Art and social justice intersect in ‘The Evolve Experience’ – The King City Rustler | Your Local News Source in King City, California

SALINAS — From 2016 to 2019, Portland’s Red Door Project toured a show called “Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments,” featuring monologues about the experiences of African Americans with the criminal justice system. 

The stories performed were autobiographical accounts of actual experiences with racial profiling. One night, during one of the talk-backs that followed every show, a white man stood up and announced that he was a Portland police officer. The room grew tense and excruciatingly still.

Finally, the officer said, “I want every cop I work with to see this show. How can this happen?” From that surprising question, a relationship was forged that culminated in a sister show to “Hands Up,” called “Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Blue,” which featured the lived experience of police officers. 

The two shows eventually merged and became “The Evolve Experience,” now being performed Oct. 6 and 7 at the Monterey County Office of Education’s Media Center in Salinas.

“I felt it was important to merge the two pieces,” says Red Door Project Artistic Director Kevin Jones. “I want audiences to experience both points of view at the same time, which can be really challenging and even dissonant at times. But that’s where the real work takes place — right at the intersection of our deepest divides.”

When Jones mentions the “the work,” he is referring in part to the facilitated conversation that immediately follows the performance portion of “The Evolve Experience.”

“The talk-back is the whole reason for putting up the production,” Jones says. “At the Red Door Project, we see theater as a tool for creating social change, especially when it comes to criminal justice. Theater has the power to make us feel and react, and we use those reactions in the facilitation to help audiences understand why they feel and react the way they do. Our goal is to create change one audience at a time, one person at a time.” 

Red Door Project co-founder Lesli Mones, who facilitates the talk-back, believes learning to track reactions in real time is essential to “The Evolve Experience.” 

“Our fundamental goal is to help people to grow their self-awareness, to become curious about their reactions and what fuels them,” Mones says. “So, the entire production is designed around telling potent, truthful stories that are likely to elicit strong responses. We don’t try to conjure any specific reaction from people, we just ask them to consider, to be interested in, and to reflect upon the responses they do have, whatever they are. It can be incredibly powerful — and transformational. We’ve seen many people come away from an event with a significant shift in their self-understanding.”

The Monterey County Multi-Cultural Council is a diverse group of leaders throughout Monterey County who volunteer their time and expertise to educate, promote and engage in these tough conversations to increase intercultural relationship and understanding. “The Evolve Experience” is a logical extension of the necessary work being done by the Council.

RSVP for free tickets to “The Evolve Experience” by going to Eventbrite via Space is limited.

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