Our partnership in Detroit could not have gone any better – not only did we work with amazing artists, but we’ve gotten lucky enough to have one of them join our team! Meredith Deighton is going to be coming to your social media and inboxes as our supremely talented Communications Intern. She is also an actress, artist, and magical witch currently based in Detroit. Read her reflection on her time with us in Detroit and her connection to the project below!
Fall was approaching- my witchy little self’s absolute favorite time of year. I had just closed a Shakespeare production where I met Jowi Estava-Ghersi, a kindred soul and just a GEM of a human. When she asked if I’d be interested in doing a spooky, weird, devised piece of theatre with her and a few other local actor friends. Devised theatre? Making art with new friends? AND it’s a spooky, witchy, mystical experience?
Sign. Me. Up. After chatting with the lovely Chantal Papageaux on the phone a few weeks before the project I though I knew what to expect. I had no way of knowing just how much I needed this project to happen with this group of people and at this time. To say The In[heir]itance Project changed my life is an understatement.
Day one of rehearsal felt like destiny. We knew we would have to put on this performance in five days and I think I can speak for the entire group when I say that we were all a little nervous. Once we started learning about mystical Judaism and Kabbalah from Jonah, we began to realize just how witchy our little cast was going to be. I had peripherally known Laura from around the Detroit theatre community. I had just finished a Shakespeare project with Inney, Jowi and our amazing stage manager/set designer/builder, Doran. Maria and of course Jonah and Chantal were new to me. There was just an atmosphere of destiny. You could feel it- the excitement, the weird, spooky, reverent energy. It really felt like the universe wanted this project to happen.
Sidebar- other destiny moment at our first rehearsal- I’m cast as the Warrior Poet, Chanah Szenes. My partner is one warrior poet and I am one warrior queen (yes, we’re weird and cute like that). Chantal had never met me or knew this about me before our first rehearsal. Universe sign? Perhaps. Destiny? Maybe.
Post-first rehearsal we were asked to research our characters and come up with some type of devised piece for our “scenes” taking Jonah through the holiday of Sukkot, calling on ancestors and recalling his faith. We were also asked to select one of the pieces of music Chantal sent to us. I went home and was immediately drawn to Chanah’s story (it’s incredible, google her if you don’t know her), her poetry and found myself wiping tears from my eyes reflecting on her life, her journey, her poetry. The final song Chantal sent had a darker feel, a spookier feel, an “angel of death” feel. I knew that was my piece.
Fast forward to my first rehearsal. Chantal, Jonah, JAR and I worked together incorporating mystical Judaism, prayer, Chanah’s poetry and the lighting of the candles to bring Chanah and our other ancestors into the sukkah.
Onto our first full-run. At this point I still hadn’t met Maria. I had gotten to Temple Israel (our space) a little early and walked in on the end of her rehearsal, an exquisite devised dance piece incorporating the four elements (air, earth, fire, water) and a traditional Jewish ritual for sukkot. My scene was next and Maria had to leave immediately after, and she moved so precisely through the space like a spirit, there one second gone the next. Spooky. Amazing. The first time we all rehearsed together- it was almost as if Chanah herself had come into our space. My Disney princess voice was about an octave lower than usual, my feet had grown roots like a tree, I hadn’t felt more grounded. Our piece ended with all of us, both the living and the dead holding hands in our circle inside our sukkah. A breath in together, a breath out together. It was all feeling very purposeful, beautiful and reverent.
After five beautiful and successful performances where both performers and audience members alike had written down names of those we wanted to invited into the sukkah, I think I can speak fro all of us when I say it definitely felt like angels/spirits/ancestors were in the space, all around us, supporting us.
None of us wanted to let the project go. We ended up bringing our paper chains with us to Laura’s house to release the spirits and burn the papers. We recited Chanah’s poem as we burned the papers. A moment of silence and there was a rustling in the trees, almost as if the spirits were leaving us right there. Spooky. Witchy. Mystical. And as our lovely stage manager put it, “and that’s when I joined a coven.”
We did feel like a little coven, a mystical, witchy, group full of love, passion, art. To say the week was eye-opening? Unifying? Fulfilling? Inspiring? All of the above? The universe sent The In[heir]itance Project my way and I just couldn’t be more grateful.