Any understanding of “community” loses texture and vitality as it becomes a term of art spoken too often in policy debates without much thought.

Aug 26, 2015
Discovering the Power of Community in Unexpected Places

Recently, I have been hearing a lot about supporting “community” as a way to address pressing urban challenges, such as rising crime, entrenched poverty, and substandard education systems.  The concept of “community” – especially those deemed to be “sustainable” and “resilient” – has come to be a currency of the realm in discussions about cities, development, and rebounding from disaster. Any understanding of “community” loses texture and vitality as it becomes a term of art spoken too often in policy debates without much thought. 

Topics: Urban Studies

After Baltimore, we must see community as a process

May 01, 2015
After Baltimore, we must see community as a process

Baltimore became my refuge when I moved to the District four decades ago. As a native New Yorker, I could not quite adjust to overly conformist official and bureaucratic life in a nation’s capital. Charm City’s quirky citizens just an hour away offered a much appreciated escape. Working-class Baltimore was the opposite of Washington, blues singer Leadbelly’s quintessential “Bourgeois town.” Watching Baltimore’s torment unfold in recent days has broken my heart.

Misty Copeland to Dance Swan Lake at DC’s Kennedy Center

Apr 06, 2015

History will be made at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the e

Theater and the Heart of a City: Moscow’s Teatr.doc’s Confrontation with Authority

Jan 07, 2015

On the evening of December 30, 2014 -- just as two dozen or so patrons were settling into their seats at a purposefully ramshackle basement theater in central Moscow to watch a film about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine -- police officials and a television crew entered the hall, declared a bomb threat, and asked everyone to evacuate.  Despite the declared urgency that a bomb might go off, the police checked and recorded the documents of everyone in the audience and requested that they wait in paddy wagons parked outside for their own protection.  When questioned about the wisdom of taking 4

Dancing towards Revolution in Kyiv

Dec 15, 2014

The rhythmic hip-hop-like chants of protest exploded just as the final curtain came down on the flower-laden ballet dancers and the musicians who had performed with them.

“Beauty and the Beast:” A Tale of Entrepreneurship and Community

Dec 15, 2014

     Synetic Theater has another hit on its hands with its new production of Beauty and the Beast.  “It gives you goosebumps,” writes the website Broadway World; “A lush, almost feverish theatrical experience, impressive to see and satisfying,” gushes Talkin’ Broadway blog; “fresh and frightening,” declares the Washington City Paper; and “graphically clever” as well as “bewitchingly ideal conveyance,” notes the doyen of Washington critics Peter Marks in the Washington Post.  

Making Community Work: the Importance of the Performing Arts

Dec 05, 2014
Making Community Work: the Importance of the Performing Arts

More than two decades ago, in 1993, Harvard Government Professor Robert Putnam published his now classic study Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy.  Trying to answer the question why northern Italian cities developed vibrant civic traditions which came to support the growth of democratic institutions and southern Italian cities did not, Putnam was surprised to find a strong correlation between civic health and choral societies.  Putnam masterfully argued that choral societies emerged fro

Fight not Flight: Lessons from Detroit

Oct 31, 2014

Several of the speakers at the recent Meeting of the Minds in Detroit – including Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, together with several foundation and community leaders from Detroit itself — echoed one simple sentiment:  “We aren’t going to lose our community on our watch.”  This sense of identification with and responsibility for community constitutes an important component of urban resilience. Significantly, speakers underscored how “not losing” one’s community is not just about keeping things as they are.

Performance and Power from Kabuki to Go Go

Sep 29, 2014
Performance and Power from Kabuki to Go Go

Just eight years after establishing a powerful military regime that would last 26 decades, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu became so disturbed by a troupe of itinerate actors that he expelled them from his Suruga military base.  The group performed in a popular new style known as “kabuki.” To critical observers such as Ieyasu and his coterie of military strong-men, kabuki dancing consisted of women of ill-repute showing themselves off to potential customers.  While an overly simplistic characterization, early kabuki performance seemed to many to be primarily about sell