by Hala Baki, PhD candidate, UCSB and assistant director
Have you ever tried to swim on stage? We have! That was the goal of Golden Thread’s recent design and movement workshop, kicking off the rehearsal process for the world premiere of _We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War by Mona Mansour.
Much of the play takes place in the Pacific Ocean, while an Arab-American woman and her nephew swim and talk about his involvement in the U.S. military. Over the course of one weekend, we explored the stylistic potential of this exciting concept together. Director Evren Odcikin and movement specialist Slater Penney wanted to test different ways of physically “swimming” without water, and they welcomed ideas from the entire ensemble. There was lots of trial and error (some of which was hilarious), involving everything from snake arms to somersaults to rolling desk chairs.
Ultimately, the actors found innovative ways to “float” and “tread water” onstage. They also found subtle ways to make the ocean come to life with the ebb and flow of their bodies. The magic was in the details, whether it was salt burn in the eyes or wet hair in the face. These small details allowed the actors to raise the emotional stakes for their characters and the audience.
Playwright Mona Mansour was also hard at work while the team explored the physical world of the play. Before we read the current draft of the script together for the first time, she advised us to focus on “how the dialogue feels in the body” and to incorporate that into the movement work. After the read, the team discussed the themes of family, identity, and politics, especially as they relate to the Middle Eastern immigrant experience. Community guests Mona Masri and Hind Ghandour also shared their thoughts on the use of Arabic in the play, which led to a vital conversation on language and representation. Everyone’s observations gave Mona a new perspective on her own work and inspired her to rewrite parts of the script.
Our workshop concluded with a production design meeting. To complement the stylized movement work, the team agreed to work towards a design that was theatrical and not at all literal. The hope is that this kind of theatrical space will allow the actors to transition between scenes and locales quickly, and to transport the audience between imagination and reality. The exciting collaborations that began in this workshop weekend are sure to deliver an unforgettable spectacle this November. We hope you can join us for this exciting world premiere.
by Mona Mansour directed by Evren Odcikin
While trying to navigate the currents of the Pacific, an Arab-American woman and her nephew, who has enlisted in the military, dive into the murky waters of family, identity, and politics. Adventurous and playful, We Swim takes the form of a literal conversation on stage, and expands into a nuanced dialogue about what it means to be American, Arab, and Arab-American at our current moment in time.
November 16–December 16, 2018 at Potrero Stage (1695 18th Street, San Francisco)