Synecdoche (Walker’s Pub, December 5, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.) is a devised piece about being human: about growing up in America, being a student at Regis and a participant in the world… about being vulnerable, excluded, or marginalized… about being included, heard and cared about … about caring, loving, and being loved.
Our 2012 class consisted of 9 students—a few with previous theatre interests and experience, but largely without. Some came because of curiosity and a commitment to learning new approaches to doing community-based work relevant to local people or communities abroad. Others were drawn to the Freire/Boal connection: making performances that change the performers themselves while also offering the possibility, if not the promise, of a transformative experience to those who witness the work.
“Devised” refers to theatre that is co-created by participant-performers (facilitated by a theatre artist) to reflect their own stories, values, questions and ideas. This work comes together over weeks, months, even years of developing an interconnected ensemble that exists in a specific social and cultural context, to which that ensemble is responsive.
The work that emerges comes from the heart, and is not the usual “play” presented in a traditional format or setting. It may be highly imageistic, not always linear but often quite powerfully narrative. It can tell one person’s story or the intertwining stories of many. It draws attention to culture, power, race, class, gender, experiences of health and ability, sexual orientation, age, environment, and so on. Performers write their own text or interview others. In lively, game-and-movement-based rehearsal and collaborative scripting processes, short “pieces” emerge and are developed and polished.
Such work is always deeply personal—even when there might be a political message or a topic of interest represented. What you see, in Synecdoche, are simple expressions of self; reflections of society, and the courage of performers who—in this case—do not consider themselves to be “acting” but rather, with humility (and a great sense of playfuless), performing… their lives, memories, fears, and joys: their humanity. In so doing, they invite audiences to also contribute: to listen without judgment, and to find both resonance and inspiration.
Hailey Barr, Alyse Daunis, Peter Nozaki, Connor Randall, Andrew Ross, Bre Rubaclava, Julia Segura, Lauren Shakes and Chris Trujillo
Assembled, facilitated and directed by
Janna L. Goodwin
Setting: In Walker’s Pub—a community space. It has been turned into a theatrical space. Off, to one side, there is the sound table: a microphone,amp and speaker; sound elements. The SOUND OPERATOR is also the INTERVIEWER. Two small tables with two chairs stand at either side, downstage R and L. Four baskets contain ribbons, some blue and some yellow. One basket is labeled, “Write one sentence that is true about yourself and that you are willing to share.” The second container is labeled, “Name three things that are important.” The third container is labeled, “What is the title of the Story of Your Life?” The fourth: “Who is part of your community? Who is not?” And, the fifth: “Someday, I would like to _____________.” Each container has blue and yellow index cards, and pencils are nearby.
Part I: Mystory
ENSEMBLE enters. Each holds a framed photograph out, towards the audience, sharing a picture of great importance. The faces of the ENSEMBLE are not frozen—but they are calm, still, features relaxed (but not smiling); eyes responsive to the audience. The image lasts for 30 seconds.
The photographs are of (for example): an undocumented student. A person living with mental illness. An organic farmer. Someone who has been bullied. A child who needs an organ transplant or who is recovering from one. A victim of Monsanto’s policies and practices. A homeless person. An immigrant who is an American citizen. Someone who is dying of hunger. An obese child, a bullying victim, a refugee, an undocumented worker, an adolescent gang member, a neighborhood street of small, old houses with a looming condo development in the background that doesn’t belong.
ENSEMBLE place their photos on the tables, facing the audience.
LAUREN, HAILEY, BRE, PETER and JULIA begin movement first in Box Step with Easy Stride/Arms. Movements and images then build and overlap, as—
When I was three years old, I had my sippy cup full of chocolate milk stolen by a chipmunk. He snuck into our tent and took it out of my sleeping bag. You think chipmunks are fluffy and cute. They’re not, not after something like that happens to you. You may think this is no big deal, but at three years old, it was a powerful experience.
PETER adds memory/movement. Then, BRE , ANDREW, CONNOR, CHRIS and ALYSE —standing behind or in front of (but not facing)others.
When a new voice enters, the previous voices become somewhat softer.
JULIA (After 10 seconds, overlapping)
When I was 14 my grandmother, my rock, had a stroke. Over the next three days, while she was in a coma, my hopes rose and fell. Finally, she was taken off of life support. My sister and I left the ICU and walked into the waiting room. There, my cousin Vona approached us, holding out an orange and asked, “Do you want an orange?”
HAILEY (After 10 seconds, overlapping)
When I was born, I was addicted to caffeine. My mother jokes that I came out twitching.
She’d been in grad school when she got pregnant with me, so she had pounded a lot of coffee by the time she found out. The doctor told her it would hurt me more if she cut her caffeine intake. (Fetal withdrawal is, apparently, a thing.) Nowadays, I drink coffee by the pot.
LAUREN begins to call out lines from her prompt responses. When JULIA finishes her selection, she moves to stand near (but not facing) LAUREN, and does likewise. Same for HAILEY—until ALL are doing the Popcorn Text structure (one line immediately follows—or even overlaps with—others).
I want to be constantly daydreaming, thinking, understanding, and eventually becoming what I hope to see in my memories/ I want to see the future and learn from it/to be a journalist/teacher/scholar/ a dad/ I want to be a hero/ I wish to daydream to see the future…
I am afraid of God/ I’m afraid of being afraid of disappointing Him/I’m afraid of marriage. I’m afraid of marrying a liar/ I’m afraid of seeing people from my past. I’m afraid they’re watching me/ I’m afraid of rose petals on the ground…
I want to make a difference/ I want to live with a passion/ I am afraid of falling in love. I want to be the one/ I want to be fearless/ I am afraid of disappointing people/ I want to take chances/ I am afraid I will not be enough/ I want to fly like a bird/ I want to be me.
I’m afraid of the future/ I’m afraid of spiders…I’m afraid of spiders…
(Loudly; over the others)
I’M AFRAID OF SPIDERS.
(When ALL stop, curious—)
What if one crawls in my ear while I’m sleeping and lay eggs in my brain?!?!
I am afraid of losing myself/ When I came to Regis I hated my roommate/ I want to travel the world/ I am afraid of losing her forever/ I worry about his health/ I want to be able to truly trust someone.
When I was eight years old I got to meet my childhood icon, Michael Jordan/ I was flown out to Chicago by the Make-A-Wish organization/ I remember being so nervous waiting for him to walk into that hotel event room/ I was given a game-worn jersey beforehand, and when I met him I had him sign it/ Today that jersey is one of my most prized possessions
NO ONE faces another actor; ALL are within two feet of at least two other people, facing outwards 360 degrees.
JULIA steps away from group and begins to speak. ANDREW, CONNOR, ALYSE, CHRIS and HAILEY add their place memories to JULIA’s, slowly building—
There’s a narrow road. On both sides of the road are rows of houses. There is probably junk in the yards and skinny dogs around. At the end of the road on the left there’s a hill. At the top of the hill, on the other side, there’s a steep drop. Below the drop is the highway. It looks like if you jumped off you would fall to the highway far below. But there are layers of shale that will break off and break your fall.
The height and amount of windows makes this home memorable. Hundreds of people also call this place home. Memories coat the brick walls. While it is not luxurious, it has fine amenities. People define this home and make it what it is. This place is a residence hall and has made my experience.
After exiting the parking lot, you walk up the side of the building – that’s when you really begin to see the large building up close. There’s a red path that surrounds the entrance, and after following it for a while you run into the front steps. You walk up the steps to a porch, with white furniture on either side. Once you walk in the front door there’s a comfortable leather couches and fireplaces on both sides of the lobby, and the grand staircase leads upstairs.
When you get of out of the car you notice the meadow to the right. You smell the wild flowers and pine trees. You continue up the path to the trailhead. You pass through trees on each side. You continue up the hill and stop to see a waterfall to the left. You take in the beautiful view.
You jump over my back fence. You see the broken clothesline and the rattling air conditioner. As you go down the alley you see the hole in the fence where the loose dog got out. You turn the corner and see the house with the black shutters and dark windows. As you move closer you see a great crack in the earth. As you climb the hill you see discarded tires and tumbleweeds. Once you reach the top you see the railroad go on for miles.
I love the view on this mountain by Mines at night. The stars twinkle above your head. Below, the city twinkles in competition. It’s always dark and cold when I’m up there. I’m always visiting the same friend. We always drive up late, like fugitives. Sometimes we yell into the night. I don’t know if anyone can hear us. If they can, they don’t know who we are.
Part II: History
LAUREN and CHRIS, together. Sitting in the chair, CHRIS begins the story.
My grandfather is the only father I have ever had. He taught me how to walk. He taught me how to talk. He worked every day of his life to support his family. Even when he was laid off he went out and got a job the next day. He showed me what it means to be a father and a protector. I will never forget the lessons I learned from my grandfather.
When Chris was younger, his mom used to be an accountant. But, she became ill and had to leave the firm. Today, she owns her own housecleaning business. Although she is not a CEO of a multi-million dollar business, she enjoys her job and takes pride in her work. She has passed this onto Chris. From her, Chris has learned to take pride in his work, as well as everything he does.
It is as if they are telling a story together, but not realizing they are telling different ones about CHRIS. CHRIS listens to LAUREN telling his story.
CONNOR comes forward.
When Andrew was three years old he wanted to be a truck driver, like his father and grandfather. He used to sit in the truck with his grandpa and pretend that he was the one operating it.
Andrew comes forward.
To you and me, the number three presents us with very little significance. Connor, on the other hand holds the number three dear to his heart—literally. His story begins began three times: at birth, at six months, and at thirteen years.
He had a fascination with what his family members did for a living. But they did not want him to follow that path – instead he was able to take a different route.
Connor can say he has been dead three times, but that he doesn’t consider that scary. Connor is a Professional Paranormal Investigator and doesn’t get scared easily.
Andrew is the first person in his family to go to college. He now has a passion for journalism and the media and he hopes to have a career in those fields one day.
For Connor, life isn’t defined by an event, but rather the experiences.
ALL have stopped to listen.
BRE, JULIA, LAUREN
Peter plays the ukulele.
PETER, JULIA, HAILEY
Andrew has a four-year-old sister.
Bre used to have a pet rat.
Hailey loves “Evil Dead.”
ANDREW, HAILEY, CHRIS, LAUREN
Alyse used to direct films
ALL (Except CONNOR)
Connor is a professional paranormal investigator
(Stepping apart, facing out)
I grew up on an island.
ALL form a queue—standing behind one another facing forward. With each question, performers step to the right if the response is “Yes,” (or “Agree,” or “True”)— holding up a piece of fabric (yellow or gold) in the right hand—and to the left, holding up a piece of fabric (blue) if the response is “No” or “Not true.”
Those who cannot or do not wish to answer one way or the other, remain in the middle, facing forward. After each question, all step back into the queue.
(As ENSEMBLE members indicate, for themselves, “True” or “Not true”)
I grew up in Denver.
I speak more than one language.
I am an only child.
I have never owned an article of clothing that cost more than $75.
I have a dog.
Both my parents are still living.
I have been east of the Mississippi.
Regis was my first choice.
I have a hobby or passion that is not commonly shared by my peers.
(EACH explains his/her response to this)
I believe that love conquers all.
I have been followed by security when shopping at a mall.
My family has always had enough to eat.
I hold different religious beliefs from those of my parents.
Buying myself a new coat feels like a luxury.
Food, culture and justice are, for me, interconnected and profoundly important.
Part III: Itstory
ALL but those in PETER’s piece split and face UP, R and L—
[PETER’s short Monsanto script here]
(As ENSEMBLE responds)
Some part of my childhood was spent in an apartment or rented house.
I have been the victim of physical violence.
I own an i-pad.
Someone in my family has been a maid or housekeeper.
I have been called a name because of a physical characteristic.
I never think about the color of my skin.
This is my boyfriend. He has lived here 9 years. He is a student. He pays full tuition with no student loans or scholarships. He cannot legally work. He is afraid of being pulled over every time he drives.
CONNOR, CHRIS and PETER come DC. PETER folds before them.
CONNOR & CHRIS
License and registration please. Why are you driving without a license? Step out of the vehicle. Are you a citizen of the US? You’re coming with us.
THEY drag PETER off L. BRE enters.
Two ENSEMBLE members stand upstage, holding a large, rolled scroll. Three (who each carry smaller scrolls) greet one another as neighbors. Another three stand DL, off. As characters begin to move, the scroll is slowly unwound, for the duration of the piece.
ALL freeze as
RECORDING #1-JULIA’s interview with a neighbor about gentrification— plays
HAILEY, ANDREW and LAUREN -the old neighbors-continuously interact in a pleasant way, repeating, rhythmically, the sounds, “chat,” talk,” and “laugh” to represent friendly conversation. ALL pause, as
RECORDING #2 plays
BRE, PETER, ALYSE, and JULIA (Raucously)
ALL freeze as LAUREN steps forward, unrolls her scroll and presents it to the audience to read. One at a time, ANDREW and HAILEY do the same.
BRE, PETER, and ALYSE -the newcomers- begin making their way towards the neighbors’ group, making large movements, taking up space, swaggering and staggering up the “street” while loudly entertaining each other: “Blah! Blah! Blah!”-
ALL freeze as
RECORDING #3 plays
The Blah Blah group forcefully collides with the Chat Talk Laugh group, pushing them fully to the side. ALL freeze as
RECORDING #4 plays
LAUREN, HAILEY and ANDREW regroup and for a tight huddle with their backs to BRE, PETER, ALYSE, and JULIA while looking at them.
All freeze as
RECORDING #5 plays
ENSEMBLE makes V formation facing DC and becoming a chorus.
(As ENSEMBLE responds)
An adult in my family is unemployed or does not have access to adequate health care.
I would be willing and able to spend $200. for a cell phone.
Someone has lifted me up when I most needed it.
HAILEY (Moving C, as J)
Mostly, in everyday life, I’m able to function really well because I’m just like, “Hey, I have ADD, put up with me” and people do.
I don’t have routines and patterns and I don’t organize time, y’know? I organize space. I zone out and nothing else exists because like my mind is completely just in the television and the story and what’s going on–
Mine’s nowhere! I lose track, I seriously lose track of time and of what’s going on. I have no idea what’s happened, I have no idea how much time has passed… I mean, usually, I can control it… but I look up, and fifteen minutes has passed–
My mom calls me lazy all the time because my mind’ll be composing music or I’ll have a song stuck in my head or I’m thinking of a story or just my mind’ll be going crazy in my brain–
–I don’t know where my mind is, it’s just gone… It’s not like anything necessarily distracts me, my brain just goes. It’s gone to this other netherland that doesn’t exist–
–but I’ll just be sitting there not doing anything or, I dunno, zoned out on the Internet, or like, just sitting there and she’ll, she’ll be like, “You don’t do anything,” and, like, my room’ll be a mess, and I’m like, like “Naw, I’m a busybody!”–
My brain doesn’t stop, and I dunno what it’s doing but I’m sure it’s not doing nothing–
–It’s just not– it’s not– it doesn’t happen in the form of me getting shit done.
It’s like stream-of-consciousness on crack.
I’m just relaxed. I’m just so zoned out and relaxed…
I know I’m talking too much… but at the same time, I don’t know how to stop myself.
My crazy mostly manifests physically and in-ter-ac-tio-n-ally… like I hit people a lot.
I literally made a pact with myself that for one class I was not gonna raise my hand… and three minutes in [raises hand repeatedly]. And the teacher’s like, “Do you wanna say something?” and I’m like “Ye-no-yeah– ON PAGE 95! I just wanna point out… and I can’t not say it, I’m SO sorry!” [laughter]
I’m physical. I’ll hug people I’ll like touch people–I wanna mess with your hair–I wanna boop your nose and I’ll end up poking your eye out. And it’s just like… Y’know, people don’t like that. People are like, “GAAAH don’t touch me! I have my bubble, dude.” But I just… I relate through touch.
I’m struggling with it… Because, like, I know I’m dominating conversation and I want it to stop… but I don’t know how to stop it and I’m truly getting embarrassed.
You know when you’re zoned out and your eyes relax and it’s… everything’s kind of blurry. You have this soft focus thing. You can kind of recognize everything around you, but it’s as if you were– as if you were– if you had to focus your eyes again, on something particularly and specifically, it would kind of be this like break of comfort zone. It’d be like a little bit painful to focus your eyes again. That’s what it’s like to try to break that, y’know p–like, peace that I have when I’m zoned out. If I were to speak, I would break that peace and feel a little bit of pain.
I’m not one thought and I’m not one thing and my ADD isn’t like described like one way. It’s like I think a billion different things. I switch. I think creatively and oddly and I love it and it drives people crazy sometimes because I do things like contradict myself. I think more than one thought. I’m bigger than that.
It’s just like an exploration and you lose yourself in the sensation.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. For I am large, I contain multitudes.”
LAUREN and ALYSE move C. with ALYSE front, LAUREN behind, close but not touching, affecting but not forcing. ALYSE rolls down and folds onto herself as—
SOUND: Phone rings.
You have reached the crisis line. My name is Lauren, and I am here to help you.
(Heavy breathing from ENSEMBLE/CHORUS)
Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.
You are not alone.
When did this happen?
Have you reported this?
Have you told anyone?
Did you know the attacker?
This is not your fault.
Describe what you remember.
What he looked like, the sound of his voice.
You have done nothing wrong.
I am here.
This does not change or define who you are.
I am here to help you.
You are not alone.
This is not your fault.
You did not deserve this.
You have done nothing wrong.
You are the victim.
You are strong.
But, you don’t have to be strong.
You can overcome this.
Part IV: Ourstory
(As ENSEMBLE responds)
I know someone who is in a loving, same-sex relationship
I know someone who was adopted. (Cont’d)
There is no cause worth dying for, but many worth living for.
I have stood, at a microphone, before a large audience and spoken about something of great personal significance.
ENSEMBLE creates a line at the local DMV: two chairs facing each other. A TEEN, getting her license—and her MOTHER walk up. The TEEN sits in one of the chairs, which is opposite an employee.
And now, a scene from one of your favorite places, the DMV.
Congratulations on getting your license. I just have a few more questions for you. What’s your height? Eye color? Hair color? And lastly, do you want to be an organ donor?
You shouldn’t be an organ donor. You know the doctors won’t save you if you’re in an accident of some kind because they’ll want your organs.
A DOCTOR is standing behind the pair in line, and interjects.
Actually that’s not true. Not only does that go against the Hippocratic Oath, but us emergency room staff have nothing to do with transplantation. We don’t even check if someone is on the donor registry until after the individual has officially been declared dead.
That’s very nice, but we’re Catholic and it’s actually against our religion.
A PRIEST is standing behind the doctor in line.
That’s not true either. In fact, not only does the Catholic Church support organ donation, but all major branches of Christianity do as well. As does Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and all of the world’s most popular religions.
Well that’s great and everything, but if something terrible were to happen, God forbid, donors aren’t able to have an open-casket funeral, and that’s what we would want, so…
A FUNERAL DIRECTOR is standing behind the priest.
Nope. I’m a funeral director and I can tell you that organ donation doesn’t interfere with an open casket funeral, in fact there are no visible signs of organ donation at the funeral at all.
But my child has some health issues, so she can’t—
Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from becoming a donor.
(Visibly frustrated at this point)
FINE. But the family IS charged when their loved one donates organs.
That’s another myth ma’am. Actually the donor’s family is never charged for donating. All the costs go to the recipient.
Actually, Mom—I do want to be an organ donor.
(Handing TEEN a slip of paper or notecard.)
Thank you! Drive safely!
Then the other people waiting in line each receive a notecard from the employee. As they file out of line, they all form a semi-circle around the stage. There are eight people in this semi-circle.
Every day, tragedies occur. A year from now, this young teenager will die in a car accident. Because of the decision they made to be an organ donor, they will save eight lives. Only one tragedy occurred. Not nine.
ENSEMBLE reads aloud cards and display the names of the organs, in bold print.
Lung. Kidney. Liver. Intestines. Lung. Pancreas. Kidney Heart.
(As ENSEMBLE responds)
Someone saved my life.
I feel ashamed of something I once said.
I have a job and work more than 20 hours per week.
I have held my ground, even when I was afraid, to protect someone who could not protect themselves.
ENSEMBLE stomps: ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three-FOUR.
ALL begin box step (as in opening) together.
This changes, playfully, into Gagnum style. ENSEMBLE makes their way through audience to the back of the house, handing out ribbons, stopping with each question to respond.
(To AUDIENCE and ENSEMBLE)
You have green eyes.
You have brown hair.
You are an above-average driver.
You wondered where you would sleep that night.
You live with an invisible disability or a health condition.
You have been afraid of someone who was bigger and more powerful.
You know how to swim.
You love someone.
You have a phobia.
ENSEMBLE makes their way back to the stage-
You have never been on an airplane.
You have lost someone close to you.
You would like it if more people in the world behaved just like you.
You have lived abroad.
You have a secret.
Each member of the ENSEMBLE chooses one of the photographs on the table and holds it out, towards the audience, sharing a picture of great importance. Some of the photos have already been shown, but now each performer explains his/her connection to that particular image.
CONNOR (Showing a photo)
This is me playing with a stethoscope after my first heart transplant. I was born with cardiomyopathy. I was six months old in 1992 when I received my new heart. Infant heart transplantation was essentially a new technology back then. Eleven years later I went into rejection and was put back on the waiting list – I waited thirteen long months for my third heart. I received the gift of life again in July of 2005. Today, I’m a happy, healthy adult.
LAUREN (Showing a photo)
This is one of my best friends, her name is Paige. When she was sixteen years old, she was raped by a friend’s older brother.
ALYSE, PETER, ANDREW, BRE continue-
These are my baby sisters, Lydia and Julia. One is three, one is eighteen months. Lydia wants to be a “princess knight” when she grows up, and Julia’s favorite toys are books and the piano even though she can’t read or play yet. I’m afraid they’ll grow up to be like me.
CHRIS (Showing a photo)
This is my aunt, Bree. She is in the Air Force. I worry about her being deployed overseas.
JULIA (Showing a photo)
This is my great-grandmother. She had 9 children. 8 of them survived childhood. Her name was Julia.
2-3 AUDIENCE MEMBERS have been previously invited to contribute; the mic is left open for anyone else to use it.
Meanwhile, the cards with audience comments are taken from the baskets and spread across the table, all around the framed photographs. The colored cloth, too, can be mixed in or collected in the baskets. People coming and going can read the cards.