Sometimes to be an actor is to be unsure where my own skin ends and where the membranes of the rest of the world begin. It is to be semi-permeable, to be porous. I’ve never felt this as strongly as with Stories in Blue.
The first night I read our scripts taken from interviews with sex-trafficking survivors, I wept. Actually, I didn’t even read my own, but had my partner (and director) read it aloud to me. This is not my story…was I ready to let it soak into myself?
We began practicing. We stumbled alot; stories of trauma are non-linear and truncated. We played with chairs and large swaths of material, wrestling to unearth the veins of strength and vulnerability that run intermingled though each of these monologues.
There’s a sort of excavation that happens in the repetition of rehearsal and performance. I soon recognized similarities between ‘Lena’ who I play, and myself: our ambivalence towards our own potential power and our urge to help others - even when it hurts us. We share a need for assurance. And a desire to be loved. My life experience is worlds away from hers but the images of Lena’s life etched themselves into me somehow. I now dream of desperately running through shadowy apple orchards. Of inescapable darkness and mortal breathless danger that I’ve never really known. This is not my story; I just give it my skin.
But one skin is not enough in this case. The cast spends evenings breathing and moving together, crawling across floors, wrapping and unwrapping each other, allowing intense emotion to flow through our bodies. Soon, I can only see my own role through intermingled fingers reaching for the light. I begin to understand why it is so vital to Lena that she is not alone. I feel why she needs others and why she fights for them. This is not my story; this is our story.
Stories in Blue is a piece that provokes me as an actor to ask same questions it presents to an audience: Where is the line between you and I? Between player and played? Between victim and survivor? Between power and weakness?
The theatre reveals that these distinctions are not as clear as we might think. These stories in blue acknowledge the concentric ripples of these questions, in ourselves and our society. This IS my story. And it is yours. Take my hand.