Personal Statement

 
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 emerged from a collision of events and milestones from 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.