NEFA's Creative City Announces THE WAY WE LIVE NOW Public Theater Exploring Opiate Use

NEFA's Creative City Announces THE WAY WE LIVE NOW Public Theater Exploring Opiate UseThe New England Foundation for the Arts' Creative City program announces The Way We Live Now (2018), a civic dialogue project on opioids, chronic pain, trauma, and hope by artists Maia Dolphin-Krute (writer) and Jesse Erin Posner (director). The performance takes place Wednesday, May 16, at 6pm at Fenway Health (1340 Boylston Street, 9th Floor, Boston) and is free and open to the public with RSVP at https://thewaywelivenow.wixsite.com/project/events.

The Way We Live Now (2018) is the first collaborative project of Boston artists Maia Dolphin-Krute and Jesse Erin Posner and is a performance-based civic engagement project inspired by a Susan Sontag short story, in hopes of sparking public conversation about opioids, chronic pain, trauma and hope. The theatrical performance, centered on a group of friends as they navigate hospital experiences, features a five-artist acting ensemble from Greater Boston, some of whom are also involved in recovery, the medical community, and activism.

"Each month, 136 people die of an opioid overdose in Massachusetts," Posner shares. "Close to 300,000 people in the state are prescribed opioids. These numbers ripple exponentially through our families and communities. We are all implicated and involved in an epidemic. By opening conversations around these experiences, we hope to provide an alternate model for understanding an epidemic: that it can be a state of mass togetherness."

"Through our personal experiences within the opioid epidemic," Posner and Dolphin-Krute explain, "we have come to believe it is a social and political imperative to make the relationship between the AIDS epidemic and the opioid epidemic clear. Not only to use the activism and community organizing models developed as a way of responding to this crisis, but because the AIDS epidemic provides a valuable lesson in demonstrating the horror and violence that accompanies the biologically-driven, fear-driven, stigmatization of people. We see this kind of stigma attaching itself now to those who are both affected by opioid abuse and those living with chronic pain, and believe that this lesson is one that bears repeating, writing about, acting on, and performing."

"This performance-based civic engagement project uses one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops, and performances, and invites the public to help end the silence that leads to death," shares Dolphin-Krute. "It asks: 'What does it mean to live within an epidemic? How do we live in an environment so deeply saturated by a substance, opioids, that are both invaluable and dangerous? How do we live with pain, or with the pain of another? How do we go on living?'"

"We have been looking to Susan Sontag's original story (The Way We Live Now, 1986) as a model for the overall tone of the performance," explains Dolphin-Krute, "especially in terms of how deeply conversational the story is. We wanted to retain that atmosphere that while it's only this one group of friends who may be on the stage, it's very much set within this larger group of other ongoing conversations and a wider sense of it's in the air."

"Working together and collaborating," Posner continues, "has been so rewarding. Creating this devised piece of theater with this talented ensemble, and practicing art in an open way has been so meaningful. Maia and I so appreciate their time, and their open hearts - working on this important topic." "Sharing our collaboration further - with the public - is our invitation to an important conversation," shares Dolphin-Krute. "We, along with our partners at Fenway Health will offer resources and support group information to anyone interested in supporting friends/family or getting help themselves."

"It's our hope that other organizations and community groups will invite us to perform The Way We Live Now (2018) for their staffs and communities," Posner says. "Our goal is to end the isolation that surrounds this crisis. We hope that those who see the project will have a new context through which to view their next experiences in a hospital waiting room, or helping loved ones on their roads to recovery. We hope this collaborative art is a catalyst for those who suffer."

Maia Dolphin-Krute is a writer and artist based in Boston. Working across medical anthropology, disability studies, and performance, she is the author of Ghostbodies: Towards a new theory of invalidism (Intellect, 2017), Visceral: Essays on Illness Not as Metaphor (punctum books, 2017) and Opioids: Addiction, Narrative, Freedom (punctum books, forthcoming). She also serves as editor at the journal The Deaf Poets Society and is co-producer of a civic engagement and theater project focused on the opioid epidemic, The Way We Live Now (2018). Currently, Dolphin-Krute is engaged in a long-term research project about the forms of freedom that become possible when continually modulated by physical experiences and material proximities; about how do you live with. Maia is currently a New England Foundation for the Arts Creative City and Live Arts Boston grantee.More information about her work can be found at www.ghostbodies.com.

Jesse Erin Posner is an artist from Jamaica Plain. She conducts collaborative projects that create relationships between strangers, spark exchange, and influence public space. Combining her political training as a community organizer with her background in directing and visual art, she works with groups to collectively imagine and enact interactive public actions. Her campaign experience began in the LGBTQ+ movement, working with MassEquality to secure equal marriage in 2004 and spans from the 2008 Obama campaign in Ohio to an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Innovation Grant in Texas with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). She has worked as a director and designer from Berlin to Sarajevo to Miami. Jesse is currently a New England Foundation for the Arts Creative City and Live Arts Boston grantee. For more information about her work, please visit www.JesseErin.com

The mission of Fenway Health is to enhance the wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and all people in the Fenway neighborhood and beyond through access to the highest quality health care, education, research and advocacy. http://fenwayhealth.org/

Further Creative City projects extend into Boston neighborhoods including East Boston, Allston, and more, and feature creative expression of many disciplines including theater, music, dance, visual art, and culinary culture. Programs offer a variety of opportunities for community participation, including performances, workshops, receptions, and more.

Creative City was launched in 2015 by New England Foundation for the Arts with hopes to support individual artists to enliven neighborhoods and engage communities. The grant program has awarded $445,000 to 46 projects in five rounds of applications. In addition, Creative City has also awarded $27,000 to 27 community partners ($1,000/each) to support/collaborate with the individual artist project (more partner applications are in process now). The deadline for the fifth invitation for individual artist applications was September 25, 2017. For grant eligibility and criteria, visit https://www.nefa.org/creative-city-grant. Creative City is made possible by the Barr Foundation with additional funding from the Boston Foundation.

"Artists are important voices in community life, and it's wonderful to recognize the imagination and vision of these creative leaders," said Cathy Edwards, NEFA executive director. "We are proud that Creative City has supported over three dozen projects including public art installations, bilingual theater, murals, urban dance, story-telling, music composition/performance, web television series, and more--that animate neighborhoods including East Boston, South Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, Roxbury, Allston, and others."

San San Wong, Barr Foundation's Director of Arts & Creativity, noted that, "Creative City is supporting artists to work directly with communities. Together they are creating platforms for connection, reflection, and conversation on vital topics like immigration, religious tolerance, and gentrification. Having already reached more than half of Boston's neighborhoods, we are excited to see this model replicated in other parts of Boston."

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