Personal Statement

 

Why was this project made?

You [the artist] are compelled…into dealing with whatever it is that hurts you…You must find some way of using this to connect you with everyone else alive…You must understand that your pain is trivial except insofar as you can use it to connect with other people’s pain; and insofar as you can do that with your pain, you can be released from it. And then hopefully it works the other way around, too; insofar as I can tell you what it is like to suffer, perhaps I can help you to suffer less.
— James Baldwin

This project was made…

  • to help me regain my voice, by speaking out about something that previously silenced me. Singing is my profession and part of my greater purpose in life; in order to share my voice freely, I need to be able to sing from this place of former silence.

  • to perform powerful music that releases my voice, gives me artistic freedom, and engenders catharsis, strength, and a sense of wholeness and connectedness.

  • to make a space in which my voice is not constrained by ideals of beauty, but can exist in its raw state: shouts, croaks, groans, and extended techniques that reflect the full range of my being.

  • to give voice to other survivors, to help them release their pain, trauma, and silence, and to speak about something that is often unspoken.

  • to bring a greater understanding of the healing process in the hope that those who see the project will seek body-based healing; and, more broadly, to de-stigmatize therapy.

  • to create a non-verbal space for emotions that can’t be accessed through language, where the voice is located. 

  • to unite “victims of trauma” (which is virtually everyone alive) across different adverse experiences—rape, abuse, accidents, war, oppression, and violence. 

  • to behold and reveal our common humanity.

  • to unite my own communities: my music community, and my RAINN community.

  • to feel good again; to embrace joy; to reclaim my full aliveness, authenticity, congruence, and be the most intact version of myself available. As author/activist/speaker Adrienne Maree Brown says, “feeling good is not frivolous: it is freedom.” 

  • to bring together an audience-community who can join in ongoing, powerful, and honest conversations about the healing process, and to fight the isolation that perpetuates trauma in the first place.

  • to make space for the whole breadth of emotional spectrum.

Who is it for?

My intended audience is both victims of all kinds of trauma, as well as the general new-music audience. These are the two communities I would like to bring together within myself, and in the physical world. I will specifically invite the RAINN community, and naturally, the National Sawdust audience. Through college residencies, I will also reach college-age students.

It is my hope that audiences come because they have a family member, friend, or acquaintance who is going through trauma recovery and they want to understand and provide support. Healing, growth, and change are inspiring no matter what the story is. We are providing a place for release, and coming together.

How does it work?

It works by attending any—or all—of the concerts at National Sawdust. Audiences simply have to show up ready to experience and release. I will provide resources in the forms of panel discussions, podcasts, and printed lists of therapeutic modalities, trauma support groups, etc. at all the concerts.

The benefits of attending can be many: on the surface level, an audience can simply enjoy a concert and get to know the composers I am presenting and their music. The pieces performed on each concert will make a visceral, emotional impact, and audiences will leave with a feeling of connection at least to the music. Additionally, I hope they come away with an understanding of PTSD and its effects on the mind, body, and spirit. I hope it removes at least some of the shame that people carry with them about their trauma, PTSD, or seeking therapy and support. And finally, I hope they leave knowing where to seek support by connecting audiences to resources out in the world.

Why is it unique?

These concerts are theatrical, but not non-narrative. There is no message to be received, nor any political agenda. The concerts showcase many different points of view, and will tell pieces of many individual stories. We gather together to truly ask questions—not to shout an agenda at an already weary and self-protective audience. I am not playing a character: I am myself. It is autobiographical, a memoir. Without an agenda, we open up time to question and to truly look, to thoroughly look, so that we might see and understand something in a new way. It is an environment that embraces complexity and contradiction. 

How did this project come into being?

This project emerged from a collision of personal and professional events and crises in September 2013: 

  • The ten-year anniversary of my assault, which I had stayed silent about

  • The closing of the statute of limitations in the state of Michigan, where the assault took place;

  • A high-stress and high-profile performance, the very first Resonant Bodies Festival; 

  • Acute vocal loss, followed by a diagnosis of bilateral vocal cord paresis. 

Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score illustrates how trauma manifests as a feeling of separateness, and healing resides in its opposite: integration, unification, and wholeness.

This project is the first creative work I have originated, and it is highly personal. I knew it would be a challenging undertaking, but I vastly underestimated the degree of challenge—and transformation—that it would bring to my life, both personally and artistically.

I began talking with this group of collaborators as far back as 2015. I fundraised and had the first full workshop in May 2018, and another workshop that September. At that point I hit a wall: the piece—intended to be an evening-length work of new compositions and devised theater, fixed and tourable—felt preachy, dissatisfying, and disconnected. As the leader of the project, I didn’t like it and didn’t know how to fix it. My advisors and collaborators urged me to feel what I wanted and needed, but when I sat with that question, I got silence in response: no one was home. It actually triggered feelings from my assault 15 years ago: shame, numbness, and paralysis. 

Eventually I realized what was missing, what I needed and could not move forward without: DESIRE. It was the part of myself I blamed for causing the violent assault and subsequent suffering. Coping as many trauma survivors do, I had bound and gagged my desire to gain a sense of control in my life. I learned how to live cerebrally. Had it not been for this project, which challenging me to be a creative leader, I probably could have lived without this part of myself for another 15 years. 

I had lost myself in this project by trying to please others and from an overwhelming sense of duty to my collaborators, funders, and the community of sexual violence survivors. I was feeling the opposite of desire: obligation, guilt, and worry. The only way forward out of this stuck place was to feel what I wanted and needed. Desire, creativity, and leadership are intertwined. This new iteration of the project—as a series of unfixed, ongoing concerts—is what I want and feel on-fire about. I am so thrilled about the music we will make and share, and I am also thrilled to truly integrate separate parts of myself in one place: vocalist and performer; curator and producer; victim advocate and public figure. It unifies separate selves, public and private, both singing together. If the response to trauma is to control and separate, this is its opposite: to release and unify.