Working Title Playwrights, Avondale, Estates, GA
November 10, 2012
Directed by Justin Anderson (of Synchronicity Theatre, Atlanta)
by Kaye Coker, Co-Director, Veteran’s Heart Georgia
The lights came on way too soon, jarring me so that the tears stuck in my throat. I was still immersed in the stories of the family members that I had just witnessed. This reaction and the magnetism of what had just taken place on the stage took me by surprise. I had read the script SPARK by Caridad Svich and “knew”—cognitively--the characters and the plot, and the ending. It was the superb acting and direction that evoked and opened the emotional response.
These actors had become the characters and pulled me into their lives. And it was the last line that provided the hoped-for exuberant shift that happens when the work I do with people in my office goes well…when you just know that something amazing has changed things and that there is indeed hope for healing. This is a sacred moment.
As I made my way down to join the cast and director on the stage, struggling somewhat to make the transition into my role in the Talk Back, I became aware of the impact of having audiences share this experience of the effects of war on an individual and her family. It’s far too easy for those who have been guarded and protected to cultivate comfortable ignorance of those whose lives are forever changed by the experience of their service. And just as harmful is the belief that all our Warriors are broken beyond hope of healing from being in war.
The work of writers, musicians, artists, actors and playwrights has depicted the human story and soul for eons so that it may be heard, seen and understood by all. Narrative not only binds us together as a civilization, it is healing, as we are forced to bring our wordless emotions into language. We civilians must be able and willing to listen to the narratives of war without turning away, seeing and tending the wounds and helping to create mutual understanding that bridges the gap between those who fought the battles and those who remained at home.
Deepest gratitude to Caridad Svich for bringing the words and emotions of the effects of war to us. Respect and admiration for Justin Anderson for guiding the thespians, Cara Mantella, Sarah Wallis, Taylor Dooley, Luis Hernandez and Geoff McKnight as they became the people of this story. Atlanta is indebted to passion of Jill Patrick, who made this event happen here at Academy Theater. And NoPassport is to be celebrated for sponsoring this reading in many parts of the world, informing and involving communities in healing the effects of war.
And many thanks to the audience, who, with stories of their own to share, created a listening community.
Kaye Coker is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Decatur, Ga. She serves as Co-Director of VETERAN'S HEART GEORGIA, a non profit all volunteer organization dedicated to healing the effects of war in our service members, veterans, their families and our communities. Since 2005 she has been providing counseling and teaching Mindfulness meditation to service members, veterans and family members, working on research regarding the effectiveness of Mindfulness with military veterans, and maintains a private psychotherapy practice. When not otherwise engaged, the mountains of northeast Georgia call and she and husband Jim flee the city.
I have been musing for some time now but more and more of late about immersive theatre, conceptual staging and radical intimacy on US stages. Three topics close to my artistic heart, but also as Sam Gold's staging of Annie Baker's version of UNCLE VANYA at Soho Rep requires its limited audience to sit inside its A frame house and Jim McDonald's re-staging of the UK play by Mike Bartlett COCK thrillingly seats its audience cockfight-style on bare bleachers in a tight circle, and other pieces in and around town require either travelling show/promenade performance and/or up close and in one room actor to audience encounters, I return again and again to who is the audience.
Now, why would I even posit such a question? Well, it occurs to me that often when artists make work and dream up beautiful conceptual ideas such as some of the above for staging and re-imagining work, assumptions are made about the audience. Very clear assumptions about specific bodies in space. Often the assumption is, well, that the bodies are quite "able." In other words, when the big gorgeous ideas occur about audience and immersion, does the idea ever occur that there will be audience members in wheelchairs? Or that need to use canes? Or that some may be blind or deaf? Does "challenged mobility/ability" enter the picture? In effect, unless the piece being made is ABOUT and FOR - therefore, targetted to - an audience with mobility/ability challenges, are they even thought of as being PART of the audience??
I don't wish to rain on some carefully rendered, thrilling theatrical work on our stages or being dreamt up right now, but I think the question need be asked - who is the audience? who do we imagine is part of our crowd and why?
and is it simply too easy to assume, perhaps out of social conditioning, that most of the audience will be able to trek the woods, follow the sprites, run up and down stairs (a la Punchdrunk's sublimely rendered Sleep No More), and/or sit cross legged on a carpet floor in a fairly confined space for 2 hours and half, etc., to witness/be part of the experience?
is it, in effect, too much of a bother to consider how to dream big conceptual, specific theatrical ideas and put them into remarkably into action and ALSO still think about EVERYONE that might show up, or is exclusion a natural part of the audience equation?
is it easier to say: well, this is for some people and some people only and those who want to see it/be part of it/and are willing to pay a ticket are just gonna be screwed over because in the planning stages, allowances were not made necessarily about how someone or two or three or more may be welcomed into the experience?
This is the open-source blog for No Passport announcements, or any public statement that a No Passport participant would like to make outside of the No Passport list.
NoPassport was originally founded in 2002 by Caridad Svich as a virtual and real-live word-song band. Its initial mission was dedicated to discovering new ways of listening to and writing language for performance, crossing artistic disciplines and making music. It performed in various discreet configurations (with initial members Sheila Callaghan, Jorge Corti~nas, Erik Ehn, Christine Evans, Hayley Finn, Michael Gladis, Lisa D'Amour, Sarah Ruhl and Gary Winter) at venues in New York, Providence and Minneapolis, and some of the texts created by the first configuration are archived at www.hotreview.org.
NoPassport is still a collective devoted to investigating news ways of making text and performance. However, it has now expanded its vision to devote itself to the fostering of the hemispheric spirit in US theatre with an emphasis on US Latina/o & Latin American writing.
NoPassport is a virtual and live forum for the exchange of ideas and dreams, a 'place' to strategize opportunities for our work, a group of artists and artist advocates, a jam session, a live network between theatres and the academy, and a mobile band of playwrights, directors, actors, producers and musicians. We are a pan-american theatre coalition devoted to change in the way we do things, the way things have been done, and dreaming big solid active dreams about where we can go.
UPDATED: list of members may be found here.