Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prison Abolitionist Play, September 12th

Possibilitarian Puppet Theater presents

Insurgent Theatre
from Colombus, OH
and their play IN THE BELLY
Monday, September 12th, 2011
at 8 PM

IN THE BELLY depicts long term solitary confinement in order to begin a critique of the entire US prison system. This collaboratively developed workshop piece draws from many prisoner accounts, audience feedback and close study of history, including ideas from Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish.

WHERE:  Possibilitarian Puppet Theater's place, 2909 E. 117th Street, Cleveland (Enter through first floor or around back.  Show in basement- early seating is best.)
WHEN: Monday, September 12th, 2011
@ 8 PM
HOW: Donation, no one turned away.  Funds go towards Ohio Prisoner solidarity work with RedBird Prison Abolition
WHO: Insurgent Theatre

***This show contains nudity, violence and other sad realities of the US prison system.

Contact Diana at 216-752-1307 for more info.  

In the belly is where things digest, where they are broken down so their value can be extracted. This is where things are made to rot. If our society is a beast, it's belly is the prison system. This new work from Insurgent Theatre seeks to manifest imprisonment on stage, overlays it with critical analysis of the system, and follows up with in-depth discussion about abolishing prison in America.

In the Belly was collaboratively created and performed by Weslie Coleman, Kate Pleuss, and Ben Turk in the winter of 2011. The cast imagined themselves in three of the 25,000 long term solitary confinement cells in America. They're performing what they discovered in a series of scattered moments, regimented actions and critical perspectives. After their first tours, the cast continued to develop and workshop the play, incorporating a theatrical adaptation of Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish. 

"Most Americans seem to relate to prison as an unmentionable aspect of our society, something we all fear and regret, but few of us want to even imagine. For this project we have challenged ourselves to discover and share our notions of prison life and to imagine this system acting on our bodies and minds."    -Cast Members

Insurgent Theatre strives to connect performing arts with radical struggles, to make theatre that is relevant, engaging, challenging and useful for those who confront the US police state and global capitalist empire. We've been making original theatre since 2003 and frequently touring the country since August, 2008.


"One of the most inpiring DIY tours I have ever encountered. Its execution is intensly captivating and provocative. What other play features an hour of harsh interrogation and pistol-whipping followed by remarkably constructive conversation with its audience?"     -Robert Inhuman, Realicide   

"Insurgent Theatre's exciting, insightful, postdramatic scripts, their courageous acting and staging, and their generous, even tender, care for their audiences, reflect a passionate commitment to learning, [and] a faith in the value of theatrical communion." -John Schneider, Obie award winning playwright and cofounder of Theatre X

Friday, August 19, 2011

Circus in Hough in Plain Dealer

Handmade pizza oven draws fans in Hough community garden in Cleveland

Published: Friday, August 12, 2011, 6:44 PM     Updated: Saturday, August 13, 2011, 10:12 AM
ovenonlyaug13.jpgHobbit-like in design, this stone and clay oven has a place in the real world, baking for the Cleveland community that built it.
There's a time to sow and a time to reap at the Blaine Avenue Community Garden in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood.
There's also a time to eat fresh-baked pizza from the garden's hand-built mud oven.
Pizza? From the what?
"People can't figure out what it is," says Elle Adams, garden organizer. "Some people think it's a beehive. One person asked us how our 'well' was doing."
Whatever people call it, the oven is drawing positive notice for cooking up more than dough.
Six feet tall, 4 feet wide and made of stacked stone, slapped mud and a few well-placed firebricks, the domed structure rose out of the garden in June, thanks to a merger of the urban-gardening movement and the community spirit already sprouting from this wide, tree-dotted lot.
  •; 216-376-3640
  • Events: Open to visitors; open to oven-fired events with other groups; plant sale Oct. 1 (time to be determined) with soup from the garden, bread from the oven. Donations accepted.
On Sunday afternoon, smoke billowed from the oven's opening for the fourth time ever, ready for foil-wrapped baked potatoes and corn. A "dragon" from the Possibilitarian Puppet Theater moved across the grass, mobilized by a small army of legs belonging to neighborhood children.
Some of the kids had built the dragon's head out of papier mache. Others watched from a porch across the street before Adams hauled them into action, too.
The four dozen faces in the applauding audience were white and black, young and old.
Talk of building the oven started at last year's design workshop run byThe Green Triangle, a local nonprofit  dedicated to permaculture -- a fancy word for using what you have at hand to build useful structures in harmony with people and nature.
Adams, 50, who previously ran Cleveland's Summer Sprout youth gardening program, attended the workshop. So did Josh Koppen, who studied Kiko Denzer's techniques (published in his book "Build Your Own Earth Oven") at a workshop in Vermont. Adams said she wanted an oven for her new garden and Koppen, 33, of Cleveland Heights, was looking for his first solo project and itching to oversee Blaine's.
The mud or "cob" oven dates back centuries, said Koppen. It was not unusual in the Middle Ages to have a single working oven shared by a number of families. It takes hours to fire up and stays hot for hours, too.
"It's enchanting," he added, "when you realize the potential for the oven is already here and in ourselves. The materials came from the site itself or down the street. And it was work that anybody can learn."
puppovenaug13.jpgIn addition to its oven, the Blaine Avenue Community Garden hosts meetings and entertainment. Tanaya Glagly, right, teases Tristan Lemon before a performance with Possibilitarian Puppet Theater.
Anybody, Adams said, including a set of shovel-bearing 4-year-old twins who helped break ground for the foundation. Then there were the gardeners and volunteers from as far away as Rocky River who hauled rocks from the neighborhood. And local kids such as 8-year-old Sania Baker, who stomped the mud and straw mixture together with her barefooted friends.
"I don't like getting dirty," she said, pink hair beads framing her contemplative face. "But I had nothing to do over the summer and I like the garden.
"Plus I got to jump in the mud."
If Sania forgets the experience, she can tune in to WNEO/WEAO Channels 45 and 49 at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, for an episode of "Gardensmart," which features the garden and its oven. A screening party at the garden is planned but not yet scheduled.
As the oven went up, and daylong firings started, more gardeners wanted in.
"We've run out of raised beds," said Adams. There are now 15 adult gardeners and an equal number of children.
But if you ask some of the original growers and volunteers why they joined, it's not just about an oven or a pizza.
"It's Elle [Adams]," said Denna Reeves, a volunteer who lives a few blocks from the garden. "She says what she means and means what she says."
"She's the glue," said Nancy King-Smith, a volunteer from the First Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights.
"She's the inspiration," added a fellow volunteer, Margot Youngs. "She's opportunistic about creating relationships."
Adams, a native of the Bronx in New York, has wanted a community garden program of her own since 2008, when she left her city garden job -- her "almost dream job" -- for better corporate pay.
"When I settled in this area, I saw a great need," said the sales and computer service representative for Arrow Electronics in Solon.
joshovenaug13.jpgJosh Koppen eats corn baked in a mud and stone  oven he helped build. in the Hough section of Cleveland. "It's just a hole in the ground brought up to waist height," he said.
"This area has been ravaged by foreclosure. This space is absolutely about education and inclusion. It's about growing food, relationships and opportunities."
Armed with her experience from the Summer Sprout program, Adams started City Rising Farm to plow her own path. She searched for chunks of abandoned property, finding the first garden site on Blaine, a street off Wade Park Avenue and East 86th Street. Some of the houses there were new and some were old, some were boarded up and some were gone, like a prizefighter's missing teeth.
She used more than $700 of her own money to buy the first lot, down the street from the current community garden, and another $2,300 for a second lot and garden supplies.
The first turned out to be lead-contaminated, so she's been piling up wood chips in hopes of creating a raised bed in line with popular "asphalt gardening" methods, as well as an education center and greenhouse. She has future plans for the other lot as a market garden.
elleovenaug13.jpgIt's not just about vegetables, says community garden organizer Elle Adams, "we grow relationships and people."
"We love food and this is a food desert," she said. "People want a market they can walk to."
The current working garden comprises four parcels from the city's land bank program, which has given her a four-year lease. She got an $8,700 grant from Reimagining Cleveland to clean the site, buy a shipping container for storage, lumber, soil and tools, and $5,000 from Neighborhood Connections for a number of things, including hiring Koppen to make the oven-building an educational program for children and adults.
She mined labor donations from a construction company that cleared the land, a landscaper who graded it, a church group who built the raised beds, a prison pre-release center for plants, a library that offered meeting rooms and neighborhood programs, a health food store for a feast, a gardening supply company for seeds and more.
In all, Adams estimates thousands of volunteer hours.
"I'm in sales," she said. "The word 'no' doesn't bother me."
"We've funded dozens of community gardens," said Tom O'Brien, program director of Neighborhood Connections, an arm of the Cleveland Foundation.
"This one has taken pretty extraordinary steps to make connections within the community and outside it. It's really good to see."
Adams gives credit to the gardeners, who she says are empowering themselves.
Finding them was both hard and easy. She roamed the Blaine area looking for well-kept yards to be part of GardenWalk Cleveland. She hit the brakes at Denna Reeves' house and waved her over, saying, "C'mere."
Reeves talked to her "and then I did my homework to find out if she [Adams] was legit."
"It was scary for both of us," said Adams.
Now Reeves is the garden's version of the television character MacGyver, who fixes everything. When they needed to cook hot dogs, she pulled together a few cinder blocks, some wood and a metal grate.
In turn, Reeves appreciates the learning curve.
"I never knew how carrots grew," she said. "I always thought they popped out of the ground, followed by Bugs Bunny's head."
No garden training was necessary for Blaine resident Elizabeth McGregor, 84, who never forgot the lessons she learned on her family's Alabama farm.
For years, McGregor watched the empty lots across the street where stray dogs ate garbage. She once saw a kid use debris on the lot to hide from police, change clothes and walk back out, undetected.
Sunday, while dozens of gardeners gathered for a firing of the oven, kids performed in the puppet theater and music played, McGregor talked about fleeing Hough after the 1960s race riots, which she calls "the fire." After she moved back, people were not as friendly.
Through the garden, she said, she's met plenty of neighbors. And they have erased her feeling of being alone.
Seated in the shade under a fruiting mulberry tree, eating an ear of corn fresh from the mud oven, she talked about savoring the garden.
"This," she said, "is a big improvement."

Photos from Garbage Insurrection Circus at Fairview Park in Ohio City