Her Personal Is Political

A critical review of Rosy Simas’ We Wait in the Darkness, By Jennifer Arave

Red Eye Theater

July 12th, 2014

A letter is being read, not by an actor, but its live, right there in the front row by who I believe is a relative and turns out to be, Rosy’s mother, Laura Waterman Wittstock.

The letter is from a relative, though I am unsure of exactly who, an aunt maybe? It is a story about the writer and how mischievous she used to be, and the letter implies Rosy is also like this, and she inherited it from the writer. Inheritance and nurture. The letter implores, teach Rosy the two cultures.

Opening: a photo of an older, historical, but pretty house is projected stage right. Rosy, sitting with her back toward the audience, shirtless, is undulating, tightening, loosening, rolling her back to the right, to the left, rolling up and rolling down. She appears headless as she is bent forward. The lights are low and it is hard to see. I believe this image, I go with it, this headless back moving through the space and the body that goes with it as it is thrown to the left, elongated, stiff and still with legs for the first time. Then back again to the rolling back. Then upstage and downstage the back goes, dragging with it, the body. Her hands appear and touch and prod her back, searching for something located behind her, along her spine, and deep in the muscle.

I see Rosy’s body, her skin. I’ve known Rosy for awhile now, but I have never known her back like I am seeing it today: Rosy’s brown body, her brown back, all her skin. Rosy is brown all over.

When I meet you, I might tell you about my family, my brothers, my sisters, my mom and dad. I had a Great, Great (and more Greats) Uncle who was secretary to George Washington. George Walker. Never heard of him? Figures. But with Rosy, we all know a little, if even completely off mark, about her family history. Seneca. The history of Native people. The plight of the American Indian. The political and the historical. Rosy’s family. Why when I watch Rosy’s work do I feel compelled to bring what little I really know about Native Americans to the show? Why don’t I let go and let Rosy talk.

Rosy finishes her dance, rises and turns to put on a white, 1800’s style dress. History. She zips up the back, similar to the movement in the previous back dance. Is Rosy going back it time theatrically, or is she embodying time, absorbing history? She starts to move while the projection moves in to a close-up to the house window. A voiceover of a conversation, in what I assume is the Seneca language, begins to play. I am compelled to believe it is female relatives sitting at the table, talking. I imagine preparing dinner. The projected image fades away to a group of women standing in white dresses like Rosy’s. This dress holds significance for Rosy. Are these her relatives, part of her backbone, the story behind her? Every image of an American Indian I see, from this moment forward, I say to myself, “This is no random American Indian, this is Rosy’s family!”

The use of film in this piece worked well. When the screen went dark, we weren’t left with a gaping blank silver screen, like empty eyes staring back at you, but an aesthetically stunning cloth (paper?) panels, rich in texture with geometric and bulky folded lines that served to define and add depth to the flat space of the Red Eye and add a subtle 3D-effect to the projected images and films.

Rosy used film to alter her varied perspectives on her relationship to the subject: Rosy dancing beside the screen, Rosie’s image contained in film along with superimposed images of nature; but even more, land, not just any land, but maybe homeland. Rivers, leaves, grasses; she dances through and over and interacts with the landscapes. At another point she stood behind the white cloth screen, alone, a slightly abstracted blob of a Rosy, presented as subject too. And then she came out dressed in a sleek black dress dancing just center stage, repeating elemental themes from her first dance. Again, her hands on her back pulsing across the map of her body and palpating her history; the spine of her existence, mapping upwards as if through a timeline.

To interrupt this thought, before I forget to say this, the entire piece is upheld and truly supported by a beautiful, well-crafted and dare I say the container of the emotional mapping of the piece; the sound score, by Francois Richomme. Not trying to hand out any awards, but this composer has invested in this process with Rosy and has successfully cross-blended the intent of Rosie’s work with the uninformed ambiguity of the audience and has built a structure where a form of implicit understanding can take place. Now, back to Rosy…

She walks toward the back of the screen and pulls out a rather large map, a map that is also projected on the screen so we, the audience, can follow along. (I recognize this map from the concurrent installation by Rosy Simas at the All My Relations Gallery on Lake and 14th, it goes into depth about the reservation and the alterations that have happened to the land.) Rosy begins to divide up the map. The rips and tears following along darkened boundary lines. She removes and organizes plots as they are shaved away. The sound of the paper adds viscerally to her intent to get the task done in a precise, clear and unemotional manner. After the piles are all divvied up, Rosie begins to give the plots away to random and unknowing audience members. Nothing romantic or dramatic, just “Here, this is yours.” Left on stage are a few small piles of plots left to either divide up further, or for Rosy to keep.

A statement about funding: Working without money is admirable, playing by your own rules and never bending to others desires, preferable. However, this was a work that, I believe, funding built. Money for materials, for time, for Rosy to surround herself with the talent she deserves to uphold and filter her concepts and visions through. We don’t make work in a vacuum and the best choreographers and creators need the best tools that they can get their hands on and the best talent in order to move forward. Congratulations Rosy, you have worked long, hard and diligently and have created a precise and sweetly provocative performance and installation.

 

 

Jennifer Arave

Choreographer and creator: Rosy Simas

We Wait In The Darkness

Red Eye Theater

July 12th 2014

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