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September 4, 2012 | Notes From Leadership,

That Time Again

By David Dower

Wow. Where did the summer go?

I’m sure all of us are feeling that to some degree, but for me this is a particularly acute year for the “Over already?!?” lament.

You see, I started my position as the Director of Artistic Programs here at ArtsEmerson in late April, just as the 11/12 season was winding down and the Emerson College students and faculty were already misty eyed with thoughts of what they’d do with their summer breaks.

And I told myself, “By the time the summer is over, I will have this whole gig wired!”

The flow of sand in an hourglass can be used to keep track of elapsed time. It also concretely represents the present as being between the past and the future.

Was it Woody Allen or Albert Einstein who said “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once”? I sometimes resent time. I would sometimes prefer to live in an episode of Bewitched, where I can wrinkle my nose and make everything I want to have happen, happen at once.

Alas, nature is indifferent to my impatience and I’ve yet to figure out how Samantha Steven’s nose worked, so I remain constrained within the limits of Time. There’s so much we’re up to here at ArtsEmerson in this new season that I want you to see now, but we’re just going to have to show them to you as they happen.  Time, the bully, has us entirely suspended in the present: a place that is not quite the past, and yet not quite the future.

Quick introduction: I come to ArtsEmerson from a six-season stint at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. That is the past. Which, as we know, is prelude. You can see the seeds of many of the initiatives and ideas we’re working on now in the work that I was doing there. Poke around on Arena’s Sub/Text site, for instance. We’re going to be working hard to bring you that sort of content on every offering at ArtsEmerson. It’s a tall order and it’s going to take a bunch of help. Do you like research and writing? Got time to volunteer with us? Let us know and we’ll engage you in that effort! That’s the future. Put yourself in it.

In my past, I also have a long history in the development of new work, going back decades, and along with me came a set of colleagues who have been working to create The Center for the Theater Commons here at Emerson College. In the future you are going to see lots of interaction between ArtsEmerson and The Commons.  In the present, you can see what is already underway here.

Also in my past, I have had a lot of memorable moments creating conversation between the art, the audience, and the community in which it is taking place. I love that intersection and we’re going to look for it at the outset of every project we take on. In the present, you can experience that in our September events around Paris Commune. There are films, there are performances, there are events and there are discussions. What will be the impact of all this activity in the present? We can’t know. Impact lives in the future and Time is obstructing our view of it. But past experience says it will be more than the sum of its parts if you engage it with us.

Here’s another definition I like, by way of introducing myself: “Synergy is the behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their separate parts.” That’s Buckminster Fuller’s definition. So, here at ArtsEmerson we will put many separate parts in motion with each other. The work on stage. The work on screen. The work online. The work of The Commons. The work of the College. The work of our Community partners. And most importantly you, to the degree and extent that you choose to engage.  Right now, in the present, we’re just talking about our hopes for the future. But when you show up, we will be in that present, and we will start to understand the synergy of all of these things. And in the future we will be able to measure its impact.

If you are the sort of reader who comments, please share a bit about yourself here with us. I look forward to getting to know you as we hang out in the present in the future.

3 responses to “That Time Again”

  1. The Center for the Theater Commons here at Emerson College. In the future you are going to see lots of interaction between ArtsEmerson and The Commons. In the present, you can see what is already underway here.

  2. Howard Rogut says:

    Welcome, David! The Center for the Theater Commons will bring a breath of progressive artistic fresh air to ArtsEmerson, Emerson College, and Boston. We wish you and your colleagues great and glorious success.

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