On Her Shoulders We Stand

This is one in The Look Club’s series of write ups covering the 2022 Without Walls Festival at Liberty Station in San Diego. The full list of write-ups can be found here.

The Show & How it Works:

You queue up outside a tent, are given headsets, and then—along with your cohort of three other people—move from room to room as directed by the performers.

Why it’s Interesting, IMHO:

While it was not at all apparent from the show description, the thing most interesting is that they cast you in the show! While the story isn’t dependent on your actions, you become a part of whichever scene you’re in and are expected to participate accordingly.

Initial Impression & Critical Discussion:

In the first scene, you’ve enlisted in the army and are being trained. In the next, you learn to make tortillas… in Spanish. After that, you experience what it was like for a Latina child in school. After that, it gets a bit more political…and my audio dropped out. (They gave us each a headset during our “training” and, quite cleverly, the live audio of the mic’d performers came through it, along with some mood-setting music; unfortunately, at some point my headset was overrun with static and, in that scene, Uncle Sam happened to be mouthing his lines, which made it hard to follow). Regardless, it was a highly engaging and personal theatrical experience that did a great job of putting the audience in the shoes of Latina women during WWII. It was educational, empathy-buiding and interactive, and it ended by inviting you to pick up a paintbrush and add to a mural, cementing the idea that we are part of something greater.

Experiential Viewpoint Expression (E.V.E.):

Embodied, 1st person visual, 1st person narrative, participant, mortal.

Who Should See This?

I’d recommend this show for anyone who’s old enough to handle witnessing racism and impressionistic death in wartime. There’s nothing too violent or gory about this show; it can just be a bit uncomfortable in those moments. While the first few scenes felt like they’d be great for children, as a whole this production is not. Similarly, attendees should be young enough to be able to move from room to room — sitting and standing at various intervals — without much trouble, and not mind the slight shift from indoors to outdoors (possibly in direct sun for about 10 minutes).

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