Maybe there is more to this idea of building community than we thought. Or maybe people have been doing it all along, but didn’t have a name for it. Either way, it seems to us that a strong, connected, local community is vital to a healthy economy.
We remember a recent trip to London, where we encountered a helpful 20-something woman. She got us to just the place we needed to go at some effort on her part. We had been on a ferry from Holland to England, then had to jump on a train into London.
There was a dystopian atmosphere at the junction between ferry and train. Neither that young woman, nor a young man she consulted about schedules, had anything to say about their country but cynical put-downs.
They complained about lack of clear signage at the station; non-working televisions placed along the train tracks that were supposed to give departure information to passengers; blocked passageways to and from the tracks; hard to locate ticket window; uncomfortable seating in the waiting areas; and more.
The young woman said she had Greek heritage, didn’t consider herself English or British, but a citizen of the world. She was part of the anti-national attitude we had encountered earlier on her trip. We were shocked at these attitudes.
Patriotism and love of country is a given in the U.S. And love of the smaller unit, the community, may be coming back. Communities don’t have guarded borders.
IFO saw to another example of the idea of community yesterday afternoon, when we attended a local play — “Walk A Mile: Stories of Newberg, An Original Play Exploring True Local Stories.”
We had been lukewarm about going. It could have been awful or boring or both. It wasn’t. It was intimate and moving in the tiny theatre space. Acting was good, staging smooth, sound effects subtle and effective. The whole thing was written, directed and acted by college and post-college students.
The creators of the piece began by interviewing six Newberg residents: a 99-year old woman who had lived on farms all over Oregon and Idaho, outlived two husbands, and was living in the local senior facility; the city’s mayor; a high school teacher and his autistic son; and three Hispanic people – a married couple and a single woman. The man sitting next to me in the little theater confessed to us that he was that high school teacher. His wife and son were with him.
The narrator/interviewer almost became part of the story – she was a young Jamaican woman who also grew up in Newberg, but still had a faint lilt that gave away her non-Oregon origins and added a mysterious, exotic tone to the whole proceedings.
Since we grew up in Las Cruces, N. Mex., we reacted most positively to the Hispanic people. Their stories of travel, work, family and hardship were closer to our own than the others’ stories. What was really cool was that the three actors, Anglos all, acting their parts alternated between excellent, colloquial Spanish and English.
The changes between languages were almost imperceptible, but added texture and nuance to the performances. We’ve heard people talk like that – slipping easily between two languages knowing that their audience was good in one or the other, but few were good at both. The whole play seemed to hinge on their moving stories.
Okay, that was all fine, enjoyable, even emotional. There was a talkback scheduled, which we were tempted to skip, but didn’t. Good move. The talkback itself was fairly standard, but then magic happened.
The married Hispanic couple who had been portrayed in the play came forward and read, in Spanish, translated by the fluently Spanish-speaking, Anglo director, their thanks to him and the cast and crew for telling their stories. Their prose was beautiful, poetic, flowery, graceful and gracious – we don’t talk or think like that in our ordinary lives. And we never hear our Hispanic neighbors talk that way in English, since many of them struggle to say even the simplest things in English, plus they are sensitive enough to our culture to know how we talk.
The director was flabbergasted. He hadn’t known they were going to do that. They brought beautiful flowers for the actress who portrayed the wife; and personalized, Mexican pottery plates for everybody else. They brought their grandma and children, too – to honor the grandma and teach the children about their own history. You see, being seen on stage made it all more real.
Since this is IFO talking, we admit we do have one complaint. Somewhere in the middle of the play there was a change in mood and format and everybody in the cast gave a little speech (in character) about tolerance and understanding, etc., etc., as if the audience might miss the point of the stories they were telling. Gilding the lily. Unnecessary.
You didn’t need to know Newberg to love this play! Here’s the website: http://valleyrep.org/