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Spark at UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara

November 12, 2012

Produced and Dramaturged by Jacqueline Viskup

Directed by Kellyn Johnson

                                                     by Jacqueline Viskup

Post-staged reading I find myself reflecting on the way Spark deals with the notion of liminality.  Liminality, to reference Victor Turner, is the space “betwixt and between.”  First of all, Lexie as a female soldier occupies a space betwixt and between traditional gendered roles.  Lexie also occupies a liminal space as a veteran of war.  She cannot pass back through time to her life before the military, nor can she move into the next phase of her life.  She has no job, no prospects, even her senses fail her.  The community at large knows not what to do with her. So she waits, not necessarily passively, in this liminal state.

In the talkback to our reading I asked the audience: what is the impact of seeing a female gendered body in Lexie’s more aggressive scenes?  Many audience members replied that her gender did not matter, that she was read as a veteran of war.  A fellow graduate student pointed out the problem that Lexie’s gender is always both there and not there.  Lexie must move between the machine-like body of the aggressive soldier (read: male) and the ever-present otherness of her female gendered body (as we see in the constant circulation of news coverage of gender inequality and sexual assault in the military).  In rites of passage, liminality is an often ambiguous or even invisible state.  Scene two, when Lexie boxes with the night sky, is the most poignant expression of the violence of the liminal space.  Here Lexie wrestles with her demons, but also, as an aggressive female enacting intense militaristic violence to her own body, forces audiences to confront ambiguity head on.

Perhaps Lexie’s liminality also serves as a key to how Spark can help cultivate dialogue about our current wars and the real harm it does to bodies here in the U.S.  Liminality, as part of a rite of passage, is a stage one must pass through in order to achieve the desired result of the ritual.  Spark is rife with ritual, whether song, cadence, reading twigs, fighting, or even gathering together at the table.  Theatre is a ritual; we come together, go through a journey, and come out altered in some way.  And rehabilitation, for an individual, a community, and a nation needs some sort of ritual to carry us through the process.  But, like the internal and external wounds that mark a soldier, we must remember that to rehabilitate is to learn to move with the wound.  Lexie regains her hunger, but this does not alleviate her struggle. Another audience member, a member of the US military, noted that in the process of reintegration, the soldier and their family must accept that life will never be the same; families must learn new ways of relating to each other.  In the same vein America needs to recognize and accept that these wars are still part of our national identity, and must not be ignored, however painful, as part of the rehabilitation process. 

Jacqueline Viskup is a PhD student in the Department of Theater & Dance at U.C. Santa Barbara.  Her academic research interrogates how the image of the female soldier can be read semiotically and politically in 21st century performances about women in the U.S. military.  Jacqueline teaches acting, theatre history, and social action theatre.  She also directs and dramaturges.  She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Drew University, and a Master of Arts in Theatre from University of Oregon.