Here in Knox County, we are fortunate to have a number of high-quality community arts assets, from venues including Ariel-Foundation Park, Knox Memorial and the Woodward Opera House, to organizations such as the Knox County Symphony and MTVarts. Our K-12 schools, colleges and universities provide immense artistic talent and entertainment to our community as well.
As president of Kenyon College, it has been a great honor this past year to contribute to the vibrant arts scene of Knox County through our virtual residency with Theater of War Productions. The social impact company, founded by 1998 Kenyon graduate Bryan Doerries, is known for its use of live performances of ancient texts to foster community conversations about social issues and traumas.
Works of art delight and entertain us. They also provide some common cultural touchpoints for us to better understand our own perspectives and those of others. Theater of War Productions speaks to the heart of how the arts can help us contextualize the world around us. By using ancient texts as a tool to ground challenging conversations, their productions help us establish a common vocabulary that enables us to have meaningful dialogue, even across differences.
These dialogues are enhanced by the voices they include. A virtual production of the “Book of Job Project” in December brought together panelists from across Knox County’s faith communities and from different occupations, including education, health care, business and more. As people from around the world watched via Zoom, we found shared understanding in the necessity of empathy, especially during times of suffering. The conversation was made richer by the life experiences participants brought with them.
This past year has brought no shortage of suffering, as we are all no doubt aware. And yet moments of connection, like “ Book of Job Project,” that are forged through shared experiences have helped lift us through our collective pain and loss. Theater of War Productions’ work has proven the healing power of the arts.
I’m looking forward to Theater of War Production’s next performance as part of the residency: a production at 7:30 p.m. April 7 of Theater of War Frontline: Knox County, which aims a spotlight on the perspectives of frontline and essential personnel in Knox County. The performance features some of Knox County’s finest acting talent, including that of Mount Vernon Mayor Matthew T. Starr, the Mount Vernon Arts Consortium’s Megan Evans, and a number of Kenyon alumni. To register, please visit frontlineknox.eventbrite.com.
Sean Decatur is the president of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.