The first day of our rehearsal was scheduled for the day after Election Day.
We had assumed we would be celebrating the end of a stressful and painful election, that we would have broken a glass ceiling, and that we could return to the privileged position of our usual levels of activism. Lately, our attentions had been on deeper systemic issues in our country, that are difficult to unpack and address, like systemic racism and money in politics. But when Trump won, we were suddenly overwhelmed by so much existing and potential devastation, that we initially couldn’t fathom where to place our feelings or to direct our attention. Suddenly, we had to protest his hateful language, his corrupt history, his racist cabinet appointments, his climate-change-denying stance, the list goes on. He has flooded the channels with abominations, and it's hard to know where to begin. Needless to say, we entered rehearsal Day 1 on Wednesday with a lot of new information and feelings to process. I can’t say that we were all solidly in the “art matters now more than ever” camp, though there was some feeling of that...or even that we were all sure that this was “exactly what I need to be doing right now.” But here’s a run-down of what we did in that rehearsal and how it may have helped us:
- We spent the first hour talking about the election, the state of our country, what we’re all noticing and experiencing, what the word “hot take” means, what we think Huma is feeling right now, etc.
- We spent some time doing a physical warm up, breathing, hearing cracks in our bones, and beginning to feel light and powerful. At one point I thought while running around flapping my arms “this is a good reminder of agency, something I can do that brings me joy and that the prez-elect & co can’t take away from me. I’ll hang on to this for whenever I need it.”
- Because our work and process is very porous to our day-to-day experiences and what we notice happening in the world around us, we rolled up our sleeves and spent time delineating the ways in which recent events inform and shed light upon the themes at play in SKI END. One of SKI END’s central themes is the way apocalyptic narratives form, and how they can lead to paralysis. We had previously considered “doom narratives” as something dangerous that must be avoided, pointing to the big orange guy as somebody who fosters doom narratives in order to prey on voters through fear. His apocalyptic narrative relies on nostalgia for a previously “great" America that is only getting worse and worse. But now, those of us experiencing his victory as our frightening loss are struggling to avoid a similar kind of apocalyptic thinking, which might layer on top of us and crush hope. It’s helpful to draw the comparison between both examples of doomy thinking, because it helps us get much deeper inside the temptation of doom, rather than simply judging it for being indulgent. We are finding that working to destabilize doom narratives can allow us to acknowledge our emotions, and view them critically, while taking responsibility for the horrors of the world we live in, rather than simply lamenting them.
- Armed with some specific ideas of what this may mean for our approach, we got on our feet and dove into the play.
If you’ve seen our work, you know that Piehole works to create space for multiplicity, complexity, surprise and delight. The whole enterprise is about shifting and expanding perspectives, our own and our audience's. So as we challenge ourselves to work through all of this, we aim to translate this process into a thought-provoking journey for our audience.
For me, being in rehearsals for Ski End right now feels right somehow. It is a privilege to be able to carve out space in our lives to come together as a group of people who are all dedicated to understanding and reflecting something that feels true about the world, while posing questions to an audience through our work. Spending TIME with ideas and events, crafting a synthesis of different viewpoints, feels like an essential alternative to the instantaneous spewing of thoughts and feelings that social media inspires in us. The latter certainly serves a purpose, but on its own it can really make you lose your center. Returning to Ski End rehearsals has helped me feel more centered, which makes smaller actions like regularly contacting Congress members, much easier and clearer.
Although I'm skeptical of the phrase "now more than ever," it's exciting to feel the urgency of the work we're making, and it's making me impatient to share it with our community. But for now, we'll keep working on it because we're not done yet!