This weekend (last night and tonight) is the bi-annual weekend of Self Revelatory Performances for my Drama Therapy Program at CIIS.
In the words of our founder and professor, Renee Emunah, in self-revelatory performance “the issue must be current so that there is an immediacy to this transformation; this immediacy is theatrically compelling and at times riveting. The creation of the scene itself and the transition contained within it imply a kind of transcendence, which the audiences witnesses and applauds.”
(Further information, and that initial quote, is described and taken from here.)
“Self Revs”, as they are affectionately known, have been a presence in my and my classmates CIIS experiences since close to our first day of classes in September, 2009. We had to prepare a short 10 minute self rev as a final project for an introductory Drama Therapy class. We were encouraged to review videos of previous Self Revs from years past. Starting with our first semester, we were invited to attend the final performances and presentations given by older students in the department.
Now, the feeling is different. Self Revs have become our friends, literally and figuratively, and my classmates have begun to step on to the stage to perform their own stories. This is not just a scripted scene that looks at personal history. This is a long-form process lasting between 30-40 minutes, where being part of the audience is just as specific a role as being the one onstage.
Last night, three students went. One performer is my classmate; we worked together last year on the San Quentin Shakespeare Project. Tonight, three more students will perform, including two additional classmates.
There’s something interesting about being in the “in-between” stage of performances, as I am right now. Last night’s stories are on my mind, even though I am physically here at home in Marin. I look forward to tonight’s stories with some anticipation and wonder about the stories of my friends and acquaintances who are performing.
Each performance last night was highly distinct and equally powerful. In self-revs, the performer can choose to be literal or metaphorical about their personal issues. Everyone seemed to go for something in between. For myself, as a reacting and witnessing audience member, I paid attention to my response. I felt more trusting and understanding of the first performer, whom I had previously only really gotten to know in one context. The second performance gave me a similar feeling of understanding, where I only slightly knew the performer through 1-2 contexts and really not on a personal level. The third performer brought their own story right on to the stage. This was intriguing and provocative for me to witness, as I was familiar with some aspects of the story. I also recognized when the performer addressed particularly sensitive and/or important material for them on an individual level.
As of this week, I’ve just begun my own self revelatory performance process. The final performance, in whatever form it takes place, will be performed sometime in July. I am attracted to the idea of having the performance on my birthday (July 18) and using the significance of going on that date in the piece somehow. The first rehearsal brought more immediacy than I anticipated. I’m honestly and wholeheartedly looking forward to continuing the process.