In this essay, I argue that in a society oversaturated with images and narratives of racial trauma, creating theatre for social change requires more than staging minoritarian bodies with the aim of making their trauma visible. Contemporary oral history performance practitioners must face the challenge of how to make the hypervisible meaningful. Drawing on my own production The (M)others, an oral-history performance adapted from the narratives of Bay-Area women who have lost family members to police violence, I present a methodology that works to disrupt the ways contemporary audiences are invited to passively consume, rather than actively intervene in, acts of racial trauma.
This article explores what new ideas about feminism emerge when we shift our gaze from the stage to the quotidian and invisible processes of theatre-making. It asks us to consider how might our artistic praxes speak to our politics, beliefs, and identities? How can we mobilize the creative process as a daily rehearsal for our feminist futures? To do this, I reflect on my own process of creating The (M)others; a community-engaged oral history performance based on testimonies of families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police. Specifically, I explore the mundane sites of the staged reading, talkback, and rehearsal process as spaces of quiet revolution, rife with feminist potential for those who listen closely.
Mindfulness, as it is popularly practiced today, is the cultivation of an embodied awareness of the moment you are in; where you are, what you are doing, what you are feeling and sensing. For those whose bodies often go unmarked, this call to an embodied consciousness may seem like a liberatory act, however, for bodies of color, a hyperawareness of the body marks everyday life. For marginalized people, moments of mindfulness do not always feel liberatory but occur in response to the casual cry of “Look, a Negro!” As Frantz Fanon so famously recounted in his book, Black Skin, White Masks. Such moments facilitate a critical attunement to the body based on an awareness of and embeddedness within the oppressive sociocultural matrix in which they find themselves. In this essay, I ask how do we, as performance studies scholars cultivate critical mindfulness in our approach to how we teach ethnographic research? How can we, in our pedagogical practice encourage students to return to the body in a way that encourages mindfulness not just as a means for personal liberation but to develop a critical social consciousness? Drawing on lessons I have learned in the classroom, I outline a series of exercises taken from my ethnodrama courses that I use to cultivate a mindful approach to the ethnographic process based on relationality and embodiment.
We conducted interviews with over 30 patients, 6 doctors, and 2 social workers in the United States and Canada. We spent two days shadowing each patient, and conducted two-hour interviews with health care professionals.