Reflection on Spark at Ohio State University
Ohio State University Dept of Theatre, Columbus, OH
November 26, 2012
Directed by Karen Mozingo
By Karen Mozingo
My honors Introduction to Theatre students stared back at me in silence, as if I had proposed a trip to the moon. Mostly non-actors, I could feel their anxiety rising. A staged reading. An entire play. In public!? Caridad Svich’s announcement of the reading scheme for SPARK had reached my inbox at the beginning of our semester studying plays on human rights by contemporary women playwrights. The course included a section of plays focusing on war, so SPARK seemed a natural fit and an opportunity for direct experience with a new play. “Okay, let’s read through it in class and see how you feel about it after our reading,” I suggested. As students shifted in and out of the reading chairs every few scenes, some began to show an ease with their roles, and SPARK took shape before us all. By the end of the second week of classes, six students had volunteered to perform the staged reading and our real work began.
Our rehearsals with SPARK were lessons in integration. As the Glimord sisters attempted to weave the fabric of their family back together after Lexie’s return from war, my students attempted to integrate the difficult aspects of their roles. Sarah and Angela struggled with Evelyn and Ali’s cursing, which was so different from their own patterns of behavior and speech; Omeed searched for a way to endure the long, present silence of Vaughn, as he waited for his moment to enter the reading; Cody eased into the part of Hector, yet remained ever-watchful of the tension between the sisters; Paul found his rhythm in reading the steady background of stage directions, creating the images hovering over our readings. Throughout the semester, Jessica, reading the role of Lexie, knitted a scarf, a hat, and mittens . . . through her knitting she created emotional space for herself and reminded us of the slow process of healing, of knitting a life back together stitch by stitch. She worked to connect with Lexie’s military chants, singing them tentatively, then with more anger as we progressed. Sarah found melodies for Evelyn’s singing, her humming offered as a prayer, or a gentle faith in the unseen workings of a family healing from multiple generations’ experiences with war and military service.
Our encounter with SPARK was anything but explosive. It smoldered, simmered in a frustrating silence, erupted in brief moments of anger, much like Lexie’s moods as she found her way back to her life. The night of our reading, we set a table of food for our audience, welcoming them into the theatre as Evelyn welcomed Lexie to the family table. The students read with courage, and audience members responded with grateful comments and personal stories of family members and friends currently being deployed and separated from their families during the holidays. We sat with the discomfort, the small ruptures in understanding, the fear constricting the voices of retelling. And we were reminded that the work of SPARK was a subtle opening . . . a welcoming to the table and sitting with the silent, painful parts of our family and country’s social life, which we would rather cover up with the normalcy of casseroles, familiar banter, and forced embraces. To sit and witness the smoldering, to breathe life into the sparks of anger and outrage, and to create space for healing . . . such is the work of Caridad Svich’s new play.
Karen Mozingo's research interests include performance studies, dance theatre, and feminist theory. She has received both national and international support, including fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, German Historical Institute, and The Ohio State University. She has presented her research at annual conferences of Congress on Research in Dance, Society of Dance History Scholars, National Dance Educators Organization, and International Council Kinetography Laban/Labanotation, and her articles have been published in Dance Research Journal and the Journal of Dance Education. During the past ten years, she has taught performance studies, theatre, and dance courses at SUNY Potsdam, The Ohio State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Case Western Reserve University, and Stivers School for the Arts.