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Theater as Therapy

April 21, 2011

We all have something to say, a story to tell.  Where and how does one find an outlet to feel safe, free and liberated?

This past April 17th (last Sunday [my 30th birthday]) I completed what has proven to be the most difficult performance of my life, thus far.  Being only a workshop preview presentation containing twenty minutes of my first full-length one man show I had little anxiety until minutes before going before my audience.  Realizing another first, before me sat around twenty-five of my dearest Chicago friends along with three supportive representatives of Victory Gardens.  While many of these friends are rather close only one of them possessed prior knowledge of my abusive childhood.  Two minutes into my piece my mouth had gone as dry as a sour persimmon and twice over I consider stopping and announcing I wasn’t going to continue.  However, I barreled forward, rushing, forgetting the basics of projection, spilling over my articulators, going up, leaving out lines simply trying to keep up with my adrenaline level and racing pulse.  How did I wind up here?

A week of confession, therapy and self-healing culminating in a public performance on one of the most beautiful stages in the city with nine other exceedingly honest and loving individuals succinctly recounts my week with GLBT performance artist Tim Miller and how I wound up at thirty years old.

Fewer things in this world have made me feel as blessed as this experience.  Let’s go back in time to the first week of March.  For one week this eclectic cast meets and begins with checking in to see where we stand in our bodies, considering the early parts of the week and the day leading up to our walking into the building. We share.  Depending on the day we next engage in a series of exercises hiring images, discovering the space, creating a portrait, feeling comfortable in our skins and using the power of gesture all of which lend to finding the message and text within our core desiring freedom.  Many memories and powerful emotions surfaced for us all.

Landscapes of grey painted the mixed dark antics and playful light wits.  Speaking of  wit, what savvy spilled forth from Deb during the “pussy wants to fuck,” speech!  Remembering tiny details and large spaces I think of Scott’s piece and the potent, visceral peeling fingernail and his thoughts of manhood; next, I’m lost in Stephanie’s dark playhouse of a mad childhood.  Heather brought us into illuminating light with the continuous “ifs,” eventually thrown back her mother’s way, “If you Mom!”  Dennis dealt with inundating truths leaving him unable to stand alone and Brittany’s rattling teeth ticked away at the silence of secrets.  Kendall turned towards a personal history with courageous return to the stage embracing the ambivalence of solitude, “I thought it was the clothes.”  And in a statuesque soliloquy leaving forever reminiscent memories of the Sears Tower itself Kris gave us a gift of enigmatic “poster child” poetry contained within pictures within pictures.

Without these other nine (including Tim) pioneers of the art I may not have gathered the courage to look my step-father in the face or to go head-on against a promiscuous past and tell the needed tale of truth.  Following the culmination of our parts on that Sunday, March 6th evening I was reminded of the necessity for fearless, humble shamelessness.  The stories were over and a complete stranger and young friend of Kris tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around to see her looking at me with her hands out palms up.  I instinctively placed my palms on hers.  Looking at me with eyes of water she said, “Thank you.”  We embraced.  Standing, holding and sobbing with a complete stranger that I immediately knew I kept repeating, “I know.  I know,” for I knew she knew and words prove meaningless in front of such truths.

This is how I found myself in the midst of a theatrical confession.  Childhood trauma travels forever miles in our adult shoes but no one need think they face it alone. Self-inflicted mental anguish regarding sexual identities conflicting with religious dogmas and rubbed raw by social stigmas has gone on long enough in our country. More people who face their shame, own their guilt and share their secrets equals more people carrying the pricey baggage hand in hand; I dream of the day when we can drop it all together.

Until then, I will venture into my story but make a promise to temper the shadow side with rays of radiance and flights of fancy freedom.  And for those who are willing to go with me on this journey, look for my invitation to take your seats.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kendall Zwillman permalink
    April 22, 2011 14:52

    You are Wonderful! And fancy! What courage- it is an honor to know you!

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