This play, performed by only two people, was able to captivate our attention from the moment we sat down to the closing curtains. There were plenty of moments of confusion- some questions which were answered along the way and some that were left still lingering in my mind. Is Tyesha (the one in the drivers seat) represented through Myeisha too? Why did Tyesha have a gun and how did she get it? Why did the officers feel the need to shoot the unconscious girl 12 times, let alone once? After watching the performance, I questioned the play’s title and wanted an explanation.
We didn’t know if Tyesha was unconscious or having a seizure, so it is assumed that she was in a dream-like state (like alluded to earlier on). One of the very first scenes was Myesha asking us if we knew what it felt like to be in one of those dreams where you are unable to scream. I expect Tyesha felt trapped, useless, voiceless and incompetent. This was a play which was somber, but left me and many others with a new perspective. I did not know what to expect walking into that theater, but I definitely did not imagine this play titled Dreamscape to go anything like it did.
Seeing the actress move and extend her body across the stage drew my focus in towards her. When bodies are moving in ways that are taboo or maybe not be seen on a daily basis, we tend to make judgments. Myeisha’s specific movements made me question her at times. I found myself judging her body and comparing it to mine. Several thoughts went through my mind as she first started dancing in this strange manner. Why is she doing that? How does she move like that? This isn’t “normal”. The noises that came from the actor were sounds that I never believed could come from a human. How can he do that?
Why can’t my body produce those sounds? The playwright, Rickerby Hinds, makes the decision of taking a critical approach to examine the relationships between surveillance, race, the body and violence. Dreamscape uses spoken word, bodily communication, dance and beatboxing to communicate to the audience the story of Tyesha Miller. The tempo of the movements, whether fast or slow, demonstrated the intensity of the scene rising or falling. Body ability and disability has been a huge focus for our class discussion. On the very first day of class, we were instructed to stand up, shake our bodies, jump, extend, and perform ctivities that were not necessarily “normal” in our culture.
Our taboo class learned that day that we are uncomfortable with those body movements since we don’t perform those actions daily. 19 year old Tyesha was shot 12 times, with 12 scenes in the play, each divided by a bullet. After each bullet shot, whether it entered through her scalp, breast, or back- she explained how her body was now limited in a way that it wasn’t before. This aspect of the play is what brought me back to the topic of disabled bodies. Her body becomes more and more restricted after each bullet.
Because she was in this “dream” state, Tyeshia was disabled and unable to speak up. No one was able to hear her or listen- again, it felt like she was in one of those “dreams where she couldn’t scream”. In the play, Tribes, Billy faces a similar issue; however, he can talk. Because he is deaf, and in a subculture in our society, he automatically faces a disadvantage. No one listens to him. Sylvia, who is going deaf, explains this to his family, “Sylvia (translating in sign for Billy): Billy says that he’s decided to stop talking to you. He thinks you should all learn sign.
He says… he’s spent his life trying to understand you and now he thinks you should try to understand him”. In our society, if you are not a hegemonic male you don’t have a voice. Your opinions aren’t nearly as valued. Due to the fact that Tyesha is a black female, she is automatically at a disadvantage. No one is able to hear her while she attempts to tell her story on why she should live. In a similar sense, Victoria’s character in scene I of Cloud 9, was literally played by a rag doll. Because she was a girl, she had no voice or sense of power.
The fact that Tyesha is a woman- who is unfortunately unable to communicate with anyone, reinforces the stereotype that woman don’t have a voice and their opinions don’t matter. Tyesha speaks to the audience of how she wishes she was white- just in that moment- so police could look at her without this preconceived stigma. Women of color are most often stereotyped as either very strong or in this case, inherently bad. It was suggested that just because this unconscious black woman had a gun on her lap, she was an extremely dangerous threat.
A main focus of the play was to explore the relationship between the African-American community and the police. The white officers, represent the white western hegemonic ideals of masculinity. They are forceful, dominant, and believe their opinion’s are always right. In M. butterfly, Author David Henry Hwang, reveals racial stereotypes, stereotypes of white western culture, and stereotypes on gender. Ilka Saal addresses Gallimard’s need for power in his article “Performance and Perception: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture in David Henry Hwang’s ‘M. Butterfly’”; “As long as Liling acts out his lover’s fantasies, Gallimard gains a new aggressive confidence from this relationship.
His male ego is boosted” (632). Gallimard also represents the stereotypical white western man, striving for masculinity. He was way over his head and a little too big for his own pants. If I had the chance to see this play again, or something like it, I wouldn’t hesitate… or go see it just because I was assigned to for class. I am thankful for this opportunity to see such talented acting and definitely think the PCA department should sponsor more performance like this.