TALK TO ME ABOUT SHAME
When we feel that our connection with another individual or group is threatened and that the threat is born out of our self’s inadequacies rather than misdoings, we experience shame. Shame is an inextricable aspect of our humanity. However, shame is frequently deemed a negative emotional experience and relegated to the depths of repression. “Talk to me about Shame” is a solo performance where shame is provided a space to be witnessed, discussed and celebrated—all in an effort to model a dialogue where these instances can synthesize community bonds rather than callous into scars of isolation.
“Talk to me about Shame” was conceived in 2011 after a string of LGBTQ youth suicides made news headlines. What are the repercussions if safe spaces to relate to our shames are not readily available? In the coming years, I created small places where shame could act as a main topic of conversation. In different public spaces, I sat next to an empty chair behind a sandwich board that read “Talk to me about Shame,” inviting individuals into a reality where they could sit and approach shame without judgement.
The conversations became the backbone of the performance: the piece is about translating the safety and intimacy of these conversation places into a theater. There is no suspension of disbelief: all focus is geared toward creating dialogue between performer and audience. Recorded excerpts from public shame conversations are played to model the social bonds possible through talking about shame. Several points of my own shame narrative are shared through direct address storytelling. Audience members are given theoretical information from various sources and asked to practice incorporating certain ideologies through simple participation exercises. All of this is done to empower audience members to reconfigure their relationships to their own shame and to the shame of others.