Leveraging the arts to bridge the divide between the public and law enforcement.
It is through our common humanity that we will build the world we want to live in.
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 “Evolve Mindset.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jory is the Red Door Project’s Development & Communications Director. Jory worked extensively as an AEA stage manager in the Portland theater community from 2011-2018, with credits at Artists Repertory Theater, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Coho Productions, and more. Currently residing in Austin, TX, Jory has served as Board Treasurer of the Blues Association of Austin, and volunteers with Love-A-Bull, an organization that works to improve the image and lives of pit bull-type dogs through community support, education, advocacy, and rescue.
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.
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.