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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat 2009 -- Renewal -- Part I -- Playback

The first day of the retreat was intense. By evening, I felt tired, but good. I could easily have gone to sleep after dinner. Instead, I looked forward to an energetic and entertaining performance of Playback Theatre.

I had seen a performance of a Playback Theatre troupe, two years ago, at our La Leche League leaders' retreat. Though I enjoyed it, the performance did not overly impress me. Still, I was curious. The troupes emphasize that every performance is unique. I do not know if this was the same troupe or not. The sub-group that performed for Beit Natan (Playback1) consisted of the director (Aviva Appel), four female actors (Shosha, Shirli, Lirona and Nurit (I think)), and a musician (don't remember her name). This time, I was quite impressed.

They asked for stories from the audience and I immediately thought of my saga with Y, regarding the seminar she wanted/didn't want to attend. (see here, here, here, and here) But I worried that my story would not be relevant to the group, so I did not raise my hand.

The first two skits were quite heavy. First, N told of an out of body experience she had at age 8 when she was clinically dead for several minutes. Then, T shared a traumatic incident about her son's complicated medical situation. I felt the moved by the portrayal and interpretation of the actors.

Then, M related the travails that she and A experienced on their way to meet the bus that morning. I laughed so much, just hearing her describe their escapade; I wondered how the actors were going to interpret her story. They were very creative and provided the comic relief we needed after the previous stories.

All the while, I wondered if I should tell my story. Perhaps seeing their interpretation would help me let go of all the frustration I still felt thinking about it. So, I raised my hand.

I told the saga: how I forgot to sign Y up for the seminar, how upset she was when it was "too late, and I should not even bother trying," how I got her in anyway, how happy she was, then how she became apprehensive and considered not going, our LONG discussion, our fight, her decision, her going, her happiness that she went.

It was a little embarrassing admitting in front of everyone that we actually fought about it, but that was part of the story (I was really mad at her, and I guess what bothered me was that I was still angry about it).

I had to choose the actors who would portray us. Shosha was tall, and beautiful, with very curly hair. I chose her to portray my daughter. I debated between two of the other actors, before choosing the third, Shirly, who I knew was a mother from her introduction.

The actors did such an amazing job of capturing all the myriad emotions of my story. They elaborated on elements that I did not even mention, but that they picked up through the telling. They portrayed such a loving relationship, which they could not have known would be accurate, but really was. They revealed the tensions of a child wanting to stay little and wanting to grow up, as well as the conflicts of a mother who wants to allow her child to grow up, but not to lose her. Of course, there were elements that were not exactly the same as my perspective, but overall I really felt they captured the essence of the events.

The experience was cathartic. Watching them tell my story, I felt like they perceived my inner soul and gave sound and motion to the difficult dance of the mother-daughter relationship. Whether watching the daughter spread her wings and then, at the last moment, being afraid to fly, or the mother, gentle one moment and then strict the next, I saw both my daughter and I as we are. At one point in the skit, one of the other actors sang in the background "Ima yekara li" (my mother is dear to me), a song that every child knows from gan (kindergarten). The entire montage was poignant and touching and I was grateful for their insight.

Afterwards, I thanked the actors. I was particularly impressed that the actress who portrayed my daughter described her fear about going somewhere new. I had not mentioned her fear or hesitation at all. The actress nonchalantly explained that these emotions are universal. Perhaps they are, but it took me an hour in real time to realize that my daughter’s sudden hesitation about attending stemmed from "normal" teenage fears (i.e. "no one else I know is going"....).

Afterwards, many people came up to me to tell me how moved they were by my story, which made me so happy that I shared it.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


adena said...

Rivka: I'm really enjoying reading your blog, and learning all about the retreat. It sounds amazing! Thanks so much for sharing all these details.

Batya said...

Wow, that really sounds like a great performance event.

Sarah said...

Wish I was there! It sounds so moving. I am spoud of *you* for spreading your wings to go to the retreat when you were tired and challenged by inertia. That includes not going to sleep after dinner like you wanted to. You are a good example for your daughter.:-)