Performance art challenges preconceived notions regarding difficult topics. Spectrum Theatre, in a partnership with Sustained Dialogue, is working to do just that through their “Breaking Ground” Reading Series at OpenGrounds this fall.
Every other Monday, actors will perform a staged reading of provocative, challenging plays. The performances will be followed by a discussion, moderated by members of Sustained Dialogue, of controversial issues raised in the text. The series opened this Monday at OpenGrounds with a reading of Frozen by Byrony Lavery, a piece that explores the inner challenges faced by various characters affected by the disappearance of a young girl. In the coming weeks, readings will explore topics ranging from queer history to the concept of the multiverse and its relationship to love.
As she developed the idea for the reading series, Spectrum Theatre’s creative director Stephanie Lebolt approached Sustained Dialogue’s Vice-Chair of External Relations Pippa Mason to create a partnership between the two organizations, one that is supported by OpenGrounds. The two quickly came together to further develop the series, and it has served to strengthen the partnership between the organizations. For Sustained Dialogue, “This reading series adds a depth to our normal dialogues by providing a jumping off place for the conversations,” Pippa said. “The plays Stephanie has selected are also particularly extreme in content, so they allow the dialogue access to perspectives that otherwise wouldn’t be in the room, but in a way that is more alive than reading a blog or news article.”
At their very core, these provocative conversations serve a purpose that can be overlooked at face value. As an academic community, we often neglect talking about what is considered “taboo” or “risque”– to our detriment. The arts provide a perfectly sound medium for these kinds of topics to be discussed and dissected in a secure environment.Â In turn, this could produce a more “informed and enlightened citizenry” — per our Founder Thomas Jefferson’s vision.
OpenGrounds works to promote interactions across a variety of disciplines, and supports the work of student organizations who make this possible. The Breaking Ground Reading Series represents this ideal. The series allows Spectrum Theatre and Sustained Dialogue to work together in novel ways, opening challenging conversations to members of the university community about a variety of topics. This artistic partnership is an excellent representation of the power of collaboration, and OpenGrounds hopes to sustain programs such as this in the future.