Creative Communities

CPI's unique Story-to-Change Bridge process elevates the stories of a community to an art form. We design each piece around the needs and goals of each community. Do you have a downtown that needs to be revitalized? A history that has been lost to new generations? Are you looking to bring tourists in to appreciate your history and culture? Or are there some divisions within your community that you are seeking to heal? CPI has developed some specific products, which you may browse below. Whether you have a day or a year to develop your project, we have a program for you. Or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your questions or proposals.

Community Performance

Theater Of, By, and For Your Community

Description: This is the flagship CPI service.  Our Master Story Crafters teach your community to exchange its real-life stories across the old dividing lines of race, age, class, and education.  From these, we create an edgy, engaging, uplifting story of your people and your place.  This is theater about creating new relationships and assuring that all voices are heard.  The performance explodes across the stage in the persons of one hundred or so community members of every background and ability.  Everyone is welcome and the result is the community itself in the spotlight, transforming its identity into new possibility.

Duration: One year from inception to performance.  Six week rehearsal, four week run, four week remount later in the year.

Target Audience/Size: Cast of 80-120.  Audiences of 250 per night.

Special Requirements: Found space or existing theater converted for this multi-vocal, multi-perspectival, multi-stage performance.

Takeaways: New and empowered community identity.  Increased equality and a web of deepened relationship between all parts of your community which can support new efforts at community development.  An annual cultural event par excellence which can be the centerpiece of a cultural and economic campaign of community renovation

Staffing: The CPI team: producing director, writer, composer, designers, stage manager

Main Street Transformance

Description: This is a street level promenade theater event in the shops and walks of your downtown.  Stories from your community (Christmas is a great time for this) become individual scenes played on sidewalks and storefronts.  Shopkeepers stay open, and those empty buildings you wish were full enjoy the fantasy of new beginnings as wished-for businesses dreamed up by your community.

Duration: 60-90 minute performance, 10 day to two week rehearsal.

Target Audience/Size:  Several thousand people can see the cast of 60 perform over one or two weekends

Special Requirements:  Cooperation from merchants, town government, police.  Access to empty buildings and working businesses to serve as stages.

Takeaways: Let this "transformance" be the passion to reawaken your downtown.  Find courage in your own past as your create the vision for your future.  Re-define your downtown as a place of possibility.

Staffing: Master Story Crafter, 2 directors, 2-3 designers.

Panning for Gold

Description: From the Master Story Crafter, volunteers will learn the art and technique of Story Exchange.  Once trained, volunteers can use their skills to drive a larger project.  Each participant will leave with a kit, a checklist, and access to CPI’s technical assistance email. Topics covered include technical/legal/ethical concerns, and will focus on:

    Introducing self and project
    Establishing rapport
    Priming the story pump
    Listening to deepen empathy
    The power of silence to take a teller deeper
    Asking for details
    Saying "Thank you."

Duration: Two Hours

Target Audience/Size: 6 to 60. Community Performance projects, Ethnography students, school students (local history/generational history), Local history organizations.

Special Requirements: One digital audio recorder.

Takeaways: A Confident and cohesive group of volunteers ready to participate in a story exchange as part of a larger project in organizational cohesion, Community Performance, or development of communicative agency.

Staffing: One Master Story Crafter.

Story Exchange (Laboratory)

Description: This is the gold standard in how to successfully gather stories.  Utilizing each other, participants exchange stories, fill out a log, receive permission, transcribe stories, and submit material for staff evaluation.  (The stories gathered will serve your organization.)

Duration: Two Hours and online follow-up on transcription.

Target Audience/Size: 6 to 20

Special Requirements: Digital Recording equipment.

Takeaways: Increased awareness of story in community.  Practical experience in story exchange. Increased communication and public speaking skills.

Staffing: Master Story Crafter

How to Keep Them Coming Back

Description: This is about gaining a better understanding of your event, festival, or celebration through the stories which surround it.  Why do people come?  What does your town or organization mean to visitors?  What associations does it carry?  The deep reasons that affect attendance may not surface in a simple questionnaire, but they speak clearly in stories your attendees share about their experience.  What can you do to refocus your event more fully to meet the desires of your attendees?  Answers to these and other questions surface in the stories your attendees share concerning their experience.

Duration: Varies with the length of your event and your needs.

Target Audience/Size: Events of any size, especially town or neighborhood festivals.

Special Requirements: 110 electricity, shelter, reasonably low level of background noise.

Takeaways: Debriefing by our Master Story Crafter reveals the deep values as well as challenges which the public associates with your event.  Audio/video recordings of interviews are a source of heartfelt endorsements for your event, which can be used in your advertising.

Staffing: One or more Master Story Crafters, several assistants, videographer.

Jars of Hope

Description: “Jars of hope” is taken from Master Story Crafter Jules Corriere’s play, Ain’t No Tellin.  This is a two-pronged, two-day intensive workshop.  It will create stakeholders as it, first, discovers stories that define your project and, second, begins action on community development projects.  

Duration: Weekend. The two day workshop has three parts.  The first two are hands-on, participant-driven workshops.  The third is a participant-driven presentation and performance to a participating audience of other potential stakeholders.

Day One: Participants build a performance--a definitional ceremony of community stories.  The free and full sharing of personal stories leads to agency--the ability of each participant to speak his/her story, in the first person, in the presence of reverent listeners.  Then together the group co-produces their own Community Performance.  Participants winnow their stories, develop a text of performance (words, action, choreography, design), produce, direct and perform their new play.  Day One culminates in a dress rehearsal and discussion of how their takeaways (creative process, community themes, relationships) will fund the next day’s work.

Day Two: Part One (morning and afternoon): The participants, full of the confidence of their play-creation work, armed with specific stories, supported by new friendships, use the co-productive process to consider community issues.  The same creative format (local knowledge rising from small groups, guided by staff) results in several “scenes” (participant-driven performances) on community development possibilities.  These will be presented to the rest of the group and action plans developed for some/all projects.

Day Two, Part Two (evening): Participants  perform their play for an audience of potential stakeholders and community members.  After an intermission, they present their responsive community development scenes.

An audience talk-back follows.  This is an opportunity to enroll audience members as performers and community workers.

Target Audience/Size: Participants will be up to sixty project leaders from all partner groups, community members, faculty and students.  Up to 200 (community members, students, faculty, press, government officials) will be audience/participants in the performance.

Special Requirements: Large room with stage.  Equipped theater is ideal--lights, costumes, props.  Optional: Cooking facilities for group cooking, sleeping facilities, video documentation.

Takeaways: This intensive workshop will form the foundation for future project work as it opens the following “jars of hope.”
  • Develops stakeholders
  • Bonds a diverse group
  • Teaches the creative process (communicative agency),
  • Surfaces community themes,
  • Energizes projects of community development,
  • Continues relationship building among diverse participants.
Staffing: Master Story Crafter, Community Animator (Optional: choreographer, composer/accompanist)

Bring Your Cause Alive

Bring Your Cause Alive with Story, Performance, and Song

Description: Utilizing your cause as the text of performance, this process creates a touring production able to incorporate local stories and performers at each site.  Working with the parent organization to utilize key stories, terms, and concepts, cpi writes and scores your theater play with music on your chosen topic.  The show tours and at each site the trained cast gathers stories and performers to include in that particular performance.  The result is a music theater piece that delivers your message performed by the touring cast and personalized at each site with local stories and performers. Post-performance discussion, or break out circles of 6-8, create an audience-inclusive conversation and followup.

Alternately, a single Master Story Crafter and one music support staff can lead a one or two week residency to build a cause-driven performance around a combination of pre-existing text and music including locally gathered stories. Master Story Crafter and music staff person conclude by performing with local participants.

Duration: Several weeks writing and rehearsal produces an hour-long touring performance, plus discussion.

Target Audience/Size:  Professional cast of five, up to 10 local participants (or cpi hired professional cast), audiences of up to 300.

Special Requirements: Equipped theater with lighting control or large meeting room.

Takeaways: Participation raises awareness and creates local stakeholders for your cause.  Performance educates the public, and can serve as a fundraising tool.

Staffing: Master Story Crafter, composer, director/drama therapist, touring cast/crew.

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