Reflections from Sarah Bebe Holmes – Writer & Director
A little over a month after our opening night I am reflecting on the process of making Arthropoda and a larger question of the value and place of making emotionally intense work.
Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat it – the show is not an easy watch. It’s about mental illness and domestic violence, so there won’t be any rainbows or butterflies. I chose to make work that digs into complex issues, and traumatic experiences, not to re-traumatize survivors or horrify the audience. My goal is to stage work which can show us what the experiences look like from the outside. Seeing it played out in front of us, can allow us to understand it from a safe distance, from the eagles’ viewpoint, to integrate the learning from challenging life experiences in a more full and sensitive way.
We found that a substantial number of audiences experienced personal connection with the work. Sometimes directly, or indirectly through observing the relationships of their parents, siblings and close friends. These issues are all around us. They are dark and uncomfortable. In making this work, there’s a fine line between taking the darker path, while refraining from providing solutions, and just show some of the ways a story can unfold.
“It is not the place of the theatre to show the correct path, but only tooffer the means by which all possible paths may be examined.”- Augusto Boal
In our rehearsal process, we had a therapist on call and robust plans for how to support the artists or any team members if anything became overwhelming.
As we think about touring the work, we’re faced with a new question: How do we support the audience without having the capacity to provide on-call therapists for everyone who attends.
That’s where the idea of being “trauma-informed” comes in. Being trauma-informed means having an understanding of how trauma affects individuals and communities and shaping the way we frame the work so that it avoids re-traumatization and promotes healing. It involves creating an environment that promotes safety, trust, collaboration, and empowerment. We are busy brainstorming new ways we can help our audiences integrate this experience.
Putting yourself out there can be scary
It’s scary putting something out into the world when you don’t know how it will be received. But I’m so glad I didn’t let that fear stop me from creating something that I care so deeply about. I’m also so grateful that now I get to learn even more about creating safe spaces for artists and audiences through working with trauma-informed theater.
Is there something in your life that you’re hesitating over, because you’re unsure how it will be received? Is that keeping you from speaking up or doing something that can make an impact? I hope sharing my experience with creating Arthropoda can inspire you to take the plunge, whatever it may be.
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