Above: Official trailer for Staging Reflections of the Buddha, documentaries by Frank Popper Productions
By: Lisa Harper Chang, former Director of Community Projects for The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.
A wise man once said that what defines a truly successful engagement project is if everyone touched by the project is changed in some way. Using this measure, the Pulitzer’s Staging programs, Staging Old Masters and Staging Reflections of the Buddha, were both resounding successes.
At the heart of that success stands the company of actors–32 incredibly complex, inspiring people who make an impression on everyone they encounter. Each of these participants came to the program as a homeless veteran or former prisoner.
As one of the founders of the project, I selfishly treasure the time I was fortunate enough to spend with them and with the talented, dedicated staff and community members who worked on both projects. On Saturday, September 29, you will have a chance to taste just a small sample of the joy, inspiration, and love that those of us who participated in this project–actor, staff, and otherwise–were so lucky to share.
Frank Popper, filmmaker extraordinaire, followed the actors for the final weeks of rehearsal and performance, and created short films about Staging Reflections of the Buddha. These films not only allow us to relive the performances within the exhibition; they also allow us to get to know three of the actors a little better. Samantha, Ronnell, and Thomas are, to use Frank’s words: “like the mind, the body, and the heart of the project.” I’m confident that viewing their stories, documented so beautifully by Frank, will make clear just why we are so excited about this project and inspired by its use of art and community to inspire change.
In these films, you will witness firsthand the full breadth of what an experience with art can and can’t do. Yes, art can transform, but it also takes a combination of factors that begin and end with the strength of the human spirit and the power of belief in each individual that helps all of us fulfill the inherent potential within.
I hope you can join us at the premier of these films, which will also be available on the Pulitzer’s website after the event.
Through Our New Eyes: Short Films from Staging Reflections of the Buddha, will screen on Saturday, September 29 at 6:30 pm. The screening will take place on the grassy lawn across the street from the Pulitzer. A reception and Q&A with the actors and staff will follow, and will be held in the Pulitzer courtyard.