a new multi-medium story-telling project created by E. Wray
EXCAVATION is an Appalachian journey through grief, ghosts, and a grandmother's stories - ending up in a confrontation with E's settler-colonizer ancestors. This is a story about what gets buried, and passed down, and repeated. We've brought cornbread, hot candle wax, pine sap, and a silver dollar. And we're asking the dirt: What's the difference between a corpse and a seed? What wasn't told, and at what (and who's) expense? How do I find out what I am carrying in my body?
Process We’re currently preparing for a spring 2019 workshop-period with an ensemble, culminating in a work-in-process showing at the Tank in early June. Stay tuned for details!
Current Creative Team Azure D. Osborne-Lee (director) Marisela Grajeda Gonzalez (dramaturg) Ali Dineen (music director) Athena Zammit (design) E. Wray (creator/writer)
EXCAVATION previously received developmental support from Rising Sun Performance Company & Governor’s Island Laboratorium Artist Residency September 2018 with the collaboration of Marisela Grajeda Gonzalez (dramaturg) Keelie Sheridan (director)
about This project began with my grandmother, her story-telling practices, and her reverence for her ancestors. It began also with my own grief, my desire to understand intergenerational trauma, and my grappling with my Appalachian identity/heritage and relationship to class mobility. It has become, in part, a saga of reckoning with my settler-colonizer ancestors and the violence I've inherited from them. This is a play about love and longing. And this is a play about systematic white amnesia. It is part prayer, part horror story.
The world of the play will be created and embodied by an ensemble of 4-8 singers, puppeteers, and physical actors, and will rely heavily on repetition and cycles of imagery.
statement This project is an excavation of stories. The stories that get passed down in the light – in my family’s oral histories, in the lore and selfhoods and lineages we create and celebrate. And the stories that get passed down in the dark—in the violence, the abuse, and the shame that we don’t speak of, but which gets passed down nonetheless. I find these dark stories, these stories no one told me, lodged in my body. In my psyche. In my dreams. And, inexplicably, in my actions and reactions.
As a child, my grandmother’s stories saved me. When my world felt confusing and scary – she gave me stories and Appalachian ancestors to believe in. And to keep me company. Story was the first way I learned to connect with my imagination -- a vital instrument when it comes to transcending painful realities, and in creating new ones.
At the same time, I’m painfully aware of the ways in which my predominately white family, who’ve lived in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee for generations and generations – through the stories we pass on – deny and ignore our part in the history and persistence of colonization.
The maintenance of white supremacy is dependent on systematic white amnesia. On forgetting. On selective remembering. On creating false narratives. This kind of amnesia is obvious (perhaps, to some) in our history books. But what about in our personal histories?
We can’t heal a wound if we can’t admit it’s there. I can’t put down the gun unless I can admit I’m holding it and see my finger on the trigger.
“I talk with white people all the time that are always like ‘I don’t have a lineage of my own so it’s OK if I am culturally appropriative. I need this headdress!!’ No! You have a lineage! That’s your goldmine! Your lineage is connected to all kinds of things that make you uncomfortable, ashamed, and repelled. It’s your job to make use of it. To look in the face of your shame, of your family, and see what is yours to heal. Expose it and work to heal it and see what else can come from it. See what can come from the truth.”
EXCAVATION in development on Governor's Island (September 2018)
Footage stills (from movement rehearsal) by Keelie Sheridan (below). Photography by Jorge Luna (photograph above + photographs below rehearsal stills). The pictured guest artists graciously volunteered their time and artistry in an open movement rehearsal during the Gov Island residency: C. Bain, Jonathan Maldonado, Leonardo March, Sabra Shelly, and Julian Vargas.
Marisela Grajeda Gonzalez (Dramaturg)
Keelie Sheridan (Director of September Residency)
[before there was light]
a new work in development created by E. Wray
previously presented at BAX|Brooklyn Arts Exchange Upstart Festival, curated by Fernano Maneca and Jillian Peña March 2019
La MaMa ETC Call To Action weekend, curated by Nicky Paraiso and Amy Rox Surratt October 2018
received developmental support from BAX|Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Upstart Program, 2018-2019 cohort
Upstart Festival Showing performances by C. Bain (E’s body) Arnold Bustamante (chorus) Miles Butler (chorus) Kathy Huynh-Phan (chorus) Julian Vargas (chorus) E. Wray (themself)
associate direction by Rui Dun
about [before there was light] is a series of (dis)embodied poems about the Crucifixion, desire, betrayal, and growing up queer in a fundamentalist Christian church. As an adolescent, my fantastical romance with Jesus offered escape from a sometimes-violent home and a sometimes-violent relationship with my body. Inspired by my thirteen-year-old self, I want to re-locate desire in the Christian myths I grew up with. I recognize that insofar as Puritanism has succeeded in divorcing the body from the sacred, it has also laid foundations for white supremacy, colonization, and hetero-patriarchy. Also, as both a survivor of sexual violence and a lover of queer kink, I engage with my body as a site for both trauma and power, for both pain and pleasure.
process Recently I’ve been collaborating with a four-person chorus to create an overlapping textual soundscape for the piece, under(over?)-scoring the physical dimensions of the performance. Sections of the text are carried by the chorus from within the audience. Others are delivered in my voice, either via voiceover or live on stage.
Currently there are two performers on stage — me, and a silent actor representing my body.
photography by Leonardo March, mneyid.com
stills from rehearsal footage by Leonie Bell
No G**d White Men
co-created and performed by C. Bain E. Wray
producer Man Question
presented at The New Masculinities Festival The LGBT Center (NYC) 2018
photography by Michael Wilson
about No G**d White Men is an abstract performance art piece which seeks to implicate white queers (like ourselves) in white supremacy. We invite accountability through self-examination, and challenge our identifications as "good white liberals" -- a device we believe helps to uphold white supremacy.
created by E. Wray
performed by E. Wray, with Tanyamaria McFarlane
presented at Word Made Flesh Festival The Living Gallery (Brooklyn) 2016