Week 2: New Fire & In Plain Sight (Moraga and Mojica)

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Please post your (150-200 word) thoughts on Moraga’s New Fire: To Put things Right Again and Monique Mojica’s Essay, In Plain Sight: Inscripted Earth and Invisible Realities.  

12 thoughts on “Week 2: New Fire & In Plain Sight (Moraga and Mojica)

  1. On New Fire:
    Show me the face of my wound, the warrior dance of the dead, mouth spilling indecipherable names of the dead. This show is not about watching or seeing. It’s about bearing witness and sharing. The audience does that. Vero does that herself. What is it about bearing witness that is so important? Is it because of the years of ignorance, so bearing witness is retribution? Does bearing witness give power to a community? Or is it a means to share a community with others?
    It feels like all the players are there to cater to one character’s needs. It feels like a cradling, a caring. Not a world of selfish characters all after each other (how American that is…) or different parties with their own worlds somehow coinciding (how European) but a community coming together onstage. It’s not about a linear trajectory, but a circling around a person and their world. How does this theatrical pattern reflect the culture? How does this dramatic pattern stand within a western theatrical landscape?
    What is this heritage, but perhaps a way to process the world? Do we all process the world through our religious and cultural lenses? Whether it’s about guilt, grief, moving forward, looking backward, seeking help, connecting with God/universe? Do we move through the world alone, via a conduit to God/universe, or through community? How does that affect the way we make decisions and view each other’s histories?
    On Mojica’s journey:
    “This is real.” The land is their archive. Do the mounds represent something lost, something trampled upon? If so, the trampling can never be undone… If this journey is a reckoning, what is meant to be the action, the ideal measure taken, moving forward? Would it be to uncover all the burial mounds in America? And then do what with them?
    Is it just to tell the story? Or is there a desire to reclaim? Does storytelling act as healing?
    “We pray to heal the past, we pray to heal the future [still tied to the past] …generations standing together, refusing to remain invisible.” This seems passive, and barely an action. More of a call to remember. But memory is fickle and unreliable. Are we remembering for ourselves, or calling others to remember?
    We can’t expect the world to know our pasts or be aware of the intricacies of history, adversity, and cultural heritage. There also seems to be entitlement here… Many people have been abused, publicly desecrated, damaged by history. It should never be a battle of “who’s been abused more”. What is the desired attitude toward our histories? We all share the same earth now…
    A mound, or a people, are identifiable BECAUSE of their desecration. It is either “hyper visibility” and marked “exotic”, or “concealment”, so evidenced is erased. In either case, is the desire to be seen or to be invisible? What role within current society is taken?
    “‘Evidence’ is interpreted to follow a certain script” So who re-writes the script? How do we tell the story moving forward?

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  2. I was interested in the presence and role of the female while reading “New Fire.” The male, especially seen in “Padrastro”, appears to be forceful, powerful, dominating and cruel. But we are reminded that at one point in time the female held a place of honor. The figure of the coyote usually appears as male, and I’m interested by the decision to make Coyote both male and female. When Vero finally vomits, only names of female dead spill from her mouth. Caminante tells us that as a child Veronica became “Vero” because Veronica was “too girly.” I’m also interested in the exploration of the difference between darkness and solitude in nature and darkness and loneliness inside one’s own head. How can gender identity lead to this separation and loneliness in our modern world?

    I also loved the idea of making the decision to refuse to be separated from the spirits.

    While reading I found myself wishing that I had a broader knowledge of Native American history and culture so that I would be able to discern how drastically this play follows or breaks from how gender roles have most commonly been portrayed in Native American performance.

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  3. In New Fire the moment when an older man responded to a woman leading the ceremony by saying he had been “tricked” by changing times caught my attention. It introduced a paradox: although a queer woman searches for a ceremonial healing in the play, queer and female identities do not seem welcome within the ceremonial space. Although the play addresses the two-spirit tradition as a way to accommodate queer identity, I’m interested in the ways ceremonies and cultures can change, or even break, without losing their power. In the Mojica essay, Knowles observes that a sacred mound can be recognized “because of its desecration,” yet the essay insists constantly that “we are still here.” How does the interruption of a ceremony—the transgression of sacred space, whether that means the intermingling of the sky and the earth or an unusual capacity for vomiting medicine—become integral to the experience of the ceremony itself, while still providing a sense of continuity with the past and solidarity with the community? –Jack Dwyer

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  4. What sticks out to me the most is the spiritual presence of the dead in Native American culture. In In Plain Sight, I specifically recall Monique’s first and second journal entries. She says in St. Thomas that “even the spirits of this village are long, long gone,” (Mojika 223). I initially thought she was expressing this observation as emphasis to the physical absence of any sign of mounds. However, in Toronto, she and her colleagues walk the earth with their “heartbeats straining to detect a shift in energy…” (ibid.). This recollection tells me that Mojika and her companions were trusting, not only their eyes, but their hearts to detect objective evidence of historical landmarks.
    It’s not that I am in disbelief towards this methodology, but rather surprised and excited in the knowledge that there are people who trust more than what they see and believe. It is confirmation in mysteries of our world that are beyond our knowing.

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  5. In New Fire, I was really struck by the “Calling the Names of the Dead” in the seventh scene and, again, similarly affected when Vero vomited up their names in the ninth scene. The way the body is portrayed in this piece is incredibly raw and, at times, made me physically squirm (and this was just reading it – I cannot imagine how I’d respond SEEING the play…although I found myself wishing I could be watching this story many times while reading). So much of this play felt like a song to me so it was interesting to pair that musicality in the language with the many recurring moments of Vero’s vomiting. In “In Plain Sight”, I came to a dead stop after reading her August 28th entry in Illinois (Cahokia Mounds) and had to reread her incredible passage of synchronizing with the earth. It’s extraordinary to connect with something so deeply – a “dialogue from below the earth to the sun” as she put it. I was also touched when she wept in Ohio (then have to pop up and act normal when strangers were approaching – too funny!) These kind of viseral experiences seemed to be what she was really hoping for along her journey, too – so I’m glad they occurred for her!

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  6. New Fire: A lot of the imaginary led me through the play. This play seems very complex technically and in language too, not just because of the Spanish, but by the way the words were bunched on the page. It was so poetic and moving. Seeing the list of “Brown Women” that died of the hands of injustice was shocking. I know that these tragedies exist, but it becomes more tangible or within my reach when you say these brave names (Like the Black Lives Matter Movement) Also, Yo… I am Really mad! The SEXISIM kills me. I really wonder when the equality of women will finally be praised whole heartily by this country and within the communities that we reside within.

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  7. Mojica’s essay lead me to question the nature of authenticity in dramaturgical research. Mojica’s proclivity to trust his body as a research recording mechanism contrasts the procedures of dramaturgical research that I have witnessed most: library or online research. Dramaturgy, as I understand it, is an investigation of historical context that envelops the actors’ bodies on stage. Furthermore, a second function of dramaturgy is how the research comes alive on stage in performance. These two different methods of dramaturgy are opposing in their respective strengths and weakness. For example, Mojica’s method of body recording or first person experience, in theory, would shine in creating the world that surrounds the actors on stage, but would fall short I believe in the elucidation or conveying of that experience to collaborators, as Mojica’s recording mechanism is so intimate. On the other hand, dramaturgical research that occurs online or through traditional research is more easily presented to collaborators, but lacks the first hand knowledge of actually being somewhere and experiencing something. If dramaturgy is suppose to bring us closer to the world we are trying to create on stage, would a first person account or a third person account be more helpful, considering the intimacy and personalization that must accompany that dramaturgical knowledge gained in order to properly tell a story?

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  8. What struck me most about these two readings was the connection to the dead, and the physical, artistic manifestations of remembrance that resulted in this connection. In the Mojica essay, the “witnesses” visit the burial mounds of various Native tribes – which are monumental artistic feats in and of themselves – and record visceral, bodily reactions to the energy of the land. The Moraga play, though centered on a different subject matter, represents Native people who have been silenced and murdered (mainly, women and queer activists) as an illness physically manifesting in the protagonist’s body (VERO). A mythic spirit finally purges this memory-illness from VERO’s body (p. 25). In this way, the ghosts of those silenced are released only after their memories have been acknowledged. In both cases, the acknowledgement of the dead and forgotten manifests in the physical bodies of their contemporary representatives, a choice which I found both beautiful and haunting.

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  9. Signage. I am left thinking on the power of a simple sign. How much influence it can have over a given area. How sad it was that sacred areas became playgrounds….in part due to poor signage.

    It begs the question…should we need a sign? Surely it helps. But shouldn’t we know better? Would we need a sign at Pearl Harbor? Do we need a sign in the classic cemetery? Maybe more people need to sunbathe in our cemeteries before we start we start to see our own ignorance.

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  10. New Fire is a unique play because it actually presents a ritual onstage instead of just representing it; and through the play, I experienced how certain Native American tribes engage in spiritual healing. I also experienced the gender and sex-based politics involved within these community rituals. In my opinion, Vero’s character provides a concrete entryway into the play for audiences more familiar with narrative-based and/or protagonist-led drama. In Vero we see a queer Native American woman in need of healing from her abuse-filled past. Albeit in varying degrees, we the audience can relate to Vero’s pain. However, one essential bit of dialogue draws the line between universal human experience and specific cultural experience. In a voice over, a female voice speaks poetry that makes an appeal to non-Native Americans: “We are like you,” she says. After listing various ways in which all human beings are alike, she counters: “…but we do represent an economic power for this country/Because we are slaves/They treat us like slaves/Slavery hasn’t end[ed] for a lot of us.” This moment, for me, illuminates the fact that the human experience cannot be separated from one’s cultural and historical ties. While I could relate to Vero’s need for healing and cleansing, I did not necessarily understand her cultural experience. I also learned that Vero finds solace and healing in the ceremonial practices of her culture by giving thanks and remembering. “It’s a small thing, really,” she says of remembering. “It is/a small nation/of remember.” This final moment in the play conveys the importance of keeping vanishing cultures alive and the essential role that one’s culture plays in creating peace of mind and wholeness of identity. Reading the play, however, did prove challenging without visual aid. This challenge led me to ponder what the process of mounting an actual production would be like without the original creators involved. I also wondered whether or not a non-Native American would have the right to produce this play given its heavy reliance on Native American cultural practices and mythology. Could a production of New Fire survive in New York if marketed as an immersive theatrical experience akin to Sleep No More?

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  11. A lot of oppression in these readings. And violence: spiritual and physical. I want to focus on the idea of hyperrealism and invisibility. Mojica’s mound journey triggered a familiar narrative of burying cultures before they become extinct. Mojica’s tour of the sometimes preserved Native American effigy mounds among neighborhoods and parks was tantamount to watching the hyperventilating ash-covered victims in Pompeii claw for their lives while Vesuvius explodes in the background. We live with this very unsupported view that Native American culture must be memorialized because it is, in fact, dead, denying the inconvenient reality of a live and active culture trying to reclaim itself. Inconvenient because recognizing the existence of a thriving culture would require us to take down the “signage” Mojica refers to, and move our golf courses. Oddly enough, the hyperrealism, rather, the accepted circumstance is that we have no way of resuscitating a nation of lost Native American knowledge. Why do we accept these circumstances when they are so blatantly false?

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  12. What really stuck with me during the whole reading was that what seemed to be fueling Mojica’s journey and I think Mojica even speaks to this is re establishing stories that have been erased. To make visible the invisible. What I found myself relating too was the concept that to do that once has to not only research but research with all facts of their humanity. All levels. Connect through sensory experience of place. Through memory, through the fusion of both being in the place of an event with the context of a particular story or history of someone linked to said event it almost revives the history from erasure. That’s what Mojica’s theatrical journey seemed to me based on the description of this article. An actual on how to re investigate or re insert visibility to topics and events whose histories and identities have been made invisible.

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