If there’s anything Original Thinkers encourages, it’s that we all are original thinkers. The concept is at once approachable as it is lofty, but it is one that OT founder and ringleader, David Holbrooke, and president Meredith Lavitt, are confident the festival, and humanity, are poised to tackle. The annual gathering, scheduled for Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 at the historic Sheridan Opera House, has announced the early round of its provocative programming and that tickets are now available for purchase.
Holbrooke and Lavitt each describe OT in terms that reflect the festival’s determination and its novel approach to stimulating conversation around some of the world’s greatest challenges. It seeks nothing less than to end hunger, ease grief, make sense of loss, and reshape humanity into its kindest, most compassionate and creative version of itself.
“Original thinking is the most important thing we need right now,” Holbrooke said. “We look around and the world seems crazy. It seems so much crazier in 2022 than it did in 2018. But we look at these intractable problems, whether it's climate or truth decay, or you all have this sort of collapse of a collective and say, ‘Okay, how do we find our way out of this?’ And to me, that's going to take original thinkers. It's just that simple. The only way to not head back to some really troubling paradigms is, to me, to find the people and find the voices and find the ideas that will help us out of this morass. And that's what we're trying to do here and we're trying to do it in our own small way. We're not looking to cure cancer, but we're looking for people who will help us understand what the hell's going on in the world and find our own space to have some little kind of sanity.”
Lavitt wants to tap into the passion that original thinkers bring to the table in the quest to give meaning and sense to life.
“I think original thinkers are the most passionate people and to me, it's about following that curiosity, doggedly, and using all your senses, to just figure it out,” she said. “There's so much heart to these people and it's fresh, impactful thinking, but it's hard thinking and it's not the obvious path. It's not a linear path and these people are putting their heart, their soul, their thinking, their passion, their expertise, everything into it to come up with a different way to move forward in this world and to be impactful and thoughtful and meaningful.”
Those who’ve confirmed for the 2022 gathering are a diverse array of filmmakers, authors, theologians, journalists, healers, research scientists and more. With a series of themed programs, OT combines film, conversations and artistic performances that seek to stimulate audiences to widen one’s worldview in order to consider fresh possibilities. Holbrooke and Lavitt agree that if there’s an over-arching theme to this year’s festival, it is that of resilience.
“I think one of the things we see going through this festival, a theme that emerges clearly, is resilience,” Holbrooke said.” And, you know we're coming out of this pandemic — we're not out yet but we're coming out and there's no pandemic programming, but these people all represent that notion of not giving up and really taking on a new life for themselves and for others.”
Guest Tom Voss is one such resilient soul. Following his extensive Iraq War combat experience, Voss struggled to slip back into mainstream life. Diagnosed with PTSD and frustrated with the Veteran’s Administration, he took his healing into his own hands and founded Ojai Earth. Through mindfulness, Voss has found healing and solace, which he freely shares. Author and researcher, Florence Williams, tackles grief, a topic she experienced all too well after her husband unexpectedly left her. Her book, “Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey” examines how grief, though it inhabits our bodies and colors our lives, can be understood and eased be looking for and finding a sense of wonder and awe in the world.
One film that will be screened, “The Janes,” is sharply topical in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that overturns a woman’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy as it concerns health care matters, namely abortion. Director Emma Pildes brings her non-fiction storytelling skills to the fore in her directorial debut about women fighting a half century ago for those very rights. The Janes themselves will also be on-hand at the festival, and to remind us that the fight is far from over in a post-Roe world.
Disease, climate issues, on-the-ground advocacy journalism and enhanced financial opportunity for Latinas are all topics that will be examined at OT this year, among a host of others.
Holbrooke said that, in an effort to attract more locals to the festival, he and the OT staff are working with local groups that tie into the presentation’s topics such as the Janes and financial literacy.
“We get a lot of people to come in from out of Telluride, but I think some people in town are like, ‘Okay, cool, that's cool,’ and they don't really dig into what we're doing,” Holbrooke said. “I hope they will because it's really relevant to them. And one of the things we'll be doing is real outreach into our community to say, okay, how can we collaborate with different groups, to different entities, to say this has happened and it's relevant to you? I mean, that's the important thing I think about Original Thinkers is, is one that we believe everybody can be original thinker.”
Confirmed guests, films and performers, as well as tickets are at originalthinkers.com. Single event tickets will go on sale the first day of the festival.