Creative Value Along with Imaginative and Historic Effort come Through in Patrice Amon's

On Her Shoulders We Stand. An Immersive Piece Currently Showing at the Athenaeum Art Center in Barrio Logan Until February 26

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti 

As a Theatre lover and promoter, I am always saying "The power of theatre is real", "It is so important for people to be exposed to theatre". More and more, I believe it is imperative that people be exposed to the art form not only because of the beneficial and lasting effects it has, but for the hard work and incredible imagination of the real O.G creators (please insert social media snub here) out there killing it.

So, my dear reader, I say that it is -imperative- that you experience On Her Shoulders We Stand. A multi-sensory, immersive experience that honors the role of Latin American women during World War II. Written and directed by Patrice Amon and presented by TuYo Theatre, this 40-minute piece will take audiences in groups of four through seven different rooms, each staged and themed with "people" that will interact, share stories and have them time-traveling on-site. 

I have been trying to focus on the pros versus the cons of this pandemic and by the life of me, it is hard to find any good things, especially for the performing arts that have been hit so incredibly hard. Yet, the challenges that social distancing, masks, and isolation have brought to the creative aspect of these new works are totally inspiring. The capacity of each room in 'on Her Shoulders is indeed for four people. It feels like a custom-made experience for each person. Wearing a mask totally blurs out words and it gets hard to understand when people are talking. Here, headphones will be provided at the entrance with the ability to modulate the volume of each actor that is wearing a headset totally enhancing the experience. Characters will speak directly to patrons, some engaging in various activities from a nurse who will then train the group of four on how to block windows and duck when hearing an explosion, as well as folding sheets, kneading the tortilla dough with your tía in her kitchen, and getting in trouble inside the classroom while witnessing racist slurs from the teacher. Another amazing aspect is that the "tortilla experience" is fully in Spanish. The aunt will speak to the room in Spanish and if there are speakers within the group, it will obviously be more fun but if there aren't, it will go just as smooth and that, is the beauty of it. 

Some references and phrases allude to the perception of women back then which made my head spin. For example, calling us "the gentler sex", Americanizing names like Juanita becoming Jenny in order to "pass" in some way, questioning how long a woman should be in school in order for it to not interfere with her "womanly duties" like getting married and having kids and totally dishing the valuable efforts of these women during the war and acting like it practically did not happen after the combat ended. The piece also explores deep true stories of people dying in combat and their bodies not buried on official grounds and having families disputing where the remains of loved ones were placed.

For me, the experience was like going through the mirror rooms in the old school fairs with scary clowns. Here, the mirrors are the roles of these brave women, the scary clowns resemble the awful facts and trying to plain out erase hard historic facts. As the experience is ending, the exit has an exhibit with pictures of the different women referenced in the show with bios and dates which sort of completes the puzzle and brings a bit of ease to all the feelings gathered during those 40 minutes.

This should not be missed. The creative value along with the imaginative and historic effort and originality make it totally worth it. 

Playing at the Athenaeum Art Center in Barrio Logan until February 26, the suggested donation is $30 dollars. For more information on time slots and pricing please click here.

There is a great article written by my colleague Pam Kragen on how this came about in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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