For the past few years my plays and directorial projects have focused on the dynamic tension between loss and growth. My interest in these themes is rooted in my observations of global patterns and my own lived experiences. When confronted with the destruction of the ecosystem on which we humans depend on for survival, I feel faced with an overwhelming responsibility. Witnessing the breakdown of systems that we have relied on for thousands of years has led me to create works that I hope will raise awareness of the critical dangers of our time, and inspire others to take action. I believe that the arts can and must be used to drive positive social change, and I aim to contribute to the betterment of the world through my work.
My projects can be roughly divided into two categories. The first category includes my plays for children and youth. These plays engage directly with social justice issues of our time: the decline of bees and other pollinators (To Bee or Not To Bee), water sustainability (Within and Without, The Flood) and the impact of war on children (O, Will You Take This Rose?). In my theatre work with young people, I am interested in the intersection of scientific research with theatre, and in promoting scientific engagement through the arts. For Within and Without, The Flood, I collaborated with a medical geologist, Heather Gingerich, and used her research in writing the play. These plays were performed in a professional theatre, at eco-arts and community festivals, at Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute, at the People’s Social Forum in Ottawa, and in a community-outreach initiative workshop at Purdue University.
In general, the plays in the first category attempt to engage in a macro-level view of our world and to examine the root causes of our issues. For example, To Bee or Not To Bee travels through space and time to imagine what would happen to our species if the pollinators disappear. In this case, the theme of loss is explored through witnessing the end of the human race. In O, Will You Take This Rose? which I created with immigrant and refugee youth from the Junior Youth Empowerment Program, the conflict between two alien races on a distant planet becomes the lens through which we view armed conflicts on our planet.
The adult-oriented plays in the second category, though still infused with the desire to invoke change in the participant/spectator, tend to use a more focused or personal lens. In Ties of Blood: The Brontës, produced in Toronto, London, and Vancouver, I question our unhealthy obsession with celebrity and the sense of meaninglessness that can arise from anonymity. Set in the Brontës home in North Yorkshire, the theme of loss runs like a thread throughout the piece, from the potential loss of identity, to the finality of death as Charlotte loses her three siblings to tuberculosis. The works in this category also explore themes of violence against women, sexuality, and shame (American Refugee, The Green Year, Ties of Blood), and I have experimented with docudrama, using primary text sources in Ties of Blood: The Brontës and Año Verde. To create the text for Ties of Blood: The Brontës, I intertwined excerpts from the Brontës’ letters, diary notes, and novels with my own writing. In Año Verde, which will receive its first staged reading in May 2018 at the Civic Theatre in Indiana, I included testimony from survivors, perpetrators, and witnesses of Argentina’s forced labor and extermination camps during the rule of the military junta in the 1970’s.
In my most recent directorial and playwriting work, a new adaptation of Six Characters in Search of an Author, which I wrote in collaboration with an African-American Purdue student, I was interested in exploring the intersection of racism and sexual violence against women. This play revealed a narrative exploring the link between performing femininity and accessing power and resources, and challenged stereotypes that stigamatize Black women.
As a movement-oriented performer, I am interested in connecting artists from within the diverse music, dance, and theatre communities to create theatrical work that integrates these art forms in non-traditional ways. In previous productions of Within and Without, The Flood the role of the mother was played by my own mother, a dancer who was active in the avant-garde scene in the 1970’s in New York City, and who has continued dancing into her sixties. For Six Characters in Search of An Author, I brought an Indian choreographer on board to help us integrate Bollywood-inspired dance, and in Her Eternal Crown, I chose to cast a biracial dancer with no prior acting experience in a lead role.
In many of my original plays, the most emotionally charged or significant moments are expressed through dance or movement. For example, the moment where a father accidentally kills his daughter in Año Verde is contained within a tango ballet. I believe that experiencing these moments without dialogue allows the spectator to bypass their current worldview and descend deeper into an emotional landscape unfettered by intellectual roadblocks. These movement sections are purposefully ambiguous; they do not always relate in an obvious manner to the action directly prior, nor are they easily explained in terms of the action following. I choose to create in this way because I wish for the participant/spectator to generate their own meaning, and to formulate their own understanding of the piece. I see these sections as opportunities of freedom for the audience, where witnesses are at liberty to generate their own personal meaning as the piece is still unfolding onstage. In this regard, I am greatly inspired by the works of Pina Bausch. I find that her pieces tell stories that are deeply personal, and at the same time, the meaning of each piece is to some degree subjective and ambiguous.
Please click any of the images below to learn more about my plays!