During our run at 95 Empire, we are also hosting a variety of talk back events. After yesterday's performance, playwright Erik Ehn was joined by director Kym Moore and director of the Soulographie play Maria Kizito Emily Mendelsohn to discuss the cycle of Soulographie plays and how Yermedea RAW is situated within it.
Erik started the conversation of by explaining his inspiration to write Soulographie as to negotiate the issue of genocide as a global problem, as a policy, and a way of running the world within 17 plays to possibly encompass what cannot be encompassed. Erik sees his plays as to provoke a state of readiness while committing to "productive waiting", a leaning towards meaning. One of his objectives in writing was to figure out how to rescue a sense of joyfulness in the face of crime and violence. Thus, Erik said, Soulographie does not attempt to explain genocide away but to put it into the context of joy, which for him is inherently the space of theatre.
An audience member commented on the palpable mythological dimensions of the piece and wondered how the specificity of historical moments, for example in El Salvador, were dealt with. Director Kym Moore then talked about the research process for the play and how the history of El Salvador actually revealed the history of the entire continent, which the production company then actually compelled to widen the scope of the imagery without losing specific pointers to the culture of El Salvador. In this sense, the production sought to establish a balance between historical specificity and greater trends towards a mythological understanding of these events. Erik added that the plays are freed from the burden of supplying information, which is negotiated as part of the production's education and outreach efforts.
Various audience members commented on the power of the production of Yermedea RAW, specifically the use of the puppets and the variety of beautiful and haunting images such as the cornstalks and the shoes. Kym then talked about the true collaborative effort that went both into the design process and the rehearsal process with the actors to generate these moments.
Another comment by audience members centered around the fact that the production is very aware of the audience members being outsiders to the experience of genocide, that even witnessing is negotiated as a complex issue, whereas the shoes served as the vessels through which the souls of the departed traveled, taking hold of the actors who then relate their stories, which was described as very affecting.