Revolution. For me, this word typically conjures images of governments being overthrown, oppressive forces being countered by more equitable practices, or even violent acts that somehow lead to peace. The word also automatically makes me think of moments from early American history: images of red coats, tattered soldiers’ uniforms, Valley Forge, Washington crossing the Delaware, Betsy Ross, the flag with thirteen white stars in a circle, Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Proud symbols. Symbols that have become part of a national history, what some people might also call a mythology. Regardless of how I might feel about the word "revolution," it's often used to describe moments that feel distanced from me, moments that I can’t literally connect to.
During a recent morning writing session, I stumbled upon the relationship between the words "revolution" and "evolution" in my own personal life. Some might read that and say "Duh, Joe...", but I honestly hadn't ever really connected the words. Upon further reflection, I couldn't remember anything that I'd seen or read that talks about these two words together.
As I thought through the last couple years of my life and some of the critical moments that have unfolded, I realized that my personal evolution has been prompted by some sort of internal or external revolution.
As a teacher, I've received feedback from students that has required me to think more intentionally about how I respond to and assess student work. This feedback initially surprised me, threw me off balance, made me question longstanding practices that have "worked," but ultimately the discoveries that have emerged so far seem to be creating more efficient and effective practices for all parties.
In my artistic work, I've had the opportunities in recent months to make work that challenged my ideas about what is "right" or "effective" or "logical." After making theatre in certain ways for twenty years, these moments of experimentation and adaptation, sometimes by choice and other times by necessity, have catalyzed new ways of thinking and creating. I’ve learned that my own artistic evolution after these years has to come as a result of some sort of revolution.
Without the upheaval that comes with revolution, evolution isn’t really possible. As I think about these ideas more and more, I like this representation: [r]evolution. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of these two words helps me to remember to breathe in the face of revolution, be it internal or external, and recognize the unsettled moment as a potential discovery of strength and possibility rather than a loss of power or accomplishment.