As we are less than a week away from the Soulographie: Our Genocides festival at La MaMa E.T.C. in New York City, we are reflecting on our journey once more and what we have learned, including from the very insightful talk back that followed our last show at Boston's Factory Theatre on Sunday, 28 October 2012.
Noe Montez, Professor for Latin American Performance at Tufts University, was joined by playwright Erik Ehn and director Kym Moore to talk about Yermedea RAW within the context of Soulographie. Erik started off by explaining that the idea for Soulographie was born out of the question of how to persevere though overwhelming crisis and damage. Noe noticed that through all regimes and oppression, women have been made into bystanders or the oppressed on a variety of levels as children have been stolen out of their wombs and they themselves have been subjected to often grotesque forms of sexual torture, thus being lost in an atmosphere of chaos and senselessness that also often came through in the play and the performance. Erik responded that the mission of genocide is to attack motherhood and to destroy knowing itself. He said that it was in fact his trip to El Salvador in the 1990s that served as the beginning of Soulographie as evolving around the issue of knowing. He related a story in which the army in El Salvador had killed almost an entire village and had buried the bodies in the center of the town, claiming the mass murder had never happened while making the fact that it had happened the center of the continuing life there. Thus, genocide is concerned with a reorganization of knowing into power structures. Noe added that while the official end of violence in El Salvador is dated in 1991, the violence does continue in regard of the organization of forgetting, bearing similarities to the Argentine Dirty War, as many of the country's Disappeared are only now reunited with their families. Kym emphasized that these instances also tie in to the 500-year-old history of genocide in the entire continent of Latin America, which was the inspiration to not only work through the Western mythological figures of Yerma and Medea but to also include indigenous mythology like the figure of Pachamama in order to establish this greater framework.
Noe then focused on the story and presentation as being visceral experiences with visual and aural moments that were like "a punch to the gut". He felt that the play was structured from image to image to which Erik responded that the play is backing away from you and leaves you in confusion to let you yourself figure things out: "Confusion is my happy place." Kym disagreed and stressed that she is in love with how images communicate, while she also stressed the importance of music and sound as well as the physical choreography to create these moments of the images. Kym then paid respect to Ellen Stewart, founder and director of La MaMa E.T.C., and how she influenced Kym's understanding of theatre as communication, which transcends languages and cultures. Erik's play was in this sense a challenge to Kym since it is all images to begin with, which let her revisit some of her questions about how we communicate and how we can know something, all in all trying to make a happy marriage between confusion and knowing.
Closing, Noe asked about the collaboration between Erik and Kym. Erik expressed that it takes a lot of trust to give the play away but also that this is the nature of the play cycle, which goes beyond something personal although all his writing is very personal experiences and his biography: but he loves to give away something of meaning to himself. As the playwright absents himself, the script is also meant to fall away as the production is the actual shape of the piece. And eventually, the production will have to fall away as well as the audience has to take over the piece and fill it in. Kym stressed that from the beginning the piece has been bigger than everybody involved, gesturing beyond the page and beyond directing.