The Transformational Power of She, A Choreoplay About Violence Against Women

 

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES! If you get a chance, please go see SHE.  The next showings are on October 20-21, 2017 in New York City.  Tickets and information are available here.

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This is not a play that lectures or pontificates. Its not a play that seeks our compliance or our allegiance. It is a play that does what needs to be done. It is a play that tells stories.

Just two nights ago I saw the production of She in New York City. Written and choreographed by dancer Jinah Parker and directed by Phaedra Michelle Scott, She is a life-changing theatrical experience. You can not watch this play and not be shocked into a reappraisal of your world, compelled by the clarity and passion embodied by She’s actors and dancers.

I’ll say at the outset. Purely from a frame of theater craft, this is a powerfully conceived and staged production; on par with any I have seen over the last twenty years in New York, and I have seen some universally acclaimed theater. She never falters, never strays from the central power of its stories, never fails to take turns and make choices that resonate as human.

Jinah Parker

Termed a choreoplay, choreographer and writer Jinah Parker incorporates dance in service of a range of crucial storytelling functions. Dance is the release valve for the tension in the room. Dance is the central metaphor for our collective humanness. Dance offers in combination with words, music, projections and staging a crucial form of expression for darkness and dying, for living and resiliency, for our universal connection and for our resolve to truly live regardless of what has come before. Dance in She is not in service to the stories, it is the parts of these stories that can never be done justice simply by words.

This is a play about rape and many other forms of unspeakable violence suffered by millions of women worldwide. It is portrayed in deeply human terms through the stories of women both known and unknown to us. These stories, which plum the depths of human suffering, carry a central message about human beings and trauma. That wherever there is brutality, the murder of the human spirit and the savagery of the our darkest human failings, there is also the possibility of a journey to resilience, joy and celebration.

Be prepared to be surprised by She. Not only by the intensity of what violence means to the human beings who experience it, but by the tiny details that shock us into the eerie familiarity of their stories. There are moments in the play, words, really just words, that trigger memories for each individual audience member. My mother, my grandmother, my father, myself, we all rose unbidden with some small detail shared. I will not confess my family’s scars or my own failings here, except to say that She is a mirror held up to each of us. It ties together the smallest passing comments, sometimes decades apart, which point to catastrophic suffering in the lives of the people seated around our own dining tables.

Witnessing She, there is not a person who will not say, on some level, in some way, now I understand. Now I see the patterns. Now I see what I have willfully hidden from myself because its too harsh a reality to hold. But hold the reality of rape and abuse in our own families, our own histories, either as abused or abusers, we do, in one way or another.

And so, we come to the central power of She. As Micheal Kasdan wrote recently, “Using art to tell these difficult stories, stories that are are so raw and difficult that mere words often can’t convey them, is one of the most impactful ways to change our culture.”

This is not a play that lectures or pontificates. Its not a play that seeks our compliance or our allegiance. It is a play that does what needs to be done. It is a play that tells stories.

Stories we all already know.

I only hope more of us will see it.

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