On Space Suits, Plays & Beer Gardens

swim class(Why am I naming days?)
4/30/15, Day 14,239 (Mercena Day 259): (Doing More Than) Talking About Disability

This day is so named for the second conversation I participated in this week regarding movement-building for theatre-makers with disabilities. Last year, we weren’t very successful at creating meaningful space for this conversation at the TCG National Conference, and we’ve also recognized this as a real area for skills-building for the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Institute. I also feel personally that this may be the area of identity about which I have the most to learn.

I came home to a very bright-eyed Mercena, who needed a third nap after her swimming class, which always delights and exhausts her. We were worried that without her space suit, she wouldn’t go down easily, but after an extended bedtime, she slept through the night. It looks like it’s officially goodbye space (sleep) suit for bedtime, but we’re still using it for naps because naps are the devil.

5/1/15, Day 14,240 (Mercena Day 260): Beyond Sacred at Ping Chong + Co

The highlight of this day was finally seeing some theatre! Heather and I are trading off nights to catch up on some play-going, and last night I caught Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity by Ping Chong + Co. I was giddy with delight to finally be seeing a play, and especially my first full-length Ping Chong + Co play!

Oddly, though, the production felt familiar, in part because having read the Undesirable Elements book (of which this production is a part), having seen a Ping Chong workshop and having watched an Undesirable Elements excerpt at a book launch, I already knew what the aesthetics and methodology of the production would be. A simple staging–in this case, five actors seated in front of mics and music stands with their scripts displayed–beginning and ending in multiple languages and birth stories, each narrative intertwined and at times overlapping with the others, reinforced or disrupted by clapping in rhythm. These are the familiar staging elements of the Undesirable Elements series, which Ping Chong + Co has been creating for 20 years.

What I didn’t yet know was the particular impact of this stripped-down, ritualized approach to documentary theatre. The five actors are telling their real-life stories, but the stories have been ably shaped and heightened by the co-creators at Ping Chong to merge into a single story greater than the sum of its parts. The subject–the diversity and complexity of Muslim identity in the U.S.–is fascinating and, given our current political climate, important to be witnessed and discussed. What makes the play engaging and ultimately moving, however, is the specific stories shared by the performers. I’m grateful for their generosity of spirit in sharing the challenges and beauties of their unique journeys as Muslims in the U.S., and hopeful many more people will see this re-humanizing and healing work

5/2/15, Day 14,241 (Mercena Day 261): Will & Liz’s 15th Anniversary at the Beer Garden

It’s amazing how a single event can take over an entire day once you take into account the baby logistics that surround it. Yesterday, Heather and I brought Mercena to our friends Will and Liz’s 15th anniversary party at the beer garden in Astoria. (A side note of just how much more brilliant a beer garden becomes when you’re a parent–a place where you can be drinking outside during the day with your kid, and it feels social instead of neglectful? Yes, please!) To get there and back, we needed to plan around her naps (she naps well in a moving stroller, but now can’t really sleep on the subway) and the logistics of getting a stroller from Forest Hills to Astoria (not as easy as it should be).

The end result? After a 2-hour+ commute to Astoria that included a deliberate 90-minute stroller walk to Jackson Heights (it was cool to finally see some of the neighborhoods that until now had only been subway stop names), a great time celebrating some of our oldest friends (I remember their wedding well, my first real wedding as an adult human), and then dealing with a wailing and unwilling-to-nap baby on the way home, Heather and I collapsed on the couch, exhausted.

Published by CorinnaSchulenburg

Artist and Activist

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