September 25, 2013

Smashing Idea!

 By Grae Burns

Last night’s main stage event, “Changing the Family Channel”, offered a unique presentation of the ideas that surround family.  Authors Lauren B. Davis, Andrew Kaufman, Ann Shin, and Cassie Stocks each took turns reading excerpts from their recently published works. The stories ranged from a woman coming to terms with her addictions, a grandmother trying to reconcile with her past with the help of her (unwilling) granddaughter, a series of poems addressing what we inherit from our families, and a story about a 27 year old painter who is just about to give up on her dreams when she meets and befriends a ghost named Gladys. 

Motherhood, nostalgia for an ideal past/childhood, hope, love, support, the need for independence, reconciliation and forgiveness were just some of the topics present, making it very clear that family is a very big, and very fluctuating idea.

A pair of lovely ladies enjoy a game of Pretzel Scrabble at MTYP.

To underscore this, the second half of the evening was dominated by Ann Shin’s film-in-progress, The Family China.  The film was made up of several series of photos, each documenting a person or people smashing a piece of china against a hard wood table, sometimes aided with a baseball bat or hammer.  As the items were meant to represent objects from individuals' lives, each photo was accompanied by a narration. The voices in these monologues explained what the items represented, from the joys of breaking free of inherited clutter, to breaking with outdated family values. The latter complimented the theme of the night, that the idea of family is in constant flux.

After the film, the authors took turns sharing what items they felt the characters in their stories would smash if they could. The list included a bottle, a window, a camera, and a bowl. They also took a moment to discuss the fear, exhilaration and liberation felt when breaking something, either literally or figuratively, that we have been conditioned to respect or revere. The authors then enthusiastically invited the audience to take part in what they dubbed “Smashing Parties.” 

As the night came to a close, the audience was left to consider what they had inherited from their own families, what ideals they might break away from, and what objects they might need to smash to make that happen. I, for one, left with the excitement of considering the dates for my very own smashing party.

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