CLIMB Theatre to hold workshops, performances throughout Grinnell


Contributed by CLIMB Theatre

CLIMB Theatre Resident Artist Kia Brown.

Jane Hoffman, Staff Writer

When Anton Jones `02 considers the potential of theater, his mind goes to the word’s Greek root, “theatron,” which can be defined as a ‘seeing place.’ For Jones, theater is not merely about performing. “It’s about seeing, and seeing each other,” he said.

In the coming weeks, the Grinnell community will have a chance to enter such a ‘seeing place’ when CLIMB Theatre, of which Jones is the artis- tic director, visits Grinnell during the weekend of Dec. 9.

CLIMB, based in the Twin Cities, is an organization that performs plays and hosts workshops grounded in so- cial-emotional learning, often working in schools with students of all ages.

In the fall of 2022, Abraham Teu- ber `22, CLIMB’s community con- nections coordinator, reached out to the Grinnell College Office for Com- munity Partnerships, Planning and Re- search to apply for grant funding for a CLIMB visit to Grinnell. CLIMB’s visit is being funded by the Mellon Presidential Grant, a $150,000 public humanities grant awarded to Grinnell by the Mellon Foundation in 2018.

Sarah Smith, director of commu- nity partnerships at the College, said that CLIMB’s mission — defined on their website as to “inspire and propel people towards actions that benefit themselves, each other and their com- munity through plays, classes and oth- er collaborative works” — aligns with the grant’s stated emphasis on projects that utilize the humanities to “amplify different voices and bring campus and community together.”

Through the grant, CLIMB re- ceived funding to stage four free play performances and teach 16 classes in the broader Grinnell community. Throughout the process, Teuber, Jones and their coworkers continually asked, “how can we hit as many groups as possible?” said Teuber.

Through collaboration with Smith and Morgan Niner, Americorps VIS- TA service members in the Office for Community Partnerships, Planning and Research, Teuber connected with Fairview Elementary School and the Mayflower Community, a retirement community that also offers assisted living and memory care. During their visit, CLIMB’s artistic team will teach classes at Mayflower and both the Fairview and Grinnell campuses.

Smith and Niner shared that they were particularly enthused by CLIMB’s use of theater to work through challenging situations and fa- cilitate difficult but necessary conver- sations in a novel medium.

Over Dec. 9 and 10, CLIMB will host a weekend of free public pro- gramming that is open to everyone in Grinnell.

On Friday, Dec. 9, CLIMB will perform “Grandpa and Lucy” at 4:15 p.m. in the Harris Center. “Grandpa and Lucy” is an adaptation of a chil- dren’s book, originally written by a 9th grade student, about a family’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease, and it focuses on building “intergener- ational empathy and resilience,” said Teuber.

On Saturday, the group will host “An Afternoon with CLIMB Theater” in the Harris Center, offering a day of performances and workshops. At 11 a.m., the group will perform “Dragon- shield,” a piece about growth mindsets and positive self-talk. From 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., participants can join the group for lunch, drop-in workshops and games before another production of “Grandpa and Lucy” at 2 p.m.

The event organizers acknowl- edged the tensions that can surface be- tween the college and town communi- ties, but they spoke to the potential of events like CLIMB’s programming to bridge divides between these commu- nities. Jones focused on how people of all ages, identities and walks of life are often able to coalesce around the importance of “intergenerational in- teractions,” such as those that will be facilitated over the weekend.

“That relationship [between col- lege and community] can be really fraught. There’s vulnerability that’s inherent to theater and art, especially when you’re getting to know people,” said Teuber.

Despite these challenges, CLIMB emphasizes the transformative po- tential of theater as a medium for bridging divides and bringing people together to creatively engage with one another. “The real magic of theater is that live interaction between humans, between all of those people engaging in the space together,” said Jones.