Reflections on Comfort/Disturb! Performance Art Workshop & Performance

OUTRAGEOUS MENAGERIE was performed this past weekend at Self Help Graphics and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. This new performance art piece includes 15 SoCal artists who have  embarked in a 3 day workshop experience lead by Casa 0101 Theater's Josefina Lopez and Corky Dominguez.  This troupe calls themselves Comfort/Disturb! and it serves as a performance forum for discussions about gentrification, sexism, racism, oppression, and the status quo. I was fortunate enough to be one of the participating artists. In the short time together C/D! became a space where we as a collective were allowed to let it all out. We spilled our thoughts as musicians, as writers, as spoken word artists, as actors, as dancers and movers, and as artisans. There was not one day when something new was developed or explored. Thanks in large part to our group leader Corky Dominguez.

On May 18th and 19th the group of artists engaged with guest speakers like Leo Garcia of Highways Performance space and Martha Carrillo of HeartOnArts. From them we learned tricks of the trade - on how to develop new writing ideas, how to speak honestly onto the page without hesitation or editing, and how to make outfits/costumes/props using paper fashion as inspiration. 

We talked about performance art, Teatro Campesino, and shared our own talents with each other. I've seen some incredible performance artists take the stage: Dohee Lee, inkBOat Dance, Ana Halprin, Joe Goode and his performance group, and most recently Guillermo Gómez-Peña. All of them swirling in my mind as we developed new work together in 3 days. May 20th and 21st served as our performance dates - Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. 

Frankly, this experience was frightening. A lot of us wondered how we were going to connect and  mesh ourselves into the process, but it happened step by step. As a community we tackled topics that have been a reality in our lives; whether it be gentrification, sexism, racism, or dealing with those who are comfortable with the status quo. There were tears, there was yelling, and for me there was a definite exploration on how to confront myself and my own comfortability. 

Exploring those ugly parts out of oneself can be healing. It means bringing to the front all the things that make us uncomfortable. From being undocumented at one point in my life, being an immigrant, being a womyn and remembering what the womyn in my life had to endure for me to be standing here today. I can call myself an artist knowing that a lot of suffering has happened before me, and I am able to step into a safe space and express myself. I was grateful, though feeling unworthy was also part of this healing process. In this space we tackled with our own dramas as artists. My personal drama usually emerges when I am comfortable, and when I feel like I have not done enough to deserve being in the company of incredible people. Distorted ideas that come from battling all the things we fight against. Laughing helps, being around positive vibes helps, and being honest helps.

The healing aspect of Comfort/Disturb! kept me going. Because of the greater good - the community as a whole; not the self. And we were able to tackle (on our own terms), those things that made us individuals, beautiful, complex, and powerful. Sharing the light with each other to keep the mission going.

If you are reading this, and you're thinking: --- Is gentrification a real issue? I think sexism is actually dead. Feminism isn't a thing. Immigrants should just come to this country legally, and then all would be well. Why do we even have to talk about racism? The more we talk about it the more you will not release yourself from its grasps. --- If this is you, reading this, and you find this cause annoying, I invite you to look into any social justice space in your community. Google it, Facebook it, I promise there is a group out there expressing their truth. Open your mind, open your heart, and remember that not everyone has the same privileges as you. If you truly want to understand what the big uproar is about, get outside your comfort zone and explore it for yourself. Start up a conversation, and just be you. Don't be defensive. Don't try to teach or explain things. Listen. Truly listen and don't be afraid of change. Change is good. Change is constant. The only guaranteed thing in life is change. So, friend, be uncomfortable, get disturbed, and learn about what's inside of YOU.