July 26, 2017

Moving voices bodies borders in Tampa Bay

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with Andrea Assaf and Dora Arreola of Art2Action and University of South Florida's School of Theater and Dance, respectively. They form a team that develops community-engaged theater in Tampa and internationally, with a focus on LGBTQ stories, veterans, and immigrant women. I found out about their work when a friend sent me a link to this trailer of a play about disability and queerness that they had produced.





Samuel Valdez (right) is actually disabled, he is not an actor playing someone with something like cerebral palsy. I was immediately impressed by this, because so often, disabled characters are played by able-bodied actors. Beyond that, it was obvious that the play had been staged with deep attention to Valdez' natural "atypical" movements, giving the dialogue and the stage action an authenticity and freshness I seldom see when it comes to disability in the theater.

So, I was totally thrilled when Andrea and Dora answered my email of appreciation with an invitation to get to know each other over lunch. We talked about bringing other disabled theater and movement artists to Tampa, but also about the way the disabled person has to "perform" in public just to get by, about gender and sex, about Dora's dance company in Tijuana, about border-states in politics and in our personal identities, about Andrea's work with poetry and PTSD, about butoh, and so many other things. They were so generous and generative in their time with me, I hope to have their work intersect closely with body poetik projects in the near future.

Here is a recent episode of Creative Pinellas' Arts In podcast in conversation with Dora and Andrea. 
More about Arts In soon, an ongoing brilliantly produced series of talks with artists, writers, dancers, actors and other creatives around the Tampa Bay area.