Hi, my name’s Levi Weinhagen.
From now through January 2015 I will be the Artist in Residence for the Walker Art Center’s Education and Community Programs department. This opportunity will give me the chance to combine my work as an all-ages comedy and theater writer, improvisational performer, and public engagement artist and find new and exciting ways to play with people young and old who are coming to the Walker to learn and grow.
There are two core driving forces influencing every move I make with my work. I want to deepen the understanding of and highlight the importance of intergenerational connection. And I’m on a mission to show the world how tremendously powerful comedy is as a tool for connection and understanding of everything from the very simple to the incredibly complex.
There may be nothing I find more frustrating than adults showing condescension towards young people. Children are full of amazing thoughts and ideas and are in constant search for adults who will show them respect and work with them. Sadly, the same kind of treatment is often shown towards the very old in our society. The work I’ve been a part of over the past 15 years has been more and more created for the very old, the very young and everyone in between with the idea that creating truly shared experiences for people of all-ages creates more opportunities for connection between them and fosters the sharing of ideas and builds relationships.
I believe deeply in the uniting power of comedy and am fascinated by what we can learn about cultures, regions and communities by examining the comedy culture of a place. Comedy as an art form and as a tool is often held in low regard, partly because it is so prevalent but partly because when it is used properly no one can see the hard work that has gone into creating something comedic. I want to help people understand how powerful and important various forms of comedy are to their lives.
My deep belief in the power of comedy to connect people and ideas and my drive to break down generational barriers can coalesce in remarkable ways. I want to create opportunities for children to feel like leaders amongst their peers as well as amongst adults. I want to create opportunities for aging people to feel they have a voice that is heard, respected, and valued. And I want to use the tools that are unique to comedy to make these challenges seem less daunting and more enjoyable to confront.
A few big questions I’m always seeking answers to are: what’s funny about today, what’s funny about art, and what can we learn about ourselves by being honest and vulnerable without being self-serious?
A few specific questions I hope to answer in my time at the Walker include: where’s the best place to do a pratfall in the Walker? Is it easier to write puns or knock-knock jokes inside an art museum? What’s the best part of a guided museum tour led by a five year old? Which color is the funniest? Which color is the least funny?