This study abroad program allowed me to see different forms of performance displayed in ways I hadn’t been exposed to before. I was able to see plays with song, dances, singing, one person shows, readings, and experimental productions. Being exposed to so many different art forms allowed me to reflect back on my work as an artist and allowed me to understand what I feel works for me and what didn’t. I hadn’t known how many different adaptations you could have of shows we all know such as Shakespeare shows and ancient Greek stories. This experience was also enhanced by the way the city changes during the festivals. Since these are international festivals there are people from all over the globe coming to perform on these stages. There are many shows listed and so there are people who come out to promote their shows. The streets were filled with people in costumes making attempts to promote their show, as well as with people who were bringing street performing for the festival. The city truly transforms into a city dedicated to the arts and because of this I found myself feeling creatively charged but also occasionally creatively overwhelmed due to all the different creative outlets.
This program turned out to be more challenging than I had assumed. There are so many different productions that we were watching and they were all very different in style. My experience in participating in theater as well as watching theater I have only been exposed to a very specific form of theater. It would follow the genres and traditional styles of the play and though a show could be thought provoking I was never fully taken out of my comfort zone. This festival was truly my first experience with experimental theater and I didn’t actually know that experimental theater existed. There were plenty of moments I caught myself not understanding the purpose of a show, or the purpose of an actor’s or director’s choices. I have learned that I don’t necessarily enjoy one person shows, loose adaptations of Shakespeare, as well as shows which are satiric spins on serious topics. That being said, as I reach the end of this program I am beginning to appreciate more the shows that I did not enjoy because it allows me to sit with a show and identify what aspects I don’t like. This has inspired me to sit down and think about topics that I can write about and that others can relate to because the negative points that I identify in the less enjoyable shows, make me appreciate the positive points in the more enjoyable shows more.
Being from the city, I don’t usually get to see a lot of nature or medieval architecture. Being in this different environment allowed me to walk through a new setting and see new people, whether that be on our trip to the highlands or on my walk back from shows seeing buildings like the castle or buildings decorated with vines and flowers, or even standing on a high place in Edinburgh and looking onto the city. None of these places were directly related to my writing in context, but the new environment made me feel free enough to think and feel motivated to write. I would come back from a show and walks through the city and feel motivated to write about different experiences that I have had.
Monday, August 13th. I went to see a show called Freeman today. This show tackled the history of mental health in institutions such as jails and hospitals that those of Afro/Caribbean decent have had to deal with for centuries. It followed the stories of five people who have endured abuse by police, fellow inmates, and the workers or people around them who failed to do their job and who acted on their racist views. This play used a physical performance, where the actors would create objects such as a car with their bodies, and used each other as props to display this story. The story went all the way back to William Freeman, whose story dates back to the 1800’s and moved through time to eventually get to present day, including the story of Sandra Bland and the horrible treatment she endured through police brutality. These actors displayed emotions in a way I have never seen before, telling each of these stories as though it was their own. The history of these injustices are maddening. This is by far the most beautifully written and moving piece I have ever witnessed and is hands-down my favorite show at these festivals so far (edit: my favorite show at the festivals, still).
Some other shows I enjoyed were:
Hot Brown Honey, a show on feminism, especially feminism in the case of women of color. The women in the show displayed their different talents like dancing, singing, rapping, and more while sharing word about their challenges and how they have had to overcome sexism and racism in their everyday lives.
Romeo and Juliet, an unusual twist on the Romeo and Juliet we are all so used to seeing. This show was done by an all female cast (named the Handlebards) who played more comical roles in this show. Romeo and Juliet were finally portrayed as children (because they are!!!!) but the show was engaging and made me laugh the entire time. I think that it is hard to alter Shakespeare, and not many people are successful at it. The show was just a little clunky, there were some trip ups, but they kept it together and it was absolutely hysterical.
Soweto Gospel Choir: This gospel choir joined the festival from Africa, with moving tributes to Aretha Franklin and Nelson Mandela, their voices were jaw-dropping. The artists in the show did not only sing, but they included instrument playing and dancing as well. The show was so lively and even at the slowest parts of the song I could not look away from the stage. At the end they had everyone in the theater standing up singing along to the song “Hallelujah” and it was such a powerful environment to be in.