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Reflections on a stellar summer

Gordon protects Junior from a curious bear

It’s been almost a month since our last show on August 11th in Great Falls — the same town we had met and lived in just a few months before. We had come full circle. Faces from the entire trip showed up – people we had met on the road, people who hosted us in their spaces and who we met at our shows. Although our first and last show were performed only blocks apart from one another, we had traversed some real distance in the time between, and our last performance certainly showed it.

Lelia and Sam doing Karaoke in Billings

And then, just like that, we parted ways and our summer adventure was over.

All things considered, it was a really incredible summer. In Lewistown we performed for a packed crowd of families. In Billings we brought down the house at karaoke for Lelia’s birthday. In Missoula, we danced through the streets with Freeycles. In Eureka, we played theatre games with a school of girls. In small towns along the way, people stopped to talk to us on the road, opened up their homes to us, and shared their thoughts and opinions about our show.

As for the show, well, I don’t mean to brag, but people seemed to really love it. They laughed at the right moments and were quiet at the right moments too. A man in Missoula even told Sam that our play had just replaced Pippin as his new favorite show. In a time with so much digital content, where it can feel like you are putting ideas out into the void in the hopes of garnering “likes,” I can’t tell you how good it feels to share something you’ve created with real live people – people who repeat back their favorite lines, hum the tunes of the songs and share their insights.

Eileen and David discover love in a time of crisis

After I banged up my knee, it took almost a full month for me to work my way back onto a bicycle. But getting back on the bike after being in the car made me all the more aware of why I love bicycle touring so much – how you notice the rise and fall of the landscape, feel the wind on your arm hair, watch wild grass for shifts in wind direction, how good food tastes – sugars, fats and proteins hitting the body like lighting bolts, how good sleep feels under the stars after a day in the sun.

Our tour peaked (quite literally) in Glacier National Park. Waking at 3am, we packed up in darkness, put on our lights and safety vests and rode out to the road. As the darkness lifted we pedaled the sixteen miles and 3,500 feet elevation of “Going to the Sun Road.” Glacier Park is stunning. The greenery is thick and luscious, and as we pedaled, we rose above it all, past crevices and crags and waterfalls, gaining vantage of otherworldly mountains in the distance and the shadowy valley below. We did it in under three and a half hours, and then celebrated at the top before bounding down the other side of the mountain.

The next morning at our check in, things turned bittersweet. Our last big challenge was tackled, and it was time to get on the bikes and head back to Great Falls. The trip was almost over.

On our last night back in Great Falls we stealth camped. Over a bottle of champagne and a box of oreos (they’re vegan!) we talked about what the summer had meant to us, what was harder than we had expected, what was easier, what we had learned about ourselves and how we had changed.

Many people commented on how it had made them more collective – how they learned better how to care for other people, and to allow other people to take care of them. And nearly everyone reflected on some aspect of themselves that they thought they had understood, but now were forced to take a harder look at.

“Let the call to action be the action itself,” is a quote by Taylor Mac that Jackie is fond of referencing. That night Kean said that he had always thought that it would be the content of the show that would provide the revelation, but he realized through this project that it was just as much the context ­— the way something is created, traveled and presented — that can be the catalyst as well.

Jaren leads music rehearsal in Glacier National Park

I think this is what keeps me so interested in Agile Rascal — the way that the land, the body, the bicycle, the interpersonal relationships, the artistic process and the artistic product all ricochet off of one another, creating an increasingly complicated web of connections that continues to inform what we do. And if I ever wondered whether the context could truly be felt by our audiences, after this tour, my doubts have been laid to rest.

On one of our last nights out on the road, we camped out in a field just a ways off the main road. Under the Montana stars we began the conversation about what the next Agile Rascal project might look like. Everyone agreed this summer had been truly special, and that we should keep at this thing that we were building together.

Questions we asked were:

  • How can we keep creating together even though we live far apart?

  • How can we push this idea of bicycle touring theatre even further – in terms of what we can do visually, musically, physically and conceptually?

  • How can we better live, travel and communicate together? What is the framework that holds us accountable to the group but allows for individual space and growth?

  • Can we build this thing not from the top down, not even from the bottom up, but more like, from the inside out?

Stay tuned for info on future Agile Rascal Projects.

Until then, over and out.

Much love, Dara and The Agile Rascals


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