“This should not happen here. How could this happen HERE?”
These questions rang out across our city one year ago, and across the tight-knit UCCS campus where a member of our work family, Officer Garrett Swasey, lost his life. As countless people have found before, violence struck close to home. Suddenly the abstract was personal; the headlines on a TV screen became more immediate. Over the past year, other questions have come up for all of us in art and education, “how can we help? How can we support each other?” We have come together in mourning and compassion in countless ways, and now UCCS has developed a critical dialogue through a program called Moving Forward Through Violent Times, under the leadership of our Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak.
Our chancellor’s initiative has become both a way for us to address our own grief and an important way for us to take care of each other and Colorado Springs. The series of gatherings, conversations, presentations and events has been ongoing through the fall semester involving UCCS students, faculty, staff and community members. It concludes in December with a powerful and special performance: a presentation of “The Fever” by renowned theater company 600 Highwaymen from New York City. UCCS Theatre & Dance and UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art have collaborated with The Public Theatre in New York to bring 600 Highwaymen in residence to UCCS with an express goal of opening dialogue around this difficult and painfully close-to-home subject.
The arts can do that. Through the arts we can come to understanding of ourselves and others, of our community and our country, of ourselves as a people in our time and place in history. We saw in the work of 600 Highwaymen an opportunity for self-reflection, for healing and for growth. Producing a play and offering it to the community for free is no small task, but we saw quickly that we needed to do it. We must do it.
We invite the community to participate in this dialogue with us by taking part in remaining nights of The Fever running until Dec. 10 in the UCCS campus gallery site. The performances will be deeply engaging, inviting the audience to co-create a work of art that considers how we respond to violence in our communities, how we rely upon each other for support and how we process difficult times. We believe so strongly in eliminating the barriers for this experience that we raised the funds needed to make free admission a reality for the entire run of the show. However, since each evening has limited seating, pre-registration is required.
While we cannot tell you exactly what you will see, since it is constantly evolving, we can say the following: the production is unusual — like nothing you will see in Colorado — and the run in Colorado Springs is building towards a premiere in January at New York City’s Under the Radar Festival. It’s a fully developed production with a script, and while it deals with the complex times that we live in, it is open to interpretation, non-political and really about communities engaging with one another. It is very physical, with actors working with audience members to create sculptural and gestural language, all augmented with a beautiful musical score, derived from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The performance lasts about 75 minutes.
Because it is always a work in progress, Abigale Browde and Michael Silverstone, the artistic directors of 600 Highwaymen and Obie Award winners, are eager to lead a discussion about The Fever after the show. It will be a special opportunity for Colorado Springs residents to engage with the artists and allow their views and opinions help shape the future of the work.
We encourage everyone to be part of this series with us. Participating in the arts is a powerful way to develop empathy across our community, country and globe. We can’t think of a more meaningful, thoughtful way to move forward through this painful experience for our city than to engage in conversation with each other through the power of art.
Daisy McGowan is director of the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art and KevinLandis is director of the UCCS theater and dance program.