By Angelica Recierdo, inside columnist, The Annotated Muse
When you reach your senior year in college, you either want to do everything or nothing. I’ve found that I’m the former as I go to any and every event that piques my interest and don’t really consider how it will fit into the flow of my school and work week.
When I stumbled upon the opportunity to participate in a student-led performance with activist performer Tim Miller, I jumped at the chance. Why not?
Before “Body Maps,” the only times I had been in Ryder Hall were for a required advanced writing class and once to eat at Subway. Now, my third time was in the actors’ studio in a room full of mostly-younger theater majors, and I was definitely the only one not majoring in a creative art. Our breathing exercises at the beginning of the first day’s workshop were the loudest I’ve ever had to be in any of my classes. I almost walked out the moment one of our warm-up exercises prompted us to split into two groups and walk toward one another acting out orgasms in a shoulder-to-shoulder line. I stuck around because something told me that if I’m bothered by the important and fearless work coming out of that room, then that’s probably a good thing.
In a circle of 16 other 20-somethings, the whole world was unpacked. Everything from heartbreak to body image, race to sexuality was thrown into this pile of stories, and no one flinched.
Over the course of a week, I witnessed some of the strongest and most raw people I’ve ever come across bare their truths before a group of strangers.
On sheets of paper bigger than me, we mapped our bodies like they were lands we governed and knew shortcuts around. I labeled my bell-pepper nose, my first and only sunburn on my shoulder from the Dominican Republic, the anemic blood that runs through my veins and my writing as the fire in my belly. Looking back, I’d add my hands that have cared for people at in the first and last minutes of their lives.
In my performance, I brought a comatose patient back to life by treating her as more than a human being. She starts to stir when I talk about her life outside of the hospital as a mother, wife, etc. By the end of the piece, I am out of my scrubs and holding her face as I look into her eyes and see her for all that she is.
At the beginning of the show, we completed this statement: “These are the shoes of a…” and ended with a different completion of the same statement. I began with “nurse who is not just a nurse” and ended with “creative healer.” The space between those two statements contains every internal battle I’ve had thus far about my life’s purpose.
The tribe we formed will never be replicated – the people in it will grow and change, and so will the work we created. I’ll always look back on this week in awe that 18 strangers sacrificed every night one week to come together and expose the deepest secrets about themselves in the name of art. We need to keep having these conversations and carving out the time in our lives to create. The space outside our comfort zone should be visited more often, because that is where honesty lives. I’ve promised myself to keep doing the things that surprise me and scare me, even if I’m doing it alone. I’ve promised to live every day like I have a bucket list to follow or a New Year’s resolution to uphold.
I’ve always been mesmerized by story slams. I went to a competition in the beautiful Coolidge Corner Theatre last year and was struck by the performers’ resonating strength and truth. I went to a workshop and attended smaller slams, and I think I’m ready now to do my own. I’ll look out at the audience and imagine my “Body Maps” group sitting out there, patiently listening to my story, never rushing or judging or prompting. The same respect and validity given to every single one of us is my permanent reminder to cherish my stories and those of others.
-Angelica Recierdo can be reached at Inside@HuntNewsNU.com.