Journal

Dana’s Michel’s YELLOW TOWEL: Veiled and Vulnerable Mar 8, 2016

by Shontina Vernon

Where am I in this?

She is in it for herself.

That’s not a bad thing.

 

I almost didn’t write this post. I sort of left the theatre after Dana’s Michel’s YELLOW TOWEL wanting to rid myself of the experience of having seen it. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic. I wanted to un-see it in the presence of those I’d seen it with (preposition left here intentionally). Living in Seattle for me has been such a steady uncomfortable descent into a realm of whiteness that is generally eschewed where I’m from, that I try to ignore that gaze as much as possible in the realm of my work and imagination. I have a visceral, nauseous response to whiteness encroaching on my storytelling space. I feel it like fight or flight, for which usually I lean into the latter. “Why is it necessary for me to see them seeing this?” I thought. I live this. My digestive system is familiar with the processing of:

 

paste

chalk

milk

cream

bananas.

 

All things symbolic of erasure and race, and the chaos of assimilation and explanation. And while there were moments in the show that were intriguing and engaging and humorous, I mostly was left with the question of why I needed to be present for this art to happen. What was in it for me? (yes…sounding hopelessly American).

 

Don’t get me wrong, I dig experimentation. And if there was a single valiant moment in the evening, it was in the recognition that just another black woman venturing out on the edge of psyche, willing to lay bare the complications and compilation of her identity is in a sense a victory. That Michel was finally willing to walk bravely into that space for herself, without commentary, is its own revolution. Avante garde has long been the territory of European male artists with nothing but time, ideas, and money on their hands. As a performer, it was bold. It was naked, in some places quite literally. And yet, it was equally veiled…for me. Perspective, point-of-view, point-of-entry – all things we take to heart when making art. I knew not where to stand.

 

Perhaps, we could touch and agree in the catharsis. Maybe whatever healing in the making of the work Michel arrived at, I can share in, just because I sat there. But umm…I wouldn’t do it again.

 

Shontina is a writer/musician/interdisciplinary artist with roots in the South, now working and living in the Pacific Northwest. Her plays have been presented regionally and nationally. In 2016, she will present a new experimental work, titled HER BLACK BODY POLITIC at On the Boards in Seattle as part of the 2016 Northwest New Works Festival. The work explores the intersection of race/class/gender through movement and music.


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