Co-Creating Theater & Communities Through Sacred* Texts

If we invited communities to collaborate on the creative process from the very beginning, could the process become the product, with the finished piece being just another element of a dynamic, communal exploration of inherited and lived narrative?

In 2014 that question led Jon Adam Ross and Chantal Pavageaux, along with a team of other artists, to develop The In[heir]itance Project, a national series of plays designed to engage communities by putting their lived experiences in conversation with their sacred* texts using research, play, and reflection that involves audiences as participants throughout the creative process.

Watch an open rehearsal to see how it works.

*The project interprets ‘sacred text’ to mean any narrative that holds meaning for the community. They could be ancient religious, mythic, cultural or patriotic texts, personal and universal stories, attitudes and archetypes, local lore (current or historical), or popular media and culture.

  Jon Adam Ross (left) and Darian Dauchan rehearse “Rebecca,” the second of five plays based on the book of Genesis in the In[heir]itance Project at PURE Theatre, where it was performed during Piccolo Spoleto in 2016.

Jon Adam Ross (left) and Darian Dauchan rehearse “Rebecca,” the second of five plays based on the book of Genesis in the In[heir]itance Project at PURE Theatre, where it was performed during Piccolo Spoleto in 2016.

Five Plays. Three Years. One Book.

Devised theater, or works created through collaboration and improvisation, is nothing new, but with sacred text?

To test this approach, the team behind In(heir)itance Project began with the Torah. Over the course of three years and across five different U.S. cities, they created The Genesis Plays, a series that invited the community to explore topics such as rivalry, racism, and identity through collective creation.

Commitment to Community

Recognizing the difficulty in having these conversations, the team behind In(heir)itance Project believes that the time spent in community is as important as the final product.

According to Director Chantal Pavageaux, "these experiences have proven successful at weaving individuals and groups together—creating lasting relationships and stories that remain once the project leaves."

Learn more about the Inheritance Project and access their free curriculum to try this in your community.

  Scenes from The Genesis Plays

Scenes from The Genesis Plays