A couple of Sundays ago, I had my first official public performance in Britain, and the first ever in five years. It was all part of Emergency! at The Y, a periodical showcase of new talent in arts, theatre, music and general entertainment in Leicester. I had already attended as an observer, and was really fond of the concept: sharing your work with an audience, perhaps as a rehearsal or perhaps as a result, open to honest feedback and in constant conversation with your colleagues, your crowd and your compere, getting to know each other and helping each other expand and improve.
Previously handled by KLiC, this was the first time Naomi Peart and the theatre directly managed Emergency! at The Y, so the organiser was as nervous as yours truly. There’s a first time for everything, and this was hers and this was mine. We were together on this. Besides a few rookie mistakes (Where’s the coffee? Where’s a competent technician? Where are we and what are we meant to be doing? Where’s’ the extense event advertising you so dearly promised?), things went hunky dory and you could tell Peart and crew — featuring the stunning and shining Kirsty Munro as mistress of ceremony — have a passion for making things happen and provide a safe venue for free expression. On that we can agree.
“The donkey goes in front”, as we would say back home; so I opened the evening with Comfort Zoned, my multi(eh?)media storytelling extravaganza. Silly me and silly tech didn’t allow it to be as multimedia as initially expected. Never trust tablets to present audiovisual material, and never underestimate the power of USB/external drives. I did and I did, so the visuals I so intrincately crafted (on Paint.net and PicMonkey) were not to be seen and in the end it was just me, a spotlight and the music. The feedback was positive and the show seemed to work better this way, with people solely focusing on my words and sound without being overwhelmed, leaving images to their imagination. I was nervous and went too fast on a couple of stories (particularily the fast-paced ones), but it was amazing to let people immerse in my world and connect with all these characters and their circumstances. People liked “First Crush” and “Somewhere in Lanzarote” the most. The power of self-identification was there, and so was the power of getting to know the other. A particular feedback note I liked said Comfort Zoned was “[e]njoyable, humorous and enlightening to issues of being a woman and living through particular times and ages”. For this, I’m forever grateful and willing to polish, enhance and keep presenting the show wherever possible.
Next, we had Dori Kirchmair, an enchanting Austrian who has even presented a TEDx Talk, and this is technically what she did. To those of us who have always wanted to go to one but never had the time, place or money, it was a wish come true. Her presentation, Resonance, was as scientific as it was metaphorical, on the ways we connect with people, the environment and our own feelings. About how something so small and “insignificant” can pluck our strings and retune our psyche like an instrument. About how our brains are like a party where all our sensations convey, a bit like a grown up version of Pixar’s Inside Out. A night out where everyone around you is a dickhead, but everyone around you is you, and you have to acknowledge yourself and your dark sides to be able to see the light. Own yourself, calibrate yourself and get going well-tuned back into life.
Of course, you could achieve that with a bit of meditation if that’s your thing, and Rose Hale‘s Transitions helped greatly. Her series of nature photographs present changes through seasons and changes through life, insects evolving and plants ageing and growing. Drastic changes we barely notice until they hit you, going as softly as animated transition effects and tenuous minimalist music. Hale’s slideshow brought peace to some of us, while scaring some younger audiences. Is it because the idea of growing and approaching death every day is still alien to them? Is there something inside they just want to avoid? It might be my Mexican morbid nature, growing up surrounded by sugar skulls and black humour poetry, but once you take for granted that life comes and goes for everything and everyone — you, me, butterflies, trees, your dog, your mum, your children, the Sun, foxes, grand civilisations, planet Earth, the stars, the Universe — there’s a sense of tranquillity that makes any ordeal easier to carry. Surfing on the tides of change.
Speaking of surfing, Lindsey Warnes Carroll took us on a holiday, threw us in the pool and made us dive to the deep end of self-doubt and literature nerdom as part of her 40 Odd Tales. We read out quotes from the Beckett Bucket, witnessed her and Munro go through a session of Speed Pinter, heard her recite in perfect redneck inside the Tennessee Williams Tunnel, and could taste the increasingly-bittersweet cocktails of her stages in life. Of our stages in life. Make the games and dynamics larger, and you could create a more personal Dismaland; but instead of worrying about paparazzi and capitalism, cringing at negative reviews from everyone you’ve ever known as read by a coconut secretary, drowning on a small bucket and being attacked by tinfoil and bubbles.
Accidentally on purpose, there was a leitmotif across all four performers. We may or may not have known each other before, but we had more things in common than our fondness of the stage and our gender identification. We all spoke about changes, about not being the same once a thing, a moment, a milestone in time and space happens. Stumbling upon all creatures big and small, the devil and the angel in the details, turning the page of a poisoned book and never going back to what we used to know. Trees losing leaves, butterflies departing from their cocoons, connecting with our truth in our emotions, reaching stages that looked so far from us before and now make us forget there’s anything else. I ignore if Naomi went for a general topic when she arranged the line up or if all submissions were accidentally connected, but it worked in flawless harmony.
The next edition of Emergency! at The Y will happen on the 13th of December. If you want to get involved, contact Amy Christer on AChrister at leicesterymca dot co dot uk as soon as you can. It will be great to see you on stage this time.