Protect Our Parks, Pass It On, 2014
30-minute performance for 10 people
Directed by Willie Barbour
Public Space One
Iowa City, Iowa
March 9, 2014
Commissioned for the Exuberant Politics Symposium at the University of Iowa
Created in solidarity with Protect Our Parks
Performed by: Matt, Sharon, and Rachel Falduto; Becky and Perry Ross; Mel and Barbara Schlachter; Jan Stephen; Becky Hall; with special thanks to the Iowa City group 100 Grannies who took part in this.
Original testimonies by: Mel Packer; Katherine Patricia; Stanley Herman; John Detwiler; Susanne Park; Mary Ruth; Terri Supowitz; Les Ludwig; Karen Bernard; and myself
About: Protect Our Parks, Pass it On was commissioned for Exuberant Politics - a yearlong initiative at the University of Iowa examining recent intersections of art and activism around the world. This work was my attempt to share the struggles from a grassroots campaign I was part of with the people of Iowa. The template is simple: ten of the best testimonies from the Protect Our Parks campaign based in Pittsburgh, PA are read and performed by strangers. The original testimonies were spoken by regular citizens during the public comment period at Allegheny County Council meetings in Pittsburgh, PA. There is something critically important in hearing these testimonies because they belong to all of us and resonate deeply with these times.
Background context: The Protect Our Parks campaign, based in Pittsburgh, PA, began August 20, 2013 when it came to public attention that our county executive Rich Fitzgerald wanted to frack the county parks. The idea to lease our public land, all 12,000 acres of it and some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, to multinational oil and gas corporations who will profit wildly at the expense of the health and welfare of local residents is absolutely nonsense. It is immoral, abusive, and should obviously be illegal. The return monetary compensation to the community is negligible. Protect Our Parks formed as a broadly-based coalition of citizens, organizations, and grassroots groups to advocate against this threat and make the public aware and engaged in the issue in the hopes that we could prevent it, or at least stall it, from happening. One strategy of the campaign was to have people attend every bi-monthly county council and speak during the public comment period about our concerns. You only get three minutes. We were speaking to the 15 members of Allegheny County Council, who would be the ones eventually voting on the matter. I attended as many meetings as I could, and the testimonies I was hearing became more powerful and convincing than the best Shakespeare.
Unfortunately, after a 10-month struggle, the 15 members of Allegheny County Council voted to frack the parks. The meeting went on until past midnight, and council members shouted obscenities at citizens. It was a tragic night. The Protect Our Parks campaign doesn't feel it has lost, however. A fire was ignited in many people's hearts, and the fight goes on.
Protect Our Parks Website
100 Grannies Website
Media coverage of campaign