a woman in your life is an ethnodrama I co-created with Meghan Crosby and Sherrill-Marie Hernandez. The research team, however, also included Melanie Harrison and Leah Artenian. This art-based research project was one of our requirements in NYU Steinhardt’s Ethnodrama course with Joe Salvatore.
The five of us explored the central question “How has the #MeToo Movement affected the lives of women-identifying individuals?” by interviewing women-identifying individuals of various backgrounds. We followed an interview protocol for all of those who agreed to be interviewed, recorded their responses, took down our observations of every person in a “Participant characteristics and physical surroundings survey,” and transcribed portions of the interviews we felt were significant to our research. In smaller groups—in my case, Meghan Crosby and Sherrill-Marie Hernandez—we arranged these excerpts into a full-length script and read a ten minute excerpt to the class. I agreed with Joe’s observation of our draft at the time: the passion was clear, but there was no “bounce.” It did feel as if many voices were featured, but none of them were in conversation with each other, in spite of being arranged as “duets, trios, [and] montages” (Joe Salvatore, personal communication, May 9, 2018).
On the 15th of May 2018, Meghan Crosby and I shared a woman in your life with members of the American Renaissance Theatre Company. Actors invited by Meghan read the entire script. We wanted to see how those unfamiliar with ethnodrama would receive the work. The audience’s reactions were supportive (i.e., the message is important); it reminded them of The Living Newspaper of the United States’s Federal Theatre Project, they said. Some of the constructive criticism they offered included (1) characters sounded similar; (2) there were a number of slow moments; and (3) the emotional arc of the entire piece could be tighter.
This ethnodrama helped me glean more insight into how some women-identifying individuals experienced the #MeToo Movement, but more significantly, for me, it further nurtured my curiosity about the field of ethnodrama and verbatim performance itself. It raised all kinds of questions, from dramaturgy (i.e., what “plot structures” can interview-based verbatim performances have?”) to innovation (i.e., what does ethnodrama outside a conventional theatre space look like? How can experiencing an ethnodrama be a collective, interactive experience?). When I expressed interest in learning more about ethnodrama, Joe invited me to work with the Verbatim Performance Lab. I unhesitatingly accepted.
This is the most current draft of a woman in your life.