Performing the World 2 (PTW2):  The Second International Conference Exploring the Potential of Performance for Personal, Organizational and Social-Cultural Change

October 17-19, 2003

Montauk, NY

Conference Conveners — Lois Holzman, Sheila McNamee, Fred Newman, Lois Shawver

Conference Sponsor — East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy

The 240 participants from the US and 14 other countries improvisationally created a playful, learning-teaching-networking (performing) environment. In countless informal conversations, more than 50 experiential workshops and discussions, six challenging plenary sessions, and one dance party, they created what one participant called “a performance marathon that had intellectual rigor.” In a similar fashion, dozens of PTW2ers, in comments during and after the weekend, juxtaposed how much fun it was with how much they learned about new and serious ideas and ways of thinking.

From what people said, I think that what we succeeded in doing was creating a fun environment in which people could and did learn some pretty difficult material. The balancing of a fun form and serious content isn’t easy to achieve. A participant described the challenge this way:

“The balancing of the form and content is always intriguing for me: too much one way and the experience becomes or feels ‘shallow’ or insignificant; too much the other way and the experience becomes too bound up with intellect, ‘knowledge’ and taking ourselves seriously: which in itself can become ridiculous!… I think that at this conference, a lot of people managed to keep an awareness of how important the things were that they were playing with; whilst not letting this ‘sense of importance’ negatively effect the quality of the play.”

On display were dozens of instantiations of performing in everyday life-performing such activities as politics, pain, therapy, disability, philosophy, bereavement, doctoring, leadership, learning and revolution. These generated new ways to play and perform, excitement, inspiration, creativity, friendship, transformation, concerns and questions. What is performance? Do we need to define it or are we creating its meaning in what we’re doing? If everything is performance, then what is performance? Do we need to agree in order to go on together? Wonderfully, the gathering reached no resolution! Which is not to say that the different positions on these questions aren’t important, but rather that they are the elements out of which some new meaning can be created.

Lois Holzman
Director, East Side Institute