Who is in the show and who is in the audience? Why is the seating so random? Why is there a slip of paper printed in Braille on my seat?
These are the kinds of question on the minds of many of the 75 attendees of "(Un)Rolling the Boulder: Improvising New Communities," a public performance held at the KU Commons on October 30, 2013. But by the end, the implications were palpable, if not crystal clear: what "improvising new communities" means for this group is to unsettle routines that keep people apart. Such a community practice entails anticipating all kinds of bodies and abilities, not just adjusting when someone new shows up. It means that spaces for wheelchairs and multiple forms of textual materials friendly to people with diverse sensory abilities would already be in the room, not added on as afterthoughts. For a sighted person to unexpectedly encounter Braille is not to know what it is like to be vision impaired, but it can shed light on the assumptions that routinely go into ideas about inclusion, performance, and community. The improvised performance was devised by an ensemble of eighteen participants who had worked with director Nicole Hodges Persley over a period of four rehearsals to create a one-of-a-kind experience that was about improvisation and community, and was also an improvisation of community. For some in the audience, the mixed-ability improvisation, inspired by and utilizing the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI), was a thought-provoking and moving experience to watch, and some hoped that it would become an annual community performance so they, too, could participate in the rehearsals.