audience members at the Baker Ripley Community Center; photo by Paul Hester
A month has floated away, and I’m still processing my What Is Home? production, one that took months to prepare and perform.
People ask me: Were you happy with how the show turned out?
I nod, unable to explain, even to myself, why I have yet to write about the experience. Almost everything went the way I planned. The gusty wind meant that my blog interviews that OS designed had to be strung along exterior walls instead of under the pavilion as we had planned, and in the end, I couldn’t stray the ashes from the notebooks I had burned. And my fabrics remained hanging, except for one that drooped a little.
My interactive performance in the glassed-in room evolved the way Christa and I planned – audience members helped select What Is Home? excerpts through questions that I posed. Everyone listened, including children, babies, senior citizens, friends, strangers, fellow parents, health experts, fellow artists and writers. Not every single student who participated in my project was able to attend, but Purnima and Hemangi compensated well by sharing their stories and engaging audience members in a string-tying ritual. Meanwhile, women who participated in my workshop offered massage, face-threading and home-made chai and snacks.
And once my performance ended, I relaxed under the pavilion with Reggie and Liliana, who drove in from Lafayette, Louisiana and Austin, Texas respectively, along with others who happened to stay.
photo by Paul Hester
In the program for the afternoon, I shared a long list of thanks for all the amazing people who helped with the production. These include VBB Board President Yolanda Alvarado and board members Gordon Anderson, Oui Duran and Lauren Zentz for attending and helping, VBB Associate Director Ana Laurel for support on too many fronts to list; all Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center staff including Ana Mac Naught, Adonias M. Arevalo, Khalid Dadani, Carlos Soto for space, time and resources; Lisa Gray, Sarah Gish, Duane Bradley and Jenni Rebecca Stephenson for marketing; Jordan Astrich and Copy.Com team for donating printing services; Jennifer Can, Amanda Madrigal at Westbury HS for connecting students and Barun, Hemangi, Kali, Purnima, Sagar and Suk for sharing resilience and hospitality; women workshop participants for their honesty and bravery; Shirin Herman for introducing me to Westbury; Lorraine Wulfe for introducing me to Baker-Ripley; Renée Stern and Lauren West and PAIR staff for transportation and promotion; Ana Laura Guzman and Yaksha Shah for coordinating snacks, body-care and storytelling; Yunuen Perez Vertti for helping, even from afar; Paul Hester for photo-table and for documenting; Helmut Ehrmann for designing table; Eric Hester for support; Heydel Cepero, Michelle Garcia and Just News team Jeremy Martin and Sean Quitzau for documentation; Jaspal Subhlok and Yaksha Shah for blog brainstorming; blog interviewees for sharing splices of their lives: Sorayya Khan, Stephanie Chapman, Lacy Johnson, Shirin Herman, Zeba Shah, Maha Khan, Kairn Klieman, Asad Ali Jafri and eL Seed, Masooma Syed, Veer Munshi, Yunuen Perez Verti and Kalyan, OS, Zakia Sarwar, Beena Sarwar, Sunita, Ana Mac Naught, Shaista Parveen, René Rodriguez, Yolanda Alvarado, Beverly Robinson and Sally Russ, Gordon Anderson, Zarana Sanghani, and Karen Martinez; Reggie Young and Liliana Valenzuela for making treks from different cities; Carmen Pena Abrego, Stephanie Chapman and Jasmina Keleman for participating in my notebook-burning ritual; Wharton K-8 families including the Fentons, Martinezes, Pelherts, Stravatos and Wongs for helping out; Karen Farber and Mitchell Center team for funding and promotion; Christina Dotterweich and all M-AAA staff for funding; Mel Chin for sharing his time and art; writers Lacy Johnson and Jacsun Shah for editing; Christa Forster for fine-tuning my performance; OS for being who he is and René R. for loaning him to me; Beena Sarwar, Salman Sarwar and Zakia Sarwar for listening; and René Saldivar and Minal for offering understanding and love as I worked on a project that has consumed me for years.
My project was supported in part by an award from Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. What is home? is developed in part through a residency with the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and is cosponsored by Neighborhood Centers Inc., and Voices Breaking Boundaries.