‘Down There: Prism’ heals through performance

Students explore social and personal issues across mediums 

Many of the performances were emotionally vulnerable.
Many of the performances were emotonially vulnerable.
Credit: 
Photo supplied By Laura O’Grady

This past weekend, Down There: Prism presented a hopeful collection of experiences in a sold-out run in the Rotunda Theatre.

Directed by Taylor Vardy, ArtSci ’18, and Ruth Oketch, ArtSci ’18, the cast captured the personal effects of anxiety, sexual abuse, racism, sexuality and gender through music, spoken word, dance and film. 

With each piece touching on an array of highly sensitive subject matter, the team did a commendable job of supporting each other as well as the audience members. Many candid moments of love and support were felt in the space, creating an intimate and emotionally vulnerable experience. 

At the end of each piece, other members of the cast would appear on stage to hug the performers and led them away hand-in-hand. These moments acted as catharsis for the actors and the audience, easing the transition to the following pieces. Notably, a representative from the Peer Support Centre was also present for those who may have felt any triggers, or needed someone to speak with. 

Appropriately titled, “Prism,” the show’s content reflected the diversity of the cast and the range of their experiences. 

Designed by Sonja Niedermaier, ArtSci ‘20, the lighting carried the theme further by projecting a rainbow of colours on the back wall of the stage while audience members took their seats, setting up the crowd for the show. 

Starting off the show with original music played by Sarah-Anne Thompson, ArtSci and Music ’18, the mood was set to introduce a show that emphasized open and honest dialogue about everyday life. 

The appeal of the annual Down There performance is the candid moments of our peers work to help us cope with whatever we’re experiencing in our own lives. There’s something for everyone to relate to. 

Particularly, Tyler Doyle, Comp Sci ’18, delivered a spoken word piece on overthinking things that was extremely impactful. He spoke about the feeling of putting on a persona of “the funny guy” while truly wanting to be more than that. He explained he’s constantly thinking and analyzing the difference between people laughing “with” versus “at” him — a relatable feeling for anyone who’s had difficulty broaching a social situation. 

Aiishwariya Haran, ArtSci ’18, then spoke about the feeling of being only conditionally beautiful and explored what it feels like to live within a society whose beauty ideals don’t include her skin tones.

Haran shared the feeling she experiences when someone tells her “you’re pretty for a brown girl.” Her piece was informative to the impact of words and made audience members reflect on how they can change their own mindsets.

Each segment covered a different topic — masculinity and femininity, mental health and invisible disabilities, body image, race and racism, sexual orientation and sexuality, gender, religion and spirituality and political beliefs. 

The variety of pieces led to an impactful performance from all those involved. Many audience members engaged in conversation afterwards with both the actors and each other regarding the topics covered in the performance. This acted as a great way to start conversation and address the stigma around these topics on campus.

As well, all proceeds of $3,024.65 from ticket sales were donated to the Dawn House and Interval House homeless shelters and the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston.

The inclusion of these community-based efforts built to the last moment of the show — an original song titled “Satellites” sung by the entire cast. It was an uplifting and uncompromisingly hopeful piece that allowed for a fitting conclusion to the night’s experiences and truly provided a medium for healing through the arts.

 

Corrections

March 23, 2018

The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Aiishwariya Haran's name. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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