face the mirror scene breakdown (3/3/19)
Our main character enters, playing along to an accompaniment track of the Haydn trumpet concerto. As the tempo fluctuates, she loses her confidence; she spirals downward into a panic attack of improvised movements and motives. She hugs her knees and stays there for a long time.
After a brief voiceover about feeling like drowning, a close confidant enters and draws our protagonist out of her shell (and herself). The confidant tries to take the protagonist to a friendly, safe space, but the protagonist refuses to leave until they bring the flugelhorn with them. Once they’ve gotten themselves settled, the confidant presents the protagonist with music to serve as a distraction. They start into the piece, but the protagonist slips away again and again, coming back to a garbled version of what society seems to expect of her.
The confidant pushes for more, and something in the protagonist snaps. She uses her horn as a sonic weapon, torn between rage, confusion, and sadness; the confidant tries to fit in where she can. After a bit of back-and-forth, the protagonist comes to a place of rest. The confidant takes the flugelhorn to safety, and the protagonist curls up in a ball on the floor.
A mysterious dancer brings a new trumpet to our protagonist, who’s still curled up in a ball. Her eyes open, and she takes the horn while curiously taking in the four dancers now on stage. She begins to play the jazz standard All of Me, and the dancers improvise around her. Once they’re all moving, one dancer gestures for the protagonist to join them. She declines, as she’s still playing the music they’re dancing to. Two dancers lift the protagonist off the floor, propelling her into dance steps. When she is still reluctant, all four dancers take the horn from her and push her across the stage, back and forth, as she continues singing the melody. Eventually, she crumples to the floor, silent.
A fixed media piece, Don’t Tell, begins. This piece uses many voices to shine a light on the spoken and unspoken rules women and femme people use to keep themselves safe and the derisive comments they get when they are assaulted in spite of their best efforts. If phrases like “you shouldn’t have been drinking”or “you’re not pretty enough to be assaulted”are particularly hurtful to you, this piece may trigger you. As this is going on, the dancers are stepping over the protagonist’s body, arguing among themselves, forming and dissolving alliances, and molding the protagonist into poses that highlight the modesty or lack thereof each dancer thinks is appropriate. More than once, the protagonist is thrown to the ground. The piece ends with the dancers stepping over the protagonist’s body once more and placing hands over each other’s mouths.
After Don’t Tell, the protagonist wanders back to her horn and contemplates playing. One other dancer remains onstage. Soon after, a sped-up, distorted version of the Haydn playback comes on, and the protagonist tries to hang on as the music grows increasingly chaotic. As the dancer and the protagonist struggle, two other dancers enter, intent on causing harm. The dancer nearest the protagonist inserts and removes mutes from the trumpeter’s bell without her consent, eventually forcing her down into a chair and continuing the sexualized invasion of space. The other dancer begins trapping her partner, gradually forcing her down to the ground until she can no longer move. At the end of the piece, the protagonist is left with a mute stuck in her bell and no one to turn to.
The protagonist cries through the horn, making sounds that reek of despair and brokenness. As she improvises, so do the dancers. One reads a series of sentences surrounding one core theme: “Your story isn’t yours anymore.”Once the protagonist can no longer continue, the act ends, and we go to intermission.
The act starts with clipped audio of Brock Turner’s news coverage. Each story refers to him as a “former Stanford swimmer.”The protagonist dashes onstage, clearly jittery, and plays sharp, angular lines to match her unease. As the track continues, tension builds; then, suddenly, the sound disappears. It is replaced by a sinister, ASMR-like soundscape of whispers, crackles, and other amplified sounds; Megan narrates two different stories over this as the dancers from Act II crawl slowly toward her only to reverse themselves away again. The protagonist moves slowly, with slithery, almost insidious gestures dominating the visual texture. After a long time, the dancers finally reach her and pull themselves up. The five of them hug tightly; later, they break off one by one and light candles from a nearby table. The protagonist joins them, and the five of them stand together, joined and bonded by trauma. The room fades to darkness, illuminated only by the candles. As the track fades, one by one, the dancers leave, and the protagonist is left alone.
The protagonist takes water from the bowl in front of her and uses it to wash her face. Once she’s finished, she lifts her horn and plays a haunting melody into the bowl of water. She murmurs some things, too, but they may not be audible. (These phrases are not harmful.)
The protagonist finishes her piece, and a quiet tune rises out of the air. It’s the same Haydn movement from earlier in the show, performed in that elusive, true-to-intended-practice way the protagonist aimed for when she began. We sit in darkness together as the track plays out. When the lights go up, the protagonist is gone.