Posts Tagged ‘journey of a thousand miles’

Regie in its natural habitat

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

By James Jorden

The Staatsoper Stuttgart may be called the cradle of Regietheater, or at least a cradle of Regietheater. Strong theatrical values have characterized this company from the opening of the theater in 1912 (the world premiere of Ariadne auf Naxos, helmed by megaregisseur Max Reinhardt) through the 1950s, when Wieland Wagner’s frequent projects there caused the house to be nicknamed “the Winter Bayreuth,” on through the future, as Jossi Wieler becomes intendant in the fall of 2011. (more…)

One At A Time…

Friday, November 28th, 2008


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratitude to Publisher Stephanie Challener for her invitation to write this blog on the Musical America website, to the News Editor of, Susan Elliott, for her encouragement, and to the NEA Institute on Classical Music & Opera at the Journalism School at Columbia University where this piece was created and reviewed by the outstanding faculty and my inspiring fellow arts writers from across the country.  Janice L. Mayer


A friend told me a story of a father and son strolling on a beach littered by starfish that had been washed up onto the shore. The boy asked his father what would happen to the starfish if they stayed stranded on the sand. The father gently explained that they would die and that this was the natural rhythm of life.  The boy immediately picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. And then he did the same for the next nearest starfish, and the next nearest after that; continuing until he had tossed almost all of the starfish in his vicinity back into the water.  The father admonished the boy that he could not possibly save all of the starfish on the beach.  The boy tossed one more starfish back into the sea, turned to his father and said simply, “maybe not, but it saved that one.”[1]

In June 2008 at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, Colorado, a series of cross-discipline, facilitated roundtable discussions were convened. The overall goal at the end of the week’s caucuses was to distill a national pan of action that could be enacted by the performing arts field as a whole and achieve measurable results in the next four years.

With the Democratic National Convention planned for the same facility later in the summer, our arts delegates were optimistic that change in our national arts course might be possible and a “Yes We Can” resolve was palpable. But where to start?

What we soon realized is that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step,” to quote the Chinese Taoist Philosopher Lao Tzu. And that first step for me in realizing a part that I could play happened at my roundtable discussion at ‘Table 23′ on the second caucus day. I was fortunate to be seated with a dancer named Janet Andrews who is the executive Director of the New Orleans Dance Collective in Louisiana.  Janet shared her story with our group and moved us to tears.  She told us that growing up in the recently desegregated south, there were built-in inequities that she could not understand and overcome. As a child she would go into a dance studio every day to release the growing anger with her. The dance studio became a place where she could excel based on her talent. Only there, did she feel free from the societal constrictions that surrounded her as she went through her daily life. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Janet “lost everything”: family members, her home and her dance studio.  She somehow had to find a way to go on. She then realized that her feelings represented a microcosm of the aching hurt in her community. Demolition and then construction began slowly in New Orleans, but Janet Andrews realized that “we needed to focus on rebuilding the people, not only the city.”  She reached out to the youth in her community and through dance gave them a medium to express their frustrations.  Adequate rehearsal and studio space to teach dance in New Orleans was nonexistent at that time.  Three years after the hurricane the lack of adequate facilities remains a challenge. Not to be deterred, Janet continues to teach dance to young people through the New Orleans Dance Collective- literally on the blacktop of the streets.  She says that this community outreach through the art form that she loves “feeds the server as well as the youth taking the classes.”

Anthony Freud, the General Director of the Houston Grand Opera was also seated at our discussion table. Houston, as you may recall, provided asylum for many fleeing from the devastation along the Gulf Coast post-Katrina.  He summarized that as arts professionals, “we need to own the power that we have to transform our communities.”  Anthony Freud’s HGO is attempting to do just this by creating a meaningful outreach organization newly-coined HGOco, “where co stands for company, community, collaboration and most of all connection.” Anthony is making his conviction a core value of his company, as he explained us in Denver.

In June, Janet Andrews said simply and powerfully that “dance helped me become the person I am today.” I believe that there are countless stories like Janet’s and I hope to be able to collect these personal experiences and stitch them into a quilt of real-time, real-life storytelling.  After all, the arts nurture people all over the world every day, one at a time.

As a reader interested in the arts, I encourage you to write back and share your story of your connection to the arts. Advocacy starts on the local level. I look forward to your thoughts and comments right here and now.

This story has be retold in many formats, but seems to trace its roots back to a story “One at a Time” which appeared in a collection titled “Chicken Soup for the Soul” edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Published by Health Communications, Inc., 2001.