Friday, January 13, 2012

Collapse, Wasteland and running through your fears

This week has been a pretty good week. I am settling nicely here in Portland and finding my way to good things. I started rehearsing with Living Stages, a theatre of the oppressed based community theatre troupe. It feels so nice to be doing TO again. I feel a deep emptiness inside me that I am not working with youth or adults right now as a facilitator- something I want to change soon. In addition to getting back into TO, I also saw two remarkable, moving pieces of art this week.

The first was Collapse at Third Rail Rep. I went to see their free dress rehearsal, and I was blown away by the acting skills! Last week I met a man who said, "there is a lot of New York in Portland". I initially wanted to scoff, but it seems to be true. There is such great theatre, beer, coffee, arts and culture here. Collapse was a play about, well, collapse. Both metaphorically and literally. The play takes place in Minnesota, where in 2007, the 35W bridge collapsed, killing 13 people. The play uses this event as its starting point, but doesn't mention the actual event until later in the play. The characters, a husband and wife seem to be having trouble conceiving a child. The husband hasn't gone to work in a month, and the wife is worried about getting fired. The hippie new-age sister from California moves in unexpectedly. Her entrance is memorable as she enters the house, much to her sister and brother in law's surprise, claiming "California is fucked! Like anal sex fucked! Not that that is bad or anything....". The sister has just lost her job at a non-profit, and been evicted from here apartment. The overtones of the biggest recession since the Great Depression almost acts as another character in the play.

Later we find out that the husband was on the bridge while it collapsed. He has PTSD, doesn't want to talk about it, but is deeply troubled. The sister and husband get drunk while the wife is trying to salvage her job and not get fired from her law firm. After a series of strange and interesting coincidences, we find out that the husband was on the bridge during the collapse. He fell into the water, trapped by his car. He can't remember how he escaped. The wife was three months pregnant at the time and miscarried a week later.

After the strange coincidences and some minor disasters (which are played very humorously!), the play ends with the couple having a frank talk about their issues. The play ended in such a powerful way, or shall I say line.

The husband says, "How do we not collapse?"
Wife, "I am not sure we can. I think we need to learn how to fall together"

The play's ending resonated with me strongly. Any relationship is bound to have its rough patches and I feel like this question is a valid one. The answer a superb motif on how to survive the rough times, together.

The other amazing piece of art I saw was the documentary Wasteland. Wasteland focuses on Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and his trek back home to Brazil to create portraits of the "pickers" at Jardim Gramacho. Jardim Gramacho is a landfill where the pickers carefully go through all the trash to take out the recycling. The movie is not so much about the artist as these characters at the landfill. They are beautiful, driven, interesting people. What fascinated me most was many of the women talking about how dirty and disgusting the work is, would often also say that it was honest work. They are happy to be there and not walking the streets of Copacabana. Muniz gets to know several of the pickers and creates multi-media portraits of them with the recycled materials. He then donates the proceeds of the art back to the models/pickers. The movie is interesting because class, politics, light skin/dark skin, sex, money and work are all multi-valent forces that make this movie very complicated.

The movie brings up several issues-- is Muniz really helping these people? Does art help people? At the end of the movie we hear that most of the people had left Jardim Gramacho to pursue a better life thanks to the proceeds of Muniz's art. While I loved the film and I am so happy at the success of the art and for the people, I wonder who was left behind? Who is still there? Also, we find out Jardim Gramacho is closing this year, where will the workers go? The movie really made me think about how much art and social practice belong together. Do they have a place and how do they work together to create real change? Real, unalterable change, not a bandaid. This question often is in my mind. I love doing theatre of the oppressed and I know that in rehearsals seeing youth/adults SEE, VISUALIZE AND IMAGINE new futures can be radical and life-changing. But sometimes I feel like it is a dead-end path. You can't help everyone, you can't change everything. But on the other hand, there has to be people trying to change the world, offering what they can and doing what they can.

Complacency is the enemy of resistance and social change.

I am moving through the week feeling inspired with thoughtful questions and the desire to do something.

Also, I have started running. One day, hopefully in the not-so-near future, I will participate in a sprint triathlon. There is a long story behind it, one that I would love to share if I can accomplish my goal. For now, I have started running. I am not in particularly good shape (an erroneous assumption people make, thin= in shape) and historically have hated running. This week I have made it to 1.5 miles. This is not amazing, but very cool considering on the spectrum of athleticism I am considered a couch potato. I enjoy running at night, when the air is crisp, the streets are empty and I can think and feel each footstep hit the ground. In a very De Cearteau-ian way, I am discovering the city more through my jogs. I've found new places, new parks, new adventures. The running seems to help my mental sanity while also creating a much needed physical space for me.

Moving into the week, I plan to stay focused and inspired.

1 comment:

Kehinde Koyejo said...

You write such great reviews!!!! I wish I can see both pieces. Keep it up sis. Your writing is so good...I want to be like you when I grow up (smile).