Applied theatre: Resilience

From the 19th to the 21st of October 2018, I was part of Resilience, a devised play staged at WOW Theatre Cafe at the Lower East Side. We were a group of female-identifying actors and non-actors exploring theatrically what resilience meant for us. This was a significant production for me given the following: (1) I was its assistant producer, a first for me; (2) my decision to explore physical movement was wholeheartedly supported by the director (I don’t see myself as a mover); and (3) we staged it at WOW Theatre Cafe, “the oldest collectively-run for women and/or trans artists in the known universe” (WOW Cafe Theatre).

As assistant producer, among other responsibilities, I played a key role in developing the participatory aspect of the play. Apart from designing a timeline that featured the development of WOW Cafe Theatre, the producer Jessica Cermak, and I co-designed a graffiti wall where the audience members were invited to write down their thoughts about resilience as well as incorporated a communal moment at the end of the play where everyone in the space would share out loud their wishes (which they would be resilient for). As an actor, I was left to my own devices to play with the object I was given (exercise bands) and choreograph my own movement based on a rather abstract theme, “internal oppression.” I appreciated the challenge as an artist and my performance was well-received, but this—and the entire production overall—brought up a concern I have about community-based performances. Brecht says, “theatre is theatre even when it is instructive theatre, and in so far as it is good theatre, it will amuse” (Vasquez, 2014, p. 75) Resilience was, without a doubt, a meaning-full show, both process- and product-wise, but was it good theatre? Did it have something to say? Did it genuinely amuse? I would like more experience devising work and watching devised work in order to be able to develop and articulate my own standards when it comes to making this kind of work.

Below is an excerpt of my performance. In this section, I have just freed myself from things that have physically been holding me back, but the shadow of their influence remains. Shortly after, I realize that I truly am free and celebrate the matter.