I am Anacostia

We’re keeping you in the loop with developments around #LocaloreLive, our new initiative to help makers innovate with live events.

This is the second in an occasional series of prompts to stimulate ideas for new approaches to creating work in the physical space of the community. We hope to encourage your efforts by sharing best practices, examples, and point you to some of the inspired producers involved in creating new work on “street platforms” across America. We’ll have more news ahead about AIR’s Localore Live! microgrants to support innovative approaches to create new work in the “far corners” of local communities. Meet Katie Davis:

Anacostia Unmapped, WAMU in Washington, D.C.

After six months of Anacostia Unmapped, a Localore: Finding America project in which producers sat down one on one with neighbors, we decided to create an event open to the whole community at one time. We found that every interview provoked questions and we wanted to sit together and have a conversation.

John Johnson, a playwright and poet, could hear this event, “I Am Anacostia,” in his mind and so I asked him to organize it. We rented a black box theater and John asked a woman to come and open with a song. He also brought a group of eight people to come and perform improv based on the discussions. This form of theater is called Playback. It is designed to put people in a setting where they share stories intimately. Our attendees reenacted their stories on the spot. They were tapping into feelings that others have. Emotional states are contagious and humans make an effort to share these feelings. That night we heard stories about gentrification that were emotional and included everyone. The talk became a wide-ranging conversation with everyone.

We never explain what happens in Playback, but it is powerful. It makes different points of view visible.

I would not do anything differently in terms of the event we produced, but I should have had another event later that summer. John and I continue to work together. This form of communication truly connects to people. We’d both be happy to talk about it.

John Johnson is an Artistic Associate, Board Member, and Teaching Artist at the Anacostia Playhouse where he organizes events similar to “I Am Anacostia.” Katie Davis is an independent producer. She is available to field questions, and you can reach her at

Please also read Break Form: Making Stories With and For the People andWhat’s Outside? Public Media 2014. You’ll find downloadable PDFs of both here. These important playbooks draw on the experience and innovation of Localorians past and present. No doubt you’ll find good tips to get your juices flowing.

If you know other passionate creators who are excited to innovate with live events, tell them about these emails and share the signup link with them.