project image

first performed on December 9, 2020
Drama-at-Huddersfield Facebook page, online and Huddersfield, UK
performed twice in 2020


Ben Spatz, students at the University of Huddersfield

Northern England


“Braiding Grass’’ was an experimental transmedia performance project, created with Year 2 Drama students at the University of Huddersfield. It was developed and presented entirely online due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and explored the affordances of online and live streaming video.

Performance material was developed in response to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, the landscape art of Andy Goldsworthy, and other explorations of living place. We did not attempt to stage or perform Kimmerer’s book, but to explore the issues it raises through our own embodied audiovisual practice. Chief among these was how to conceptualize indigeneity in a poor area of post-imperial England, where the (non)memory of colonization is denied or contested, and how to grapple with both Kimmerer’s Indigenous positionality and the generous spirit of her writing. The title “Braiding Grass’’ indicates a shift from the culturally specific (sweetgrass) to the generic or universal (grass).

The structure of the performance was fundamentally shaped by the realities of livestream performance, in which any member of the ensemble could suddenly and indefinitely disappear, at any moment and without warning, if their internet connection dropped. This limitation was intensified by our decision to engage with the theme of place by having the performance begin inside each performer’s home and then move outside to a variety of outdoor locations. To mitigate the connectivity problem, the performance was designed as a series of seven unison moments, each ending with a single line of text from Kimmerer:

  1. “I came here to listen.”

  2. “She fell like a maple seed.”

  3. “Each of us can name these wounded places.”

  4. “It is a poem written on the land.”

  5. “Here in the dirt, I find my own ceremony.”

  6. “Most of the students get drawn into the revelation of fruit.”

  7. “One person, I don’t know who, began to sing.”

In the week leading up to the livestream performances, seven individually created edited video works, responding to the same themes and sources, were uploaded to the Facebook event. Both the edited videos and the recorded live streams are still available online as of this writing.