Alaska Salvationists express themselves

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Territorial Creative Arts Ensemble members lead workshops in Anchorage.

By Vernon Luong –

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Drama track members perform a “Breakfast Club” inspired piece using their own stories to resemble high school tropes.

Members of The Salvation Army Western Territorial Creative Arts Ensemble (TCAE) flew to Anchorage, Alaska, in late April to lead workshops for local Salvationists and visitors. Headed by Territorial Creative Arts Director Jessica Fagerstrom, the ensemble worked throughout a Saturday at the Anchorage Korean Corps to develop participants’ skills in creative writing, drama and dance.

What was produced by the end of the day shocked even the territorial group.

“It was to my understanding that there were people within the Alaska Division who were interested in the creative arts but had not received any formal training,” Fagerstrom said. “I felt that it was important to support their efforts and encourage their artistry by bringing in the TCAE.”

Before congregating into specific tracks, the large group met in a central fellowship hall for an introduction to the arts and to the day’s purpose and goals. Icebreaker games like “Whooshball” launched magical projectiles of any size or weight—or otherwise physical feature—across the room toward other players. Every new game added an extra layer of complexity to stretch the participant’s threshold of imagination and social interaction.

Different delegations of ensemblists then facilitated each workshop. With the director’s permission, members were also allowed to step out of their emphasis and teach another form. Some dancers introduced writing prompts not limited to narratives and spoken word poetry, while other dramatists taught the fundamentals of choreography through the use of space, time and range of motion.

Through the various techniques and exercises provided, participants across the spectrum soon realized that their perceptions of art—and even their own ability to create it—exceeded their expectations. Personal identifiers such as age, size, personality or life experience began to inform and accentuate their creative expression rather than criticize and deter them from it.

“I was amazed at the teachability of each person who was willing to participate,” said Golden State Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Tim Foley, resident chaplain and fellow dramatist to the ensemble. “Their hunger to learn and throw themselves into whatever it was they wanted to do was thrilling.”

At the day’s conclusion, the groups reconvened for an evening concert, performing their own original works for one another and the rest of the audience. The range in genre lent itself to both satirical comedy and redemptive tragedy, their depth steeped in the personal experiences each performer brought to the stage.

“I was marveled by their willingness to share and support each other no matter how difficult their story was,” ensemblist Xiomara Greenland-Craig said. “Everyone wanted to share their testimony—their bravery left me speechless at times.”

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