‘City Council Meeting’ arrives in Keene, N.H.

Play shows that an audience, like community members, can participate in government


The “City Council Meeting” production had a casting call for the community of Keene on Thursday, March 13, at the Thorne Art Gallery.  

City Council Meeting is referred to as performed participatory democracy, a performance created locally and performed by the audience, who are members of the community. Created and directed by Mallory Catlett, Jim Findlay and Aaron Landsman, the performance piece travels from state to state, to cities all over the United States.

City Council Meeting’s mission statement on their website states, “We embrace positive discord. We welcome adversaries. We depend on your engagement.”

Co-creator and Director Aaron Landsman described City Council Meeting as, “A way that art can respond to politics.” Attendees of the performance will first watch a four-minute orientation video, inspired by a jury duty orientation video.

The video explains different ways in which the audience can participate in the performance.  Then the audience self-selects how they want to participate and form groups, as city council or community members.

The groups include one staff member who explains the group’s task for the meeting.

Sam Lewis / Equinox Staff: Leaders of the “City Council Meeting” play discuss their casting call on Thursday, March 13, at the Thorne Art Gallery in Keene N.H.

Sam Lewis / Equinox Staff: Leaders of the “City Council Meeting” play discuss their casting call on Thursday, March 13, at the Thorne Art Gallery in Keene N.H.

Co-creator and Director, Mallory Catlett, described the performance as a single meeting that is composed of transcriptions from six or seven states’ city council meetings.  Throughout the performance the meeting will jump from the different states, while maintaining a single city council meeting structure.

The fictional city’s City Council meeting, created from excerpts from each state’s testimonies, also demonstrates a consent agenda and open testimony.

Catlett said, “It’s a complete necessity of the piece that, in many levels, it [the production] involves the community in the creation of the work.” Landsman added, “There’s no separation between audience and performer.”

Catlett indicated the meeting will include four or five cameras shooting live video to imitate live access, with close-ups of the people giving testimony.

According to Landsman, the first session lasts one hour and 15 minutes, followed by a short intermission, and lastly, there is a local section including input from other community members. Landsman explained the purpose of the last section is to complicate a local issue and bring in different perspectives.

Director of the Redfern Arts Center Shannon Mayers said the timing of the performance could not be better. The City Council Meeting took place after the recent real City Council meeting at Heberton Hall on March 6, in Keene, that included  the collaboration of people from Keene State College and the City of Keene. At the meeting; housing, parking, transportation and citizenship were discussed, according to Mayers.

Mayers said the collaboration between the City of Keene and KSC is greater now than in years past because of the new college president, Anne Huot. “This is really a strong first step from our new president to be able to engage the city in a collaborative effort,” Mayers said.

Mayers also said this performance is a chance for the Redfern Arts Center to broaden their community involvement. The City Council Meeting performance piece will take place on Oct. 29, 2014, at Heberton Hall.


Hannah Sundell can be reached at hsundell@ksc-keene.edu

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