Postcards from Home: Reflections on Resistance

Usually the Engagement Spaces for UWaterloo Theatre and Performance program productions are created in the gallery space of the Theatre of the Arts as a multimedia support of the production. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Engagement Space has become part of this wonderful website for scenes from carried away on the crest of a wave. Welcome to this space of reflection!

 

“The action of pushing against resistance is a daily act and can also be considered a necessary ingredient in the creative process – an ally. How we measure ourselves against the natural resistances we encounter every day determines the quality of what we accomplish.”

                  Anne Bogart

 

Postcards from Home: Reflections on Resistance is a creation of the capstone students working on this production. In this virtual space, these students have realized a vision, in part influenced by the premise and themes of carried away on the crest of a wave, and in part by the concept of resistance. The theme of resistance is inspired by Anne Bogart, a New York based theatre creator, from her book entitled A Director Prepares. In preparation for the creation of this space, we read her chapter on resistance and discussed its relevance to our work in the context of the global pandemic. From this process, a central question emerged: How have these student artists resisted the anxiety, depression, and fatigue of working on this production in the time of COVID-19? Here resistance is explored as an experience of survival during the pandemic, but also as a necessary ingredient to the flow of creativity and life. Creating a theatre production during a pandemic is in itself an act of resistance, but in these postcards we are also concerned with how resistance demands thought, provokes curiosity and alertness, and, when overcome, brings about elation.

Andy Houston

Madie Bennett: Finding Daily Control

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For my contribution to the Engagement Space, I aimed to share my honest experience of daily resistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

My approach was to start with an examination of myself over the past year, and think about how I experienced resistance in the way Anne Bogart examined resistance in her article on the subject, that we read for this class. I began by writing out my honest thoughts about my experience in 2020: words are a format that I am comfortable with. From there I worked on creating a visual element to compliment my writing, and I decided on filming myself working using the time-lapse filming format. I choose this format because it could showcase the labour of writing, and the idea of doing schoolwork in a way that would not over-shadow my words. Lastly, I made the decision to let my words speak for themselves by having my writing read in voice-over, as the video played.

My contribution was built on the question of how I showed resistance in 2020. Specifically, I thought of resistance that is shown daily. I have discovered that for me, resistance to the unsettling and uncertain experience of a global pandemic is to find what I can control, through schoolwork, and let that control ground me.

Mira j. Henderson: We’ve Been Here Before

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“Because we are all connected. And, none of us, are alone.”

- carried away on the crest of a wave

 

Over the past year we have been inundated in distance: 6-feet apart, social distancing, mask up, stay home, limited contact...the list goes on. In a time of minimized connection, I have found great comfort in exploring past connections. 

 

Whether it’s pen pal letters between a young girl in France and a young boy in Hamilton at the beginning of the Second World War, or a daily diary of a mother from Rochester, New York in the middle of the Great Depression, I can peek into these other difficult times in history and realize that these people found comfort through connection with others.

 

Through collecting these glimpses of the past to our troubled present, I discovered a sense of hope. Hope, because we as humans can still find pieces of joy in the darkest of times. 

Tony Liu: We Are All Connected

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I hope our audience will realize how hard it has been to make this production during a pandemic. Through resistance to the many challenges we’ve faced, collectively we’ve realized something truly special, and this special quality can be experienced in our performance, but it also exists in the bond we’ve created in working together. My classmates, my instructors, and all who have contributed to this production, have taught me to resist fatigue, depression, and anxiety; they have taught me to see how resistance to such challenges is part of an artistic process, but more so, this attitude is part of a healthy way to experience life, where such challenges are the means by which we grow.

 

The pandemic has reminded us that everyone in the world is connected. This experience of connectedness is a challenge. We must resist the impulse to judge each other harshly; this kind of resistance will lead to the achievement of bonds of friendship and collaboration that will lead to tremendous fulfilment and will last a lifetime.

We are all connected

Abbey MacDonald: Everyone Reacts Differently

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When tough times arise, everyone reacts and copes differently. How each person reacts depends on how their body functions, and this signature reaction begins with the brain. The brain tells all the other body parts how they should react.

 

In my experience, my initial reactions to tough times (or any new experience) mostly depends on my level of anxiety. Typically, if my anxiety is high functioning, my brain will tell the rest of my body to react anxiously, which creates chaos, and negatively affects how I deal with a situation. However, if I mentally resist this anxiety, and focus on logical thoughts, my brain will react in a much calmer manner. 

 

This mini video series demonstrates how the brain and different parts of the body react to this dreaded pandemic, especially the cancellation of events which would’ve brought joy and the reduction of embodied stress.

 

This process has given me some more insight on how my body reacts to something stressful or even new. It has provided me with more tools to what I can do to manage how I react to certain events and I hope others find it helpful and relatable.

May Nemat Allah:

When I Think of You - a Statement of Resistance

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Working on a theatrical production during the pandemic has been a daily battle in resisting anxiety, stress, and fatigue. The fact that we are able to put on this show after months of work, however, is tangible proof that we have won the war. I realized the most powerful tool I have in my arsenal to overcome daily resistances is love. The love I have for my work, my family, my classmates, my instructors, and, most of all, for theatre has allowed me to get out of bed every morning and continue to create.

In her book A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre, Anne Bogart explains that theatre is the act of resistance against all odds. Creating theatre with my ensemble over the last five years has and continues to be the way I create an act of resistance. In creating my Postcard from Home, I wanted to express the intense gratitude, appreciation, and love I have for my program and to theatre. When I Think of You is an amalgamation of videos that I have taken of this journey, videos from the past five years with the Theatre and Performance program, and videos I have received from peers and alumni. When I think of you, and I will think of you often, I will remember this space I was given to resist the sadness of saying goodbye.

Nicole Reid: Stardust and Stories

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This pandemic has been hard, and creating a theatrical production on top of it has made it even more challenging. There are constant obstacles, constant stress, constant fatigue. Managing to get out of bed is an act of resistance in, and of, itself. To combat the overwhelming stress and fatigue this project has caused me, I read. It offers me a brief escape, someplace I can go to feel, to feel anything other than stress. Books have the power to change us, to shape us, to make us more than we are. 

My contribution to the Engagement Space is a series of quotes. These quotes are from books that I have read over the years, some that I even read while working on scenes from carried away on the crest of a wave. These quotes are not always of the most interesting or captivating moments of the books, but they are meaningful. These quotes are not from the scenes I read time and time again, because I don’t need too. They are quotes that I carry with me, in my heart, and pull out when I am struggling, when I need encouragement, when I need some extra help. They offer resistance to the obstacles faced in real life; they help me overcome them.

I hope that seeing these quotes will give others the power to resist whatever obstacles they face. 

Yuru Su: How Colours Tell

Surrealism is a powerful and revealing aesthetic. Historically it is recognized as an artistic response to traumatic global events, and for this reason it is a style that has influenced our production of carried away on the crest of a wave.

 

Due to the pandemic, we cannot create an Engagement Space in the Theatre of the Arts gallery, the way we have done in the past. However, perhaps we can give our audience a similar-yet-different experience of engagement here in a virtual Engagement Space, through a different approach to sensory stimulation. Anne Bogart's writing about resistance outlines the many ways that theatre artists face obstacles and difficulties in the creative process: approached with the right attitude, these problems become catalysts for growth, development, and more creative inspiration. 

 

I choose to use a surrealistic form of painting to express our understanding of the stories conveyed in this play. Painting was a foundational medium for the Surrealist Movement of the early 20th century; in the 21st century, it translates well to social media, and can offer a powerful visual impact. Our audience can potentially see these paintings anywhere and at any time, which is my form of resistance to the status quo of how art can be trapped by ownership and thereby inaccessible.

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Click each image to expand.

Qing Wen: A Special Delivery

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In my contribution to this space, I want to express my love and gratitude to some special people in my life. I have chosen the form of a postcard because I want my family and friends to receive a gift that they can actually hold on to, and treasure for a long time; I want them to have something that will not disappear with the next generation of phones or computers. I will send a series of postcards similar to the one in this video to my friends and family in China through a WeChat software called the WeChat mailbox; this company will make these cards, and mail them to their homes. This is a small token of my appreciation for all of the support and encouragement my friends and family have given me during my seven years at the University of Waterloo. I really want them to see and enjoy my last performance, and know that I could not have done this without them.