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Mechanics of music: Spirit and Place Festival features silly, serious

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Roberts Park United Methodist Church will host ''Messy Church'' as part of this year's Spirit and Place Festival.
Roberts Park United Methodist Church will host ''Messy Church'' as part of this year's Spirit and Place Festival. SUBMITTED PHOTO

At this year’s Spirit and Place Festival, people are encouraged to set aside time to remember how to play.

With socially minded games such as “A Paycheck Away,” a simulation of homelessness, and “Spirited Chase,” they’ll learn ways to engage their communities while having fun.

They’ll have the chance to witness internationally known artists perform opera, dance, comedy and theater. They’ll listen to music created with a mish-mash of machinery and find the value in getting together for a community drum circle.

More than 40 programs and events will explore the silly and the serious at the annual Spirit and Place Festival, starting Friday and lasting until Nov. 11.

The festival will blend thoughtful discussions about religion and gender with comedy routines and pumpkin flinging.

The hope is to remind people that some lighthearted and creativity can be used to approach even the serious problems, director Pam Blevins-Hinkle said.

“That’s the great thing about Spirit and Place — it gives people a different lens to look at ideas that are really important to the community,” she said.

The festival is organized by IUPUI, which comes up with a theme to build the festival around. After a central idea is chosen, organizers rely on churches, businesses and civic organizations throughout central Indiana to come up with the diverse programming to support it, Blevins-Hinkle said.

Major central Indiana institutions such as the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Butler University, the YMCA and the NCAA have envisioned ways to highlight play. Through movies, activities and discussion, people can discover different ways of thinking and how to get involved in causes around them, Blevins-Hinkle said.

“There’s nothing like it, not just here, but anywhere. It’s a place where you can encounter a new performance art form, a new place in the city or learn about a new organization,” she said. “That sparks some action as a catalyst for the community spirit.”

For its opening night, the festival will highlight the diversity and unique nature of Indianapolis’ urban neighborhoods. Local singers will perform, and Harrison Center for the Arts curator Kyle Ragsdale will display his work.

Organizers also have lined up internationally known artists to contribute to the festival.

Carrie Newcomer, the Indiana-born singer-songwriter, will host a workshop for writers, singers and anyone with a creative spirit. French composer Pierre Bastien will demonstrate his mechanical musical creations.

Actress and writer Amy Sedaris will talk about her career in shows such as “Strangers with Candy” and answer questions from the audience about comedy.

The annual Public Conversation will gather thinkers from three segments of life to discuss the role of play in both individual life and the community. Game designer and futurist Jane McGonigal, Grammy-winning cellist David Darling and comedian and Baptist minister Susan Sparks will talk about how play has shaped them.

“As we grow, we make less and less time for play or it begins to take different forms,” Blevins-Hinkle said. “It’s important to realize that it’s relaxing and so valuable on so many levels.”

But while performances are a key point of the Spirit and Place Festival, many programs will get people physically involved with the act of play.

Franklin College will host “Drumming to the Beat of the Community,” a public drum circle open to anyone willing to make a little music.

Organizers also have put together “GameSpot,” a collection of 70 sidewalk games throughout downtown Indianapolis. They can play Monumental Boggle or Architectural Charades, get caught up in a game of Tornado Tag or do some deep thinking in Bench Bet.

“Horse Play” encourages children to read while enticing them with horseback riding and pony shows.

“There’s something for every age group, every interest,” Blevins-Hinkle said. “There’s something for your head and something for your heart.”

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