MILTON: A performance and community engagement experiment

MILTON: A performance and community engagement experiment
05/15/2015 MAPstaff

PearlDamour is an Obie-Award winning collaborative team who create performance both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. For the past two years, they’ve been working on MILTON, a theater piece and community engagement experiment funded by MAP in 2012. The show recently premiered in Milton, NC, a town of 250 people on the NC / VA border.

Katie Pearl (project co-creator and director for the performance), Ashley Sparks (project co-creator and community engagement strategist/dramaturg), and Lisa D’Amour (project co-creator and playwright for the performance) jointly consider their own ethics and strategies of engagement in an article posted as part of TCG‘s Audience (R)Evolution online salon curated by Caridad Svich. Read on for an excerpt from the full article.

Catalyzing Change: Engagement as Community Development

We find ourselves instigating ideas about which our local partners then make concrete decisions. How or will these ideas be brought to life? This combination of our open idea factory couples with strong local leadership. We are not working in a model that is solely about the community coming up with solutions; rather, we recognize that as outsiders and artists there is value to us bringing different impulses, ideas, and methodologies. It is a collaborative dance where we and the community are leading at different times. We wouldn’t be able to do this without a foundation of trust and openness of our community partners to try new ideas. The artistic success of this project relies on a range of voices and audience being in the room – we’ll do the work to ensure that happens in both the show and our in our engagement activities. Along the way we share our tools and provide trainings, which will leave the community with tangible skills after we are gone.


Lisa and Katie sitting in the Thomas Day House in January 2013.  We’ve asked community members to gather to learn more about our show, and to explore a collaboration that could happen months before the show, to build interest, create context, and help us meet more people.  We were going to propose something like a potluck.  We pose the question to a room full of about 20 people.  Shirley Cadmus, who runs the MILTON STUDIO ART GALLERY raises her hand.  “I’d like to propose a Guild Day, where artists can do demonstrations and sell their artwork.”  Within the hour this idea grows into the First Annual Milton Street Fair, an event that would bring the whole town together to plan and make it happen.

Read the rest of the article on MILTON here.

Project Update: Milton, NC has been awarded a “Make More Happen” Grant to pursue major cultural projects that were catalyzed by MILTON: Helmed by the indefatigable Hosanna Blanchard and under the umbrella of the Preservation and Beautification Society, Milton was awarded a “Make More Happen” Grant from the Danville Regional Foundation. This will support the 2nd Annual Milton Street Fair this summer and lay the foundation for the Street Fair to continue for years to come.

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