Digital performances available June 9 – 10
Los Angeles – A future where everyone has a home is the “nerdy and raucous vision” of “The Most Beautiful Home . . . Maybe,” a timely new immersive performance led by Mark-N-Sparks (Los Angeles based artists and activists ashley sparks and Mark Valdez).
Working with national advocacy organizations and arts organizations in four cities as well as with support from major foundations, Mark-N-Sparks hope to use theater making techniques as a vehicle for influencing policy decisions concerning housing insecurity, a problem impacting millions of Americans.
“We have heard repeatedly that there is a lack of imagination in policy spaces,” Valdez said. “The thinking gets smaller and smaller, while the housing crisis only get bigger and bigger. Solutions to our crisis will require the arts.”
The process for creation of “The Most Beautiful Home . . . Maybe” is at once radically new and crucial to the project’s success. The first step involves conducting a series of workshops with local and national audiences with topics ranging from “Housing as Healthcare” to “The Poetry of Data” to “Music and Financing.” The workshop participants include relevant stakeholders in housing issues including policy makers, government workers, commercial and non-profit developers, activists, advocates and individuals experiencing housing insecurity. The workshop experience is geared to invite imagining and play for advocates, while the material gathered becomes the basis for the performance.
“The engagement process and the performance are intimately woven together,“ says co-creator ashley sparks. “By fusing story, imagination and policy discourse together, we’re creating space for transformational change in how housing policy can be generated.”
A digital version of “The Most Beautiful Home . . . Maybe,” will perform June 9 and 10 and will be available for presenting by theaters or for use at virtual conferences. Through the 2021-2022 season, in person workshops and performances are scheduled at each of the four participating organizations: Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis; Syracuse Stage in Syracuse, New York; THEARC Theater in Washington, D.C.; and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.
Mark-N-Sparks is interested in developing “The Most Beautiful Home . . . Maybe” in other cities. Participating organizations need not be traditional theaters. Alternatives could be performances at conferences or gatherings of policy makers, planners and advocates. The show will be available for touring.
“Because the aim of the project is policy change, we know that we have to perform the show and host conversations outside of traditional spaces,” Valdez explained. “The trajectory of the project is ultimately one of hope; to invite radical imagination into policy spaces so that we can take the necessary steps to remediate past practices, and build a beautiful future where everyone is housed.”
Support for the project comes from the following: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Americans for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Theatres, MAP Fund, National New Play Network and New England Foundation for the Arts.
Ashley Sparks is a southern theatre maker, engagement strategist, facilitator, certified coach and organizational consultant. ashley has worked in both urban and rural communities across the US in places like New Orleans, Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Atlanta, Honolulu, Stuarts Draft, Milton-Freewater, Lost Hills and Eureka. She was A Blade of Grass Fellow (2017) for “Good Old Boys,” a play and conversation for parking lots. Her long terms policy collaborations include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Network for Energy Water and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB). She was the project director for the Network of Ensemble Theaters MicroFest USA event series a festival/think-tank series highlighting the impact art has in revitalizing communities. She was an ensemble member with ArtSpot Productions and has worked with Cornerstone Theater Company and PearlDamor. She is currently a member of the Guild of Future Architects.
Mark Valdez is an itinerant artist, cultural organizer and consultant who partners with communities, organizations, civic institutions, and others using theater and creative tools to address community needs and to lift up community voices and stories. His work has been seen at the Alliance Theatre, Cornerstone Theater Company, Mixed Blood, Trinity Rep, and others. Recent projects include Lisa Loomer’s play, “Roe,” his adaption of Gary Soto’s book, “Chato’s Kitchen,” and the animated short film, “Sit In.” Mark is the recipient of various grants and awards including the 2019 Johnson Fellowship for Artists, Transforming Communities. He is a Board member of Double Edge Theatre and Cornerstone Theater and a former Board member for Theater Communications Group (TCG).