Saturday, June 01, 2019

Flyaway Production in partnership with Essie Justice Group presents: Part One of the Decarceration Trilogy: The Wait Room

Jo Kreiter's company Flyaway Production, presents: The Wait Room, Part One of her Decarceration Trilogy opened on a chilly, San Francisco evening ground zero for disenfranchised and disillusioned. So many people moving to and fro-- shuffled from one end of Market Street to another, their wares a body -- somebody's body illegitimate, illegal displaced lost.

The late poet, Sekou Sundiata wrote about the illegitimacy of flesh, people who occupy this skin: ‘Somebody-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body-body had to stop you. I watch the news. You always lose. You’re unreliable. That’s undeniable. You’re dangerous. You’re dangerous. You’re unreliable. You’re on the news. You always lose.’ I could wake up in the mornin’ and without warnin’ my world could change. Blink your eyes. All depends on the skin, all depends on the skin you’re livin’ in." I could add, all depends on how much money in your pocket and if you have a place to rest your head.

The Wait Room is performed just next door to ACT's Strand Theatre, the alley is fenced off, but there is a doorway with a table where volunteers hand out free tickets. Inside there is a stage which is lit. A clock on its back . . . chairs bolted to the surface, a center pole with rope, another chair placed midway up and then there is a chair that moves. 

Stadium seating surrounds the stage. Center stage back row is the best seat in the house, however, all the seats, particularly the last rows are best.

The story is one of women and girls who have loved ones in prison or jail. Their voices are a part of Pamela Z's soundtrack--the chorus clock ticking and the words "we're waiting." Women and girls talk about the visiting room, but mostly about the indignity they suffer to see their sons, fathers, brothers, husbands. I don't recall stories about visiting mothers or sisters or daughters. Although, such stories exist and this is part 1 of a larger work.

The six dancers take the audience through seven scenes: Visiting, Father, Partner, Son; Economics; Race; Shame; Change; This is a Love Story.

My favorite parts were the Economics, Race and This is a Love Story. The dancers push the stage around; however, the dancer on the stage makes it tilt from side to side and as it moved dancers would fly from one side to another, using a chair as a meridian or landmark in an uncertain future-- And so we wait.

The waiting is a place of vulnerability and powerlessness as is the entire visiting process. Women talk about the invasive body searches they undergo to visit, the cost of phone calls and commissary. No bargaining with the Department of Corrections, families pay the exorbitant prices or their loved one goes without.

Certain gestures are repeated like the counting on fingers. . . the passage of time as one waits, hands hitting palms like Rock Paper Scissors. The desire to visit overrides the indignity. Just listening to women who are denied a visit because a bra has underwire, a child because she is wearing shorts. Women talk about the distance traveled only to be sent home. A child talks about her visit to see her father.

I needed to see the work again to be more conversant about the composition; however, I didn't make it back to SF or Richmond. Hum, maybe I will catch it at Sing Sing (smile).

Listen to three interviews: 1. Jo Kreiter;  2. Jo with Laura Elaine Ellis (dancer), Catalina "Caty" Palacios and Tanea Lunsford Lynx, members, ESSIE Justice; and 3. with the creative team, Pamela Z and Sean Riley. 

Watch this video exceprt from The Wait Room


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