September 3, 2011

healing and transformation: a brief introduction to my artistic self

On my LiveJournal, there is a post entitled, Why I'm Doing This. It is a collection of quotes from people who reached out to me to tell me how Tulpa, or Anne&Me has helped heal them or has transformed how they think about the issues the play raises. When I reflect upon this, I see that as a playwright, I act more as a shaman than as an author. Through my plays, I lead the audience into an alternate reality where they can find healing and transformation. This parallel grows stronger with each piece that I write, making it an essential part of my process and purpose as an artist.

Shamanism reveals itself most clearly in the structure of my plays. In each script, I take people to a different world where they encounter essences – spirits, if you will – of forces we confront everyday yet do not always recognize. This experience helps change thought patterns and start conversations that are so important to us, yet are so frightening to have. Stripped of everyday dross, this gives people the opportunity to face and name these things in order to overcome them.

This may seem strange considering my commitment to advocating social justice. Talking about spirits and other worlds seems ephemeral in comparison to the daily realities of systemic oppression. As someone who lives at the intersections of several oppressions, when I run into racism, sexism, and/or homophobia, it hits me like concrete. At the same time, what is racism but a ghost that lingers and haunts our lives? What is sexism but a spirit that seizes control whenever given the opportunity? What is homophobia but a demon that feeds on the hate and fear of those in its grip, and devours the pain and suffering that fear and hate cause?

Aesthetically, this mystical approach to current realities means that my plays are steeped in mythology, religion, fairy tales, folklore and even astrology. These have been the wells of inspiration I have drawn from since childhood. I have yet to outgrow this inclination to “play” with reality, to make literal and concrete what is often abstract and allegorical. So my works lend themselves to a stylized approach to staging. They have much in common with non-Western theatrical forms such as Noh drama and Butoh, religious rituals based in Vodou and indigenous traditions, and role-playing games that take place in fantastic or science fiction settings.

In thematic terms, there is a strong current of Otherness in my work - other worlds, other beings, other times - due in no small part to my own experience with Otherness. Living as a queer Black Jewish woman makes Otherness an ever-present reality. No matter where I go, I am some form of Other. Please do not misunderstand; I have no desire to be "normal." Yet life as a perpetual Other does come with a certain amount of internal and external strife. By laying this bare from the perspective of the Other, my work transforms Otherness from a source of powerlessness and isolation to a source of knowledge and freedom. Through this process, I hope to heal and transform the world by showing how I heal and transform myself.

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