The inefficiencies of the ensemble form constantly reveal themselves to its practitioners. Ever present and unavoidable, to commit to this form of governance/way of making work together is to uphold that inefficiency as a value.
Habitually, we, as Almanac, stand before assembled groups of 100-500 elementary school students and, after thoroughly physically exerting ourselves, earnestly ask them to consider the question: "What can we do together that we can't do apart?" We asked this question at no fewer than seven separate assemblies this week, as we began a residency in a consortium of public school west of Philadelphia, and as we brought the work of Fronteras to Puentes de Salud's after school program.
Of all the things we could present as essential during our brief audience with the next generation, we choose to ask this question, not because the character values of teamwork, trust, and cooperation are almost universally stenciled on classroom walls, but because this question is truly is at the heart of our identity as an ensemble; it's what keeps us going and lends us a sense of purpose: if we didn't believe that more amazing, unexpected, and beautiful things could be created together, by solving problems together, by playing together, by organizing ourselves in a nonhierarchical way, then there would truly be no Almanac.
And with that nonstructural comes a necessary embrace of the inefficiencies that the business world is constantly working to excise. That in itself can start to feel like an act of protest, or at least resistance, and that is not lost on me, personally, as I choose to continue to work in this messy and often stressful mode.
One of the casualties of that inefficiency this Spring has been a lack of maintenance for this blog. I think from the outside, people may assume that Almanac is more well resourced than it is. But this Spring has been the busiest season ever for us, and even though there are more hands on deck than ever, there are more tasks than ever to complete, and some have fallen through the cracks.
To me, the Fronteras pieces are starting to reveal themselves as living at the intersection between the personal and the abstract — a border that maybe doesn’t often emerge, yet is one that is proving quite fruitful artistically. As we turn the corner from wide exploration into crafting, honing, and fine tuning these pieces, we will learn a lot from them. And we will need your help along the way. Please join us for works in progress showings, including next Friday, March 24th, at Valley Forge Middle School, of all places, where the first 30 minutes of one of these nascent pieces will be seen for the first time. And stay tuned right here for details about full-length works-in-progress showings for both pieces on April 12. We would love for you to help shape what these pieces become.