She say when each of her boys came of age, she take ‘em to Old Hickory Lake.
Then say, ‘Pick a rock.’
And none of them know why, but she just tell ‘em, ‘Pick a rock, boy.’
And they did.
And she say, ‘That’s your rock.
You put it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go.
Don’t never let it loose.
And whenever you mad you stepped in a puddle
or whenever something don’t go your way,
you grab that stone and thank God.
Think of one thing to be grateful for.
Because no matter if the whole world turn its back on you
and don’t nothing go your way,
there’s always something to be grateful for.’”
—Too Heavy for Your Pocket, Jiréh Breon Holder
This passage from Jiréh Breon Holder’s Too Heavy for Your Pocket comes right at the end of the play. If you remember our 2019 production—directed by Ron OJ Parson—you might recall this moment: the four characters, Bowzie, Sally-Mae, Tony, and Evelyn, isolated in circles of light while Sally-Mae (played by Jennifer Latimore) crouches with her hands in the (real!) dirt. When Sally-Mae finishes, all four characters, ravaged by a year fighting for Civil Rights and trying to eke out a living amidst a volatile world, take a deep breath together … finally in harmony as they realize, separately, what they have to be thankful for.
It was a gorgeous moment then, and it’s a moment we’re drawn back to now because of Sally-Mae’s words: in the middle of toil and seemingly endless bad news, “think of one thing to be grateful for” and feel its weight, steady and constant even in a shifting and uncontrollable world. Take a deep breath, experience the gratitude.
So, what better way to start a new year than to remember the “rocks” in TimeLine’s pocket—the moments we’ve engaged in with you, even as circumstances kept us physically apart. We know there are still puddles to wade through ahead. But we’ll continue to count on our community of artists, administrators, fans, patrons, donors, and well-wishers to make it through. Thank you for all the moments we’ve collected below and for all that we cannot measure!
In April after we had to postpone Relentless, the last scheduled show of our 2019-2020 season, 26% of subscribers opted to donate their unused subscription value to TimeLine. This wave of generosity heartened us in the early days of the pandemic and as we produced remote viewings of two shows through the spring. Kill Move Paradise and To Master the Art didn’t just mean the world to our staff and the artists involved, but also to the audiences of these virtual performances, who shared their words of gratitude.
Thank you for making this happen so we could see the performance we were looking forward to seeing in person.” – Viewer of Kill Move Paradise Remote Viewing
Thank you for providing these experiences for us and for all the additional discussions, interviews, etc. You are working so hard to keep us all engaged.” – Viewer of To Master the Art Online Revival
As audiences from multiple states and even a few other countries watched online presentations of Kill Move Paradise and To Master the Art, we spent time in June rallying around our local community as Chicago was swept into an overdue national reckoning on racial justice. In response to protests and need around the city, TimeLine organized two weeks of drives at our home space on Wellington Avenue to collect supplies and much-needed aid for West- and South-side neighborhoods, and opened our lobby to protestors. You were quick to provide water, food, diapers, formula, and so much more. Together, we supported Brave Space Alliance, Care for Friends, and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Solidarity Network in their efforts to serve Chicago.
Online Public Programs
Another wonderful show of generosity came in the fall, as it became clear that our country would be battling the pandemic for a longer while. A series of public programs—headlined by live discussion events exploring Relentless and Campaigns, Inc.—digitized TimeLine’s mission and connected these plays about 20th century events with 2020. And you were there with us, learning and asking questions of our panelists, supporting the actors and artists, drinking wine, journaling, and becoming “spotting fake news” superheroes, all while donating almost $4,200 to support this free programming. We were grateful for the feedback you shared as well:
I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I am in Australia and saw [Too Heavy for Your Pocket] in 2019 … I will continue to watch these live streams as it allows me to do so from so far away.” – Viewer of “From the Black Victorian to Black Lives Matter: A Conversation Inspired by Relentless”
We love TimeLine. Since we no longer live in [the] Chicago area we wouldn’t be able to subscribe to your theater performances but appreciate being able to enjoy your productions virtually.” – Viewer of “From The Jungle to The Swamp: A Conversation Inspired by Campaigns, Inc.”
I just love your theater and I hope you can be sustained during the time of COVID and come back better than ever.” – TimeLine Subscriber
Today, Tomorrow, Together
In late October, we launched TimeLine’s first resiliency fund, Today, Tomorrow, Together (known internally as “T3”). A very generous anonymous donor started us out by offering to match any new and increased donations, up to $200,000. Our goal was clear: meet this challenge grant. Guided by our values of collaboration and fiscal responsibility, we developed a multi-pronged fundraising effort that would connect with (and hear from) our community. Two key elements of the effort included:
- A video series featuring Company members, artists, directors, Board members, volunteers, audience members, and students sharing how TimeLine’s mission and programs are essential to them. We learned what people were missing in 2020, how we can come back stronger, and how our community sees the future and TimeLine’s new home. Watch the entire video playlist here …
- Our first-ever engagement with Giving Tuesday—to which you responded! TimeLine raised more than $12,750 that day alone.
T3 has been a true team effort—led by Director of Development Kimberly Montroy and Associate Director of Development Chelsea Smith, but involving the entire staff. Everyone had some hand in creating videos, crafting messages, spreading the word on Giving Tuesday, or pulling the levers that get information out to our community.
Most of all, our greatest collaborator has been you. With your help, your generosity, your persistence and optimism and belief in us, the response to Today, Tomorrow Together was incredible. As of the December 31 deadline, we had achieved $182,295 in new and increased donations counting toward the $200,000 match (soooo close!), and our year-over-year fundraising for November and December was up 48%!
Wow Wow WOW. Thank you!
Words of Support
Even if you weren’t able to give financially this year, your investments of kind words, time, and care are what truly enable all of us at TimeLine to look toward a brighter future with you. Every time you’ve sent us a message, we’ve held onto it, shared it at staff meetings, sent it around—we are sustained by you, and we won’t forget the kindnesses you’ve shared (like this one below) even as you may have needed that kindness yourself.
We’ve donated in previous years and this year, of all years, we’ve seen TimeLine’s fierce commitment to bring past and present together to help us understand our future. We’re so impressed and we hope this gift will help you navigate through this—to survive and grow despite the odds out there. Many thanks and don’t forget you have committed supporters behind you, cheering you on!!
So, as we begin this new calendar year, we’re holding tightly to the memories of goodness. We are picking up the rocks, like Sally-Mae says, and being actively thankful to have these gifts. We’ve already said it a lot, but we honestly don’t think it can be said enough these days: THANK YOU.
May 2021 begin and end with gratitude.