we’re all different, unique, special. The third one, the difficult one, is the level at which we’re all a little bit the same and a little bit different.”

Breaking Ice honors all three levels and helps me with that third one every time I show up to play. If you and I aren’t at least a little uncomfortable, I’m not doing my job.


Don’t miss these upcoming Breaking Ice performances in the neighborhood. Performances are free–just show up.

September 30, 7:00 pm, El Colegio, 4137 Bloomington Ave, Minneapolis

October 7, 7:00 pm, Bancroft Elementary, 1315 E. 38th St, Minneapolis

October 14, 7:00 pm, Bethel Lutheran Church, 4120 17th Ave S,  Minneapolis

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