Performance Project Holds Space for BIPOC Storytellers to Investigate Experiences of Grieving and LossWorld premiere of ‘A Feeling of, Feeling For,’ March 25-27, offers stories of loss and healing through Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance’s Assembly Festival
By: Clarissa Shirley ’22 Tuesday, March 8, 2022 01:22 PM
For Maereg Gebretekle, “A Feeling of, Feeling For” was more than just a theater production; it was an opportunity for contemplation.
“Within daily life we never have the chance to reflect on these big questions,” they said. “How do we withdraw from intellectualizing our way out of trauma and towards inserting ourselves back into our bodies? How can we mourn the person who we could’ve become but no longer desire to be?”
Gebretekle, a Muhlenberg College senior who alternates between “she” and “they” pronouns, has found in her rehearsal process that these questions may not have an answer — but that in asking them, she and her group of actors have found an outlet for reflection.
“A Feeling of, Feeling for” will run March 25-27 in Muhlenberg’s Studio Theatre. It is one of five projects within a semester-long “Assembly Festival,” running through May. Information on all five projects is available at muhlenberg.edu/seeashow.
“The intellectual part of us wants to think through and discuss traumatic experiences,” Gebretekle said. “But loss is also held in the body. I want the ensemble to generate stories and dances of their own loss that they can expel through action.”
Gebretekle originated the project, leading a group of seven performers through an explorative production process. She was assistant director for the 2020 production of “Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Jeffrey Page. They were also president of the Muhlenberg Theatre Association in 2021.
“A Feeling of, Feeling For” was first inspired by Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley’s 2008 article “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic.” It has since evolved into an exploration of loss that is specific to each participating ensemble member. Gebretekle sought out a group of seven BIPOC actors who were brave enough to share their own stories of loss. The ensemble have been sculpting their narratives, using ritual as a conduit for storytelling.
“I wanted to create this piece with people who were willing to bring their personal losses and burdens to the space,” she said, “to let other ensemble members as well as the audience members take care of them. It’s an emotionally demanding task, but everyone has been really generous with what they are willing to share.”
As the ensemble prepares to share their work with the Muhlenberg community, Gebretekle asks that the audience be mindful of how they bear witness to the ensemble's stories.
“It’s great to talk about a performance and explore the different discourses around it,” she said, “but I want to emphasize that this piece was conceived and rehearsed with the actors being prioritized, rather than the audience. I wanted this project to center BIPOC stories. This is for them and that has been my main goal while working on the production.”
“A Feeling of, Feeling For” premieres March 25-27, in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College. Showtimes are March 25-27: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m. All tickets are $5. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or online.
About the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theatre program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theatre and dance.
About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.