Dialogue is a word that is thrown around so much that when I see or hear it used, I assume the person or organization using it just likes the sound of it over discussion, conversation, or similar words. That is an unfair assumption, and I got three very different opportunities to see that word in beautiful application this week. One was in cabaret, another in theater, and another in street performance.
Our Expo event this week was Out of Site: Pretty Dirty where a designer and model walked the streets of Wicker Park and created a dress out of trash. I had no idea why they were doing this but was fascinated to explore. It truly was a delightful exploration. Han Pham, the visionary behind Pretty Dirty, identifies herself more as an environmentalist who wants to explore the use of art to inspire reuse and recycling. As she walked down the street, she spoke with people who were discarding items into the trashcan about what else they could do with that trash. You will have to ask her about some of the more interesting responses.
That same night, we went to see Alexandra Billings at Stage 773 in Katie’s Corner. Okay, so that was much less dialogue and much more laughing at one of the funniest ladies in show business. I have not laughed that hard since seeing Cameron Esposito’s Side Mullet Nation. However, what this affirmed for me is the beautiful blend cabaret holds between entertainment and dialogue between artist and audience. Scott and I have mostly worked in a cabaret format, because it allows us to have an exchange with the audience in ways that more formal, one-way art forms do not allow.
The final opportunity to understand how art can be used to spark dialogue was through a strategic planning session with a theater company in town. The word appears in their mission statement, and I challenged them to unpackage it. We didn’t get necessarily explicitly unpackage the word, but we certainly practices it during our four hours together. A diverse group of diverse artists and business people, adults and youth, Midwesterners and transplants, and people from different neighborhoods in Chicago all listened, shared, inquired, and developed a shared meaning that was greater than any of them individually.
So, if dialogue is an exchange of ideas with the intended purpose to create connection and great understanding, then what role can art play in this dialogue and must it always play that role?