The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Gipe, Mullinax, Stanley, & Turpin 21

this kind of work says, “The arts are often pleasurable and entertaining, [. . .] but they can also be redemptive and restorative, critical and empowering” (qtd. in Graves 88). I think that’s what Higher Ground does. AT: I’m up then. I’m going to be reading shortly, but I want to give a plug for Robert’s book Trampoline (2015), which is friggin’ awesome, and that’s a scholarly term. It’s absolutely amazing. I do a little bit of quoting of Robert here in this piece; so he’s going to move his mouth, and it’s going to look like a team act. RG: I’m so glad I didn’t prepare anything. AT: Well, you may have some work to do correcting things that I may have gotten wrong; so if I say something that’s off, if you’ll fix it, that would be good. Let me share a part of a Facebook post made on September 3, 2015, on the Higher Ground page: Good morning Higher Ground family, A few of you may have already heard about our next Higher Ground project. We have been asked to perform at Emory and Henry College as part of the 34th Annual Emory Literary Festival. This performance will be a celebration of ten years of Higher Ground plays and will include scenes and songs from each of our five plays. We hope to get as many of our original and new cast as possible to participate [. . .]. We invite you all to join us this Sunday, September 6 at 3pm on the Cumberland SKCTC campus [Godbey Appalachian Center Theater] to discuss the Emory and Henry performance and reacquaint ourselves with some of the music from past Higher Ground shows. Please help us get the word out. Although this performance is a mashup celebration of Higher Ground shows, we welcome new Higher Ground cast members as well as original cast, kids, folks from off, you name it! Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. We hope to see you there! (Higher Ground) That posting tells you all you really need to know about Higher Ground and the folks who are part of it. They are a family. For well over a century, Harlan County, Kentucky, home to the Higher Ground family, has been the subject of stories told by individuals and agencies outside the community, stories that have created and then continually reinforced an image of the culture based on an outsider perspective. What happens when Harlan County takes control

of the performance of its own stories? What happens is Higher Ground, a decade of successful, sustainable community-based theatre. Community-based theatre belongs in a category of contemporary theatre sometimes referred to as social theatre. In the next few minutes, I’d like to talk with you briefly about social theatre, community-based theatre, and the extraordinary accomplishments of Higher Ground. First, an overview of social theatre. The academic journal The Drama Review devoted its entire Fall 2004 issue to social theatre. In the introduction to the issue, James Thompson, Professor of Applied and Social Theatre at the University of Manchester, and Richard Schechner, Professor of Performance Studies at NYU, explain that as aesthetic and commercial theatre began a decline in the 1960s, social theatre emerged from the wings. Both professors have distinguished records as scholars and practitioners of theatre (11-12). In 1992, James Thompson co-founded the Theatre in Prisons and Probation Research and Development Centre (TIPP), an organization located in Manchester and dedicated to using participatory arts in criminal justice settings. For the past decade, Thompson has used applied theatre in a number of contemporary war zones. He explained in a 2009 interview that he wanted to use theatre “to explore issues of reconciliation and justice with those caught up in tribal, ethnic or religious violence” (Arnot). His work has taken him to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Kosovo, the Palestinian Territories, and Sri Lanka. Richard Schechner has been active in the formation and practice of alternative forms of theatre since the 1970s. Today, Schechner is acknowledged as the foremost authority on performance studies; in fact, he is the originator of the term, “performance studies”—a field which combines multiple disciplines, including theatre, anthropology, sociology, political science, and communication studies. Thompson and Schechner define social theatre at the most basic level “as theatre with specific social agendas” (12). In addition to Thompson’s “Theatre in War,” this might include Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (1979), Suzanne Lacy’s new genre public art, or, closer to home, Appalachia’s Roadside Theater. Noted psychosocial and social theatre expert, and one of the current directors of the International Organization for Migration, Guglielmo Schinina differentiates social theatre from other forms of theatre which might take place in a therapeutic setting by pointing out that social theatre links “the experience within the group to the sociocultural, economic, and historical context the group emerged from and remained a part of ”

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