At The Red Door, we employ a systems theory philosophy based on the premise that all systems, whether they are institutions, individuals, or cells, are subject to a simple, repeating process through which change occurs. This is what we call the “Protect, Expand, Evolve Cycle.”
Our end goal is for all of us to Evolve — to undergo a fundamental transformation in how we see ourselves and engage with the world around us. But too often, we get stuck “Protecting.”
When facing a perceived threat, “Protect” is our first impulse.
Many things can be perceived as a threat: a challenge to self-image, a changing belief system, or a potential loss of status or security. Instead of getting defensive, we suggest getting curious. By moving from “Protect” to “Expand,” we can receive feedback and gain new awareness.
The Red Door Project seeks to create environments where boundaries become more permeable, malleable and expansive, overcoming natural resistance to change. Moving through this cycle helps us become more flexible and effective.
What is the “Red Door”?
The Red Door represents the process through which people can become free of their limitations. The “red door” was introduced by playwright August Wilson.
Wilson’s “red door” was the entryway to the Pittsburgh home of his character, Aunt Ester, a mystical figure featured throughout Wilson’s 10-play American Century Cycle.
Aunt Ester was born in the year 1619, the year slaves arrived in America. The color of the door reflects Wilson’s connection to the Yoruba religion, in which shrines were traditionally painted red, a color of purification.
In Wilson’s play Gem of The Ocean a freed slave, Citizen Barlow, is instructed to visit Aunt Ester to get free of the internal chains binding him. As a way to guide his journey of personal transformation Aunt Ester asks him, “What is your life worth, Mr. Citizen? That’s what you got to find out. You got to find a way to live in truth. If you live right you die right.”
For those who are willing, entering Aunt Ester’s red door provides healing from a society ripped apart by the legacy of slavery and racism. The Red Door Project’s work is inspired by this journey of transformation and redemption.
Kevin is the Red Door Project’s Artistic Director, CEO and Co-Founder. He is an award-winning actor and director who has performed on the American stage for more than 40 years. Kevin is also a communication, organizational and diversity consultant with over 25 years’ experience working with private and non-profit organizations.
Kevin’s approach utilizes complex systems thinking, cognitive mechanics and organizational change theory.
Lesli Mones is the Red Door Project’s Curriculum Director and Co-Founder. She is an executive coach and advisor who is known for her straightforward yet compassionate style. With a background in psychology, and more than thirty years of experience working with individuals and teams, Lesli has developed an uncanny ability for both getting to the heart of issues, and helping to illuminate the path forward.
Lesli’s coaching is grounded in the beliefs that change is inevitable, growth is intentional and intelligent risks are essential to fulfill one’s potential.
Bob is the Red Door Project’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. He began his law enforcement career in 1988, retiring in May 2019 as the Deputy Chief of the Portland Police Bureau. Bob has been recognized several times by the Police Bureau and community organizations for his innovative ideas in crime reduction strategies and his commitment to leading difficult conversations about race and criminal justice.
Bob’s 30+ years of policing experience includes assignments such as training division commander, precinct commander, Assistant Chief of the Operations Branch, and Deputy Chief.
The Evolve Experience interweaves monologues that explore diverse perspectives around race and policing. All of the monologues are based on lived experiences.
The Red Door Project uses monologues because stories are great tools for learning from one another. When we listen to the stories of other people, we see ourselves in those stories. This opens us up to compassion, which offers possibilities for how we can live together on this planet in less polarized and reactive ways.
A monologue is simply a long speech by one actor. With just one actor speaking, a monologue invites the viewer to be part of the conversation.
Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments
Monologues from The New Black Fest’s Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments are autobiographical, and explore 7 Black playwrights’ feelings around and experiences with racial profiling. This show was commissioned by The New Black Fest in the wake of the police shootings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, among others. The Red Door Project brought this show to Portland in 2016, expecting a short run of 6 shows. The community and funders rallied around the show, turning this short run into a multi-year project, leading to nearly 70 performances across the Pacific Northwest between 2016 and 2019.
Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Blue
Monologues from Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Blue are based on interviews with police officers, representing a diversity of race, rank and identity. The Red Door Project developed this show in conversation with Hands Up as a way to explore the issue from another point of view.
Written by playwrights from across the country, the monologues depict cops as they interact with the community, each other, their families, and the institutions they represent. Many of these monologues explore the intersection of identities of police officers of color, who often feel caught between two worlds.
The Red Door Project continues to produce new monologue content, based on the real experiences of people who live at the intersection of race and policing. For instance, The National Center for State Courts, with support from the State Justice Institute, funded the development of a judicial monologue.
The Red Door Project Pushes Boundaries with a Purpose
“Pushing boundaries” is a goal shared by many in the arts community—though achieving that goal, along with attracting audiences and financial resources, is an eternal struggle.
Portland’s August Wilson Red Door Project is becoming widely recognized for creating powerful and deeply complicated theatrical experiences that attract sold-out audiences and lots of attention. And they’ve accomplished this feat with little to no marketing.
Kevin Jones TED Talk: Evolving Through Dissonance
Kevin E. Jones is the principal conjurer and co-creator of The August Wilson Red Door Project, a nonprofit using the arts to change racial ecology. As Artistic Director and CEO, Kevin brings decades of experience as a professional theatre artist and a communications consultant, whose approach utilizes systems thinking, cognitive mechanics, and organizational change theory.
How Portland’s Black Community and Police are Sharing Their Stories Through Theater
Produced as part of News Hour’s Arts and Culture Series, this segment introduces the work of The Red Door Project. Cat Wise’s reporting provides insight into the origins of the Evolve Experience and the way in which it fosters dialog and provides a model for how communities can meaningfully engage on the issue of race and policing. The filming took place as the Evolve Experience was performed for the first time, and features interviews with The Red Door’s founders, the retired deputy chief of the Portland Police Bureau, and cast members.