2023 NATIONAL SEMI-FINALIST – THE EUGENE O’NEILL NATIONAL MUSICAL THEATRE CONFERENCE
HOW MUCH OF OUR PERSONAL & POLITICAL IDENTITY IS GUIDED BY FORCES BEYOND OUR OWN FREEWILL?
– INTERNAL, INTERPERSONAL, AND POLITICAL –
ARE BATTLES OF COMPETING VERSIONS OF REALITY
IDENTITY & TRAUMA
The play's unique underlying subject matter – THE FLUIDITY OF IDENTITY required to survive extreme trauma, including trauma-bonding and identification with violent perpetrators – speaks to the psychological and spiritual dilemmas of survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, military combat, extremist religious and political cults, and human trafficking.
The play also attempts to illuminate the still under-explored subject matter of complex trauma’s impact on identity.
The play examines how The Media, the criminal-justice/incarceration, and the mental health system misinterpret, exploit, and compound the suffering of trauma victims – while the central character models survivorship, hope, and healing.
WHAT MAKES THIS HISTORY PLAY
RELEVANT TO TODAY
In the same way the 1960s didn’t start until after Kennedy’s assassination, and the 1970s didn’t really begin until after Watergate, the 21st century is only just-now starting, as we push into its 3rd decade, leaving the PRE-Trump and PRE-Covid epoch behind.
In this still-uncertain-century, it falls on ALL of us in The Arts to produce New Works that answer “WHO ARE WE NOW?”
This play takes-on a newly-emerging-21st-century-theme: The Disintegration of Consensus Reality: the-end-of-our-once-universal-and-once-dependable-shared-reality. The story’s strong-complex-female-protagonist reveals how ALL conflicts – internal, interpersonal, and political – are BATTLES OF COMPETING VERSIONS OF REALITY.
Through-a-not-so-distant-mirror, this musical-history-play asks:
HOW MUCH OF OUR PERSONAL & POLITICAL-IDENTITY IS GUIDED BY FORCES BEYOND OUR OWN FREEWILL?
IMAGINARY GIRL illuminates:
How our identities are shaped far beyond our expectations by social pressures, including the news media.
How our personal and political allegiances can compel us to support agendas against our own best interests.
IMAGINARY GIRL takes-on a newly-emerging 21st century theme:
The Disintegration of Consensus Reality:
The end of our once-universal & once-dependable shared reality.
This theme is illuminated BEYOND the identity-confusion of the play’s protagonist, and BEYOND the multiple subjectivities of the other characters.
The play incorporates Stagehands (played by actors) who interact with the performers in a way that systematically blurs the boundaries between the everyday-reality of the theater house and the illusory-reality of the play’s storyworld. Throughout the show, the boundaries are dissolved between the story and its container, and between the actor’s struggles and confusion and their character’s struggles.
This artfully creates a thrilling experience of continuously shifting perceptions, inviting the audience to repeatedly question: “What is really happening here? What is real?
The Younger Characters’ Songs:
Anchored in the folk & rock of the play’s time period – the mid-1970s – a genre that still echoes through the indie/alt folk & rock of today. These songs incorporate a wide-range of additional influences, e.g., funk and soul, shoe-gaze/slowcore, and 19th century spirituals.
The Parents’ Songs:
To acknowledge the 1970s "generation gap" these older characters’ songs dip into more traditional 20th century musical theater motifs.
The Container Score:
Outside and beyond the 1970s storyworld, a larger wrap-around Container Score uses sophisticated 21st century electronic composition ─ an emotive synthesis of sonic textures, serialism, experimental post-rock, and sound collage.
This show aims for vivid naturalistic performances that emerge up-out-of each character’s truthful inner-reality – leaving room for the audience to lean forward into the space between themselves and the storyworld.
We choose to reject the industry-standard style of “look how hard I’m singing/acting/dancing.” We reject artificial mannerisms, contrived choreography antics, and all forms of emotional inauthenticity/overplaying. Instead, we prefer the internally-driven approach that’s foundational in non-musical stage acting.
These short video clips – only 1 to 2 min. each – exemplify the style & sensibility of the choreography we're devising as an adjunct layer of physically-embodied & physically-communicated storytelling:
DEVISED CHOREOGRAPHY / MOVEMENT DIRECTION
INSPIRATION REFERENCE / STYLE + SENSIBILITY
Set in 1974, IMAGINARY GIRL: The Occupation of Patty Hearst responsibly interprets the political kidnapping of 19-year-old Patty Hearst. After being held captive in a closet for 57 days, she emerges declaring her new identity as Tania and her “choice” to join her kidnappers' mission to overthrow the US government.
As her unbelievable ordeal unfolds, it is dissected, distorted and exploited by The Media, and holds the world spellbound as Patty changes from an innocent victim into a fugitive outlaw right in front of our eyes.
This play's real-life TRUE STORY centers on A STRONG COMPLEX FEMALE PROTAGONIST who eventually discovers she is the only one who can save herself.
Ultimately, IMAGINARY GIRL is an inspiring & uplifting story of survival, self-discovery and self-liberation, as its historic female protagonist triumphantly overcomes seemingly impossible internal & external obstacles.
The author's commitment to advocate for victims of the psychological & identity dilemmas presented in IMAGINARY GIRL is rooted in his unusual childhood in rural Vermont. He was born into a multi-ethnic immigrant family with a legacy of transgenerational trauma and poverty. His family’s malevolent patriarch cruelly manipulated family-members to act out physical and psychological abuses on the others – forms of coerced perpetration, brainwashing, puppeting, and gaslighting, which are all central to this play’s story.
IMAGINARY GIRL was conceived while working as the principal editor of The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep* by Dr. H. L. Schwartz. This book makes a significant contribution to the psychological trauma literature illuminating “brainwashing” “internalized perpetration” and “identification with the aggressor” along with the dynamics of how trauma victims are manipulated into betraying their own moral limits.
As an internationally acknowledged expert on PTSD, and with a career dedicated to the treatment of survivors of complex trauma, Dr. Schwartz continues to serve as the play's psychological consultant.
( * Winner of the prestigious 2017 International Sandor Ferenczi Prize, from ISST&D:
The International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation )
GLOBALLY RECOGNIZED EXPERT on PTSD & DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY
ON THE VALUE & SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PLAY
As an internationally acknowledged expert on Dissociative Identity, and with a career dedicated to the treatment of survivors of complex trauma, Dr. Schwartz continues to serve as the play's psychological consultant.
INCLUSIVE CAST & TEAM
Although the race and gender of the historical characters are fixed, ANY performer may portray ANY role.
For example, in this “alternative identity musical” the role of Randolph Hearst, Patty’s father, could be played by a Norm Lewis- or a Wayne Brady-type (Black). Or, the doubling role of Walter Cronkite and F. Lee Bailey could be played by a Rosie O’Donnell- or a Cherry Jones-type (female). Or the role of Catherine Hearst could be played by an Alexandra Billings- or an Eddie Izzard-type (transgender person).
Each character’s role (for the most part) can/should/must be cast without the obligation to conform to a character’s historical race, gender or LGBTQ+ identity.
COMEDY in the midst of TRAGEDY
While never being glib or camp – and even though it seems unlikely – the show strategically utilizes a great deal of absurdity/humor/comedy.
Crafted as an emotionally compelling theatrical experience for a diverse range of audiences, including NON-TRADITIONAL THEATERGOERS – who are the NEXT GENERATION of engaged audience members NEEDED to sustain theater into the new century – this all-original independently-developed musical play is constructed as a multi-leveled-narrative that’s RIPE FOR INNOVATIVE STORYTELLING / STAGING.
SYNTHESIZING: INSTINCT VISION VOICE EMOTION & MEANING
IMAGINARY GIRL: The Occupation of Patty Hearst – book, lyrics & music © Leonard Dolivio Cetrangolo