The World Cafe Community

Hosting Conversations about Questions that Matter

Hello and thank you to Amy Lenzo and to David Isaacs for the invitation to join the World Cafe Community.  I am the Executive Director of Community Performance International.  CPI works with communities to gather their most precious assets -- their stories.  Participants perform their stories, through storysharing workshops and in some cases, through full-scale community performance plays.  These are powerful rites for communities, providing the opportunity for deep relationships to form across traditional lines of difference.  The rehearsal and performance process allow for the practice and crafting of a new shared community identity.  By the time you add professional scripting, direction, lighting, set and choreography, you have an experience that is transformational for both the community performers and the audience.  

Just two years ago we were introduced to the World Cafe process, through a joint meeting with Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and the founder of the International Storytelling Center, Jimmy Neil Smith.  We realized quite soon afterward that our two processes might offer something powerful to each other.  For CPI, the incredible energy generated by a community performance never had a "circuitry" that could carry this new community current into sustainable change.  With World Cafe conversation following a performance, we could facilitate a new appreciation of existing resources and a committed action plan, fueled by the energy of story-performance and sustained by the bonds of relationship built through the story process.  In essence, World Cafe conversations were the second half of the bridge to committed community action (see Story Bridge: From Alienation to Community Action by Dr. Richard Geer and Jules Corriere with Melissa Block, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, Illustrated by Nancy Sylvia, 2012).

In 2011, we took our new process into the first ever Staging Change Institute, in Jonesborough, Tennessee -- home of the International Storytelling Center.  Pioneers from across the country came to learn from each other, using the Story Bridge process, and formulate their own personal and community action plans.  This April 25-28, we are holding the Staging Change Institute II.  I'll try to add more in Ideas and Passions -- since this is indeed our greatest passion right now!

Thank you all for welcoming me to the community!

Melissa Block

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Welcome Melissa,

As someone who hosts many World Cafes, and also more recently Collective Story Harvests, I can't wait to learn more about your work (Story Bridge is being zipped to my Kindle as I type!). I'm also headed to my first Headlines Theatre production this weekend - you are probably familiar with David Diamond's work? Sounds like you both orbit a similar creation space!



Thank you Amanda!  Please do let us know how you like Story Bridge, and how it might inform your work with Collective Story Harvests!  I'm not familiar with David Diamond myself, but will mention him to my Artistic Directors Richard O. Geer and Jules Corriere.  Perhaps they have crossed paths.  If you have any questions about the Staging Change Institute, I'm only too happy to help.  I'm going to try to post more in the Ideas and Passions section on our Institute work and thought partners.  Thanks so much for your welcome!


Will do!

And here are some links to David Diamond and his book, Theatre for Living:

THEATRE FOR LIVING has evolved from Augusto Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed" and David Diamond's interest in and commitment to a 'systems view' of the world. If we embrace the idea that a community is a living organism, how do we work with that larger consciousness, using a primal language (the theatre) to help it tell its stories? How do we do this without polarizing the living community into 'us' and 'them'? Once the story is acted on the stage, the living community engages in interactive, Forum Theatre - a creative, community-based dialogue.

THEATRE FOR LIVING is about empowerment - about people being the experts in their own lives and being able to use theatre to make change. The process gives a community the opportunity to develop 'emotional intelligence' - using a symbolic language to investigate alternative approaches to hard-to-talk-about issues. This is a first step towards dealing with difficult topics - moving towards open communication and realities that living communities want in ay. an active and entertaining way.

Thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing David's information!  I know Richard is very familiar with Augusto Boal, so there must be some synergy here!



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