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Conjuring a Potion Show

Written from our farmhouse in Iowa on a snowy winter morning December 12, 2019

Ever have one of those visions that expands in scope and meaning to such a point that you feel you might burst? And it means so much to you that trying to articulate what it is becomes an insurmountable challenge? That’s what’s happening for me with this potion show project. We have been trying to write a one-page overview to share, but the time is just not right. I and my virtual assistant from Satiated Artists Sierra Buffum, who is as vital to my well-being as my right hand, are going to take the holidays to keep fleshing out the master plan and then figure out how to share it with folks to join us in refining and manifesting the vision. In the meantime, let me tell you what I’m thinking.

For a couple of years now, I have been dreaming of a traveling show using art, play, and adventure to call people to new ways of being. We would settle into a site for 2-3 days, offering workshops, attending local arts and cultural events, host live play stations, and culminate in a big mainstage show. We would also create video content available online to share the experience and engage people who cannot attend in person.

I believe we are stuck in a moment where we feel so disconnected from ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Our politics, geography, identities, and other characteristics that make our country’s diversity so rich are being used to divide us even further. I want to do my part to help us break through to new ways of communion. I want us to see how our personal journey toward living our best lives, cultivating our gifts, and manifesting our visions can help us co-create worlds that are just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive. I want us to have fun while we have challenging conversation, finding connection in conflict meant to bring us into deeper communion. I want us to share our stories, identify our lessons learned, and share them with each other that we all may benefit from each other’s struggles and triumphs.

I envisioned this as part circus, part tent revival, and part potion show. The circus came from BigTop JoJo and his Towering Show of Wonder, a show I created ten years ago with an amazing group of visionaries. The message was to celebrate what was unique about us, pursue our dreams, and along the way make a home with our traveling companions. The tent revivals were always my favorite times for me growing up as the son of ministers. Great gatherings, inspiration, and spirit. The potion show came from someone I was pitching collaboration on this project. She said she had always wanted one. I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded so magical and compelling and curious to me, I grabbed on to it. Come to find out, it is everything I was looking for.

What is a potion show? Well, I think it’s like the medicine shows that traveled the Old West in the 19th century. This Wikipedia page gives a nice history. These shows traveled the frontier, settled into remote sites, promoted healing remedies, and featured all different kinds of performances. Now, the only devious aspect of my potion show will be my mustache. In fact, I am not interested in selling medicines but instead the methodologies to create our own medicines - the potions that come from the lessons we learn from the experiences we have. I think this format includes all the elements of my vision, including touring places that don’t usually get traveling shows.

So, here is my proposed recipe for making potions:

1. Recall a story from our lives that was significant to our development and share it.

2. Identify a condition that contributed to our survival and development OR could have.

3. Create a sensory experience that conjures up that condition. It could be a scent (candle, oil, concoction), a sound or a song, a movement or a dance, a costume or a puppet, a skit a monologue, a drawing or a painting.

Then, we can make these potions available so that someone who goes through something similar in their lives may be able to unleash that power in their own journeys. In doing this, we learn how to know and share our stories then transform them into gifts for the world around us. This means, our first step is to engage people in potion-making as we figure out how to share these potions with the world.

We did some proof of concept this summer at ArtFarm19 funded by Iowa Arts Council and some wonderful donors. Many local artists and collaborators from my network in Chicago contributed to this effort. Next, I want to do some potion-making laboratories, connecting with creative misfits for whom the world is not typically made and hosting roundtables around a piano to discuss the project. Then, I want to find places with rich cultural and artistic scenes throughout the Midwest to serve as development sites as we test live and filmed formats for sharing potions. This will lead to a thriving online community and a multi-state tour that will engage creatives who want to transform the world.

Okay, that’s probably more than should be included in a blog. There is more to the vision, and we will spend the few weeks fleshing it out so y’all can give us feedback in the new year. I hope many of you will join us in refining this vision and partner with us in manifesting it. We have our first laboratory scheduled for January in Creston, IA - a rural community in Southwest Iowa. Can’t wait!

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