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Unusual forum set for 2nd ward commission race

Candidates will face off against local artist Alex Duensing.

Want to watch?

When:  Wednesday, July 31, 6 p.m.

Where:  Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson Ave. SE

How:  Admission to "Democracy at Play" is free, but tickets have to be reserved in advance.  Contact Alex Duensing, [email protected]. The conversation will also be streamed lived on Facebook.

Alex Duensing

Alex Duensing /Amy Pattullo

If you want to feel democracy at play, then loosen your tie, take off your hard hat, and tune into a “seriously absurd” conversation at Dog Story Theater on Wed., July 31, with contenders for the 2nd ward’s open City Commission seat. “Democracy at Play” begins at 6 p.m.  and will stream live on Facebook.

All 3 candidates—Wendy Falb, Michael Farage, and Milinda Ysasi—will be participating. The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 6.

The forum’s lightly mad inventor and artistic director, Alex Duensing, expects it will make you smile and think, and hopes it will offer an authentic acquaintance with the candidates.  In a spirit of “exuberant discovery,” Duensing means to conduct a conversation that’s joyful and new, because we learn best that way, he says.

“That’s why I don’t do issues: the stakes are so high. Positional politics lead to stressful environments where you get bad outcomes.”

So what does Friend Alex, as he calls himself, do instead?  In previews, he asked one candidate if she liked to eat bugs. He asked how poetry could save civilization. “A server at Common Grounds suggested I try a koan. I’m going to.”

Duensing wants to see, and let the audience see, how the candidates think and imagine, and he believes a little bit of estrangement makes that happen. “You shouldn’t vote for a candidate on the basis of their accidental qualities. We should judge them as a verb, a method, an approach.”

Duensing is an artist and a teacher with an MFA in poetry from Columbia University, and is a resident of the 2nd ward. Does he want to replace politics with art?

“Supplement, not replace,” he said.  “Sometimes we do need things to be more explicit, but play is one of the best ways we can encounter each other.”

Duensing ran for the St. Petersburg, Florida, city council in 2013. Local artists contributed yard signs incorporating plants, flamingoes, and toy castles.  He didn’t win, but he’s satisfied that St. Petersburg has since become more focused on art. “Art is patterns and forms, which is what everything is about.”

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