Authentic Journeys in Amarillo Nov 10, 2012

by Spike F

Teatro Línea de Sombra's Amarillo isn't a piece for Americans per se, it's only being performed in four American cities on its tour, but when contextualized in a place like Seattle, it is suddenly about people looking for the life that the audience has.  "I look to the North, but the North doesn’t look at me," is no longer text where audience and performer come from a shared perspective; it highlights a disconnection.  That there were the house lights were up for this moment and a host of others made this implication direct.  A whole section of text is spoken in Spanish while a web address with the translation is projected, leaving non-Spanish speakers suddenly unable to engage with the text of the show.  I don't speak Spanish.  I wasn't going to pull out my phone and plug in an address (I'm pretty sure that wasn't what was expected of me in that moment).  

Yet the pervasive atmosphere of desperation and desertion in Amarillo, the sensation of watching the show, functions as a reaffirmation of the connection beneath the otherness. The central male character (is character the right word?  Non-character, perhaps?) played by Raul Mendoza, is an assemblage of names, clothing, with no specific self to point to.  And it is through this refraction that he is able to connect so directly, somehow becoming more specific as a collective of migrants caught in the space between, than he would as any specific one.  The further refraction of how we view the show, how we view the back wall (sometimes a literal wall, sometimes a projection surface providing disorienting angles on the action, or specific close-ups of otherwise would be missed minutia) creates an atmosphere that is immersive and sensual.  The image of Mendoza's body projected as climbing the wall, yet still visible writhing on the floor, is a powerful moment of theatricality.  The desert on either side of the wall is created simply, with everyday objects, sand, water and stark white light, and our presence, our witnessing confirms the humanity of the typically invisible.  The alienation between performer and audience in Amarillo at On The Boards does not resolve itself to a sense of otherness, but instead to an awareness of people fighting to meet their needs, the same needs, in non-trivial circumstances.

Coming out of Amarillo, I'm stuck (egotistically? Yeah, probably) on how trivial my own journeys are.  How easy the paths I've travelled have been.  There has been no moment in my life where I have had no identity.  Where I have even had the risk of losing my literal sense of self.  I don't struggle to satisfy basic needs.  I only motivate to move every day so that I might find a space where I can work (usually on the same computer I have at home) without getting quite so distracted by the truly trivial.  I move so that I will stop consuming for long enough to do anything other than consume.  Can a journey be authentic if you already are where you're going?  Who is truly invisible?  Probably still the migrant with no papers?  Well, yeah.  But metaphysically is there a difference?  Probably, still yes.  I don't know.