Collaboration is the Key to Sustainability and Storytelling Unites Us

An Interview with Bill George, Founder Touchstone Theatre


Presently, I am leading a Touchstone Theatre initiative called Festival UnBound, Celebrating out 21st. Century Village, planned for October of 2019.  This is the most difficult thing with which I’ve ever ever been involved. 

Once we were two Bethlehems, and it was 100 years ago North and South realized the importance of working together and became “one” (and, we’re still working on it). Here’s an image of the two Bethlehems, in “the good ol’ days”, when “working together” may seem to us a remarkably less complex challenge, but back then it was as “crazy hard” as anything one could imagine. 

To create a Festival of original art envisioning the future of our community, we’ve got to get EVERYBODY working together, collaborating to imagine what kind of future we want for this city called “Bethlehem”–through dialogue and the creation of original art. 

The problem is, more and more, as we sit down and talk with folks, it becomes apparent that everything affects everything else.  Let’s say you’re homeless. One might be homeless because one is dysfunctionally dyslexic.  One might be dysfunctionally dyslexic because the educational system didn’t recognize it and teach good coping mechanisms.  The educational system may have failed you because you were living in a poor community and there weren’t funds for such things.  There weren’t funds for such things because the political system was too combative to achieve anything but band-aid solutions.  Combativeness got out of hand because of entrenched, old power structures and a media that feeds on sensationalism in order to sell information to the general public.  And… I could go on FOREVER!  Everything’s connected.  Still, there you are, homeless!   

Now, how does one make a work of art, many works of art, out of that that will help transform the community? 

It’s tempting to despair at our social dysfunctionality, but if we look at the bigger picture, it’s clear we’re making great progress! Here’s a fascinating article called: A History of Global Living Conditions in 5 Charts.  The conclusion of this article states succinctly: “The successful transformation of our living conditions (is) possible only because of collaboration. Such a transformation would be impossible for a single person to accomplish. It is our collective brains and our collaborative effort that are needed for such an improvement.” 

An NGO for the United Nations recently wrote: “If community is to further the progress of society in its own right – complementing the roles played by individuals and social institutions–a much more expansive conception of community life must be actively embraced. New patterns of action and interaction will have to be built, and new forms of relationship and association constructed. Experimentation, trial and error, and a robust process of learning about the nature of lasting cultural change will be vital – all of which require effort and no small amount of sacrifice… Movement in this direction will require qualitatively different approaches to decision-making than those adopted in the past.” 

Festival (un)Bound is one of those “qualitatively different approaches”, and that’s the task I find myself facing here in the middle of 2018. 

BIO: Bill received his B.A. in English Literature from Lehigh University and his M.F.A. in Acting/Directing from the Dallas Theatre Centre of Trinity University. He studied mime with Paul Curtis of The American Mime Theatre, co-founded the People’s Theatre Company in 1977 and later co-founded Touchstone Theatre in 1981 where he was Producing Director until 1990. 

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