Conceived, Written, + Directed by Susannah Martin
Photos by Elise Kane
Presented by UC Davis Department of Theatre + Dance
May 11 – 21, 2006
The impetus for this project was political, personal, and creative.
After 9/11, I became fascinated with the continuous accusations that all religious extremism existed “over there” – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Europe. I kept hearing that America, by contrast, was the birthplace and paragon of religious tolerance. I had a strong urge to get past propaganda and find out what people were really thinking about religion, belief, and faith. Additionally, after a particularly horrible year of personal family tragedy, I began to wonder how, in the face of calamitous loss, people hold on to their faith.
I come from mixed faith parents who didn’t bring me up anything and yet I have often wondered about my religious heritage and what community I missed out on. I longed for an understanding of some special tradition that deemed me a part of some group. Really, the longing was simple: a desire to fit in. But sometimes I was curious if participating in a weekly ceremony with a consistent community would have absolved me from the feeling that I didn’t belong.
Despite this longing – or perhaps, because of it – theatre has been my church for a very long time. It is the place I fit in. It is the place where I am part of some special tradition. It is where I go to for fellowship, ritual, ceremony, spectacle, and to commune with something higher – something greater – than myself.
So I began to ask myself the question: what would it mean to connect the two worlds of theatre and religion? What would it mean to create a theatrical liturgy? When is theatre spiritual? When is a service theatrical?
This production – devised by myself, the choreographer, the music director, and an immensely talented, giving, patient, and imaginative group of performers – is the result of those questions. I realize that I am trying to ask and answer questions that are too big for one full-length piece. And that there are many, many questions we have not asked at all. But it is a start – an experiment with something greater than myself. And, I hope, one that passes off some modicum of both insight and entertainment – spectacle and reverence.
Written, created, + performed by
Ara Glenn Johanson
Jesse Fineman / cello
Parsa Kamali / right bass
Dave Malloy / piano + mbira
Juliet Shih / oboe
Natasha Tavakoli / djembe + percussion
Choreographer / Kristin Heavey
Composer + Music Director / Dave Malloy
Costume Designer / Victoria Livingston-Hall
Lighting Designer / Daniel Goldin
Set Designer / Javan Cayo Johnson
Sound Designer / Richard Scholwin
Stage Manager / Samantha McBride
Parts of this production were originally presented as a workshop as part of the Shotgun Players Theatre Lab in September of 2004.