Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reflections on Noise in the Waters

Essay by Marlon Jiménez Oviedo, Student at Lewis & Clark College/Boom Arts Intern

The performance of Noise in The Waters achieved the magical thing of bridging geographical distance and fostering an empathic understanding of people in different continents. Directed by Cristi Miles, the one-man performance brought to life the images, confusion, risk and urgency experienced by African and Middle Eastern refugees as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea under extremely precarious and life-threatening conditions.

The music by Ryan Anthony Francis placed us amidst overpowering and constant waves of sound, absorbing the audience into the world of the show. Similarly, the large scale video projections, by Stephen Miller, occupied the two lateral walls of the auditorium. These sea like video projections put us in an almost trapping atmosphere that rang true to the urgency and the tragedy of the text.

Actor Bobby Bermea skillfully played an Italian admiral, and also embodied many other characters as he told stories about the calamities these people went through during their fleeting to Europe. Bobby generously gave us an emotionally charged and personal look into the refugee crisis. It is refreshingly illuminating to go beyond the usual statistical reports of human lives in extremely difficult circumstances. The text, by Marco Martinelli/Teatro delle Albe (Ravenna, Italy) and translated by Thomas Haskell Simpson, does take us through a list of numbers (each number being a person, a refugee).  Yet, it breaks away from the numerical accounts when the audience gets to hear about how some of those individuals made it across the Mediterranean Sea. Many numbers, nevertheless, stay as impersonal characters or untold accounts that the records fail to tell us anything about. Throughout the piece, these numbers become an incessant reminder of all the lives that get lost in the sea waters.

Following its mission of producing work centered on the artist/audience encounter, Boom Arts organized a pre show lecture and a post show discussion. The pre show lecture, by Jamie Surface, doctoral candidate in the Public Affairs and Policy Program at Portland State University, provided the attendees with historical information regarding the roots and state of affairs of the current refugee crisis. This was then complemented by the personal accounts of two Mercy Corps workers who have worked in Greece in the last year, helping the refugees who make it to Europe. Mercy Corps has stations in different islands and at the coasts where they provide things such as meals, wifi and general information about how to get to different countries, where people are heading to in search of asylum. 

As we listened to these humanitarian workers, the Boom Arts program brought us even a step closer to this pressing humanitarian crisis. Many, including this author, could not hold in the tears in response. As an audience member commented, and I paraphrase, the program was the perfect combination of right and left brain activity. People reported learning new things and also having to contemplate on their role in the refugee crisis.

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