Pearl Cleage

Collision 2021: In Conversation with Pearl Cleage {Part 1}

As we get ready to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Palefsky Collision Project, we had a chance to sit down and talk to Distinguished Artist in Residence and Collision Project playwright Pearl Cleage. Now in her 11th year as one of the lead creators and mentors for Collision, Pearl reflected on the highlights of connecting with an exceptional group of Atlanta teens each summer and the impact this project has had on her life.

  1. Write down 3 highlights from this past summer.
    I had to do 5! My highlights are: Watching the participants learn to trust each other while watching myself learn to trust the process, watching Rosemary create a movement vocabulary that we could use for the final piece, watching the Colony Square “My Land” flash mob (such courage and craziness!), taking in the Radcliffe Bailey show and the Youth Symphony performance on the same day, and watching the participants find their own words in the script.
  2. Write down top 3 dreams for the Collision Project 
    1. Publication of Collision scripts for use in high schools
    2. More people could be trained to do Collision without losing the transformative essence of the experience.
    3. A budget that would allow for a lighting person
  3. What is the biggest strength of Collision?
    I think the biggest strength of Collision is that it opens the minds and hearts of a group of young people in a way that transforms their lives at a critical moment in their development. The experience encourages honest dialogue and deep listening.
  4. What is the biggest weakness of Collision?
    At first, I would have said it should last another week, but I think the imperative to get going and get it done is part of why it is so wonderfully satisfying when it all comes together. I can’t think of any weaknesses.
  5. How does Summer Collision influence the rest of the year? The Alliance? The Woodruff?
    It transforms 20 young people. It pushes them to think, to trust, to listen more deeply. Each one of these young people will carry what they’ve learned into the next school year. I believe this is a good thing. I also think the participants will be eager to extend their experience here and participate in other programs. As audience members, as participants in other programs of the Education Department, as performers. In one day during Collision, we worked at the Alliance, went across the courtyard to get a tour of the Radcliffe Bailey exhibit, came back from lunch to enjoy a performance of the Atlanta Youth Symphony. Some of our participants had never been to any museum in their whole lives. Many had never been the Symphony. By exposing them to the rich cultural offerings at the Woodruff, we encourage them to embrace and enjoy the whole place, not just one component. 

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