the megaphone project

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Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, Washington DC

Washington DC. June 22—26 2011.

Our welcome is warm, and follows a series of great supports given to get us to Washington in the first place. Then, the practical, technical and artistic support given to our tiny company of five, again very generous as we unpack the objects and occupy our familiar bump-in territory.

The first day we wheel through the halls to place our re-locative megaphone friends on the terrace on the banks of the Potomac, with views to the Pentagon and the Watergate complex. We feel the strong presence of familiar cultural and political symbols.

A jet flies into the airport and our transgression here unfolds – curious glances and a certain bemusement from Millennium Stage regulars and volunteers: “What are these things?” “When is the performance?” and “Are you guys here for long?” And “ Cool, the Kennedy Center do installations now!” As a helicopter passes by, we realise again, that genuine answers and gentle conversations are the essence of our job to help the installation work.

Then a child runs into the field of megaphones, and the spell is cast.

Over the following days, and especially on the advertised Saturday performance, hundreds of people create a continual series of impromptu and inspired performances, while our company and the work, host a myriad of conversations around listening, sound, free speech, song and cultural identity. We humbly experience visitors’ stories from across the river, from across the city, from across the country, from across the world.

All the while a few thousand extra people, hover by the windows within the lofty foyers, watching and wondering, some even venturing outside to explore. What are they saying to each other?

In the grand tradition, the permission to speak, to yell, to sing – and to listen – is given. And the people who have come from all over the world to the Kennedy Center, take up the opportunity given.

Our thanks to the staff of the Kennedy Centre. Thanks also to the party of women from Wyoming, the vocal trio from Taiwan, the family from Virginia, the senior educator from Puerta Rico, and the eager grandpa from Wilmington, and everyone else who created the performances over five memorable days.

Company: David Wells, Jesse Stevens, Winnie McQuinn, Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey

This presentation was supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria.