Emotions ran deep at the Feb. 23 performance of “Breathing Underwater,” the result of a week-long workshop with performance artist Tim Miller.
According to a note from Miller in the program, “This week-long performance workshop I have led here at OWU has been a charged exploration into creating original performance work from our lives, dreams, obsessions, social visions, memories and desires.”
“Breathing Underwater” was an interactive show that heavily included audience participation.
Members of the performance let few people into the Chappelear Drama Center’s main stage at a time.
Audience members were asked to go up onto the stage as they entered the auditorium. Half the stage was lit up in blue and the other in red.
Once they were on stage, Miller read statements to the audience, such as, “If you have ever been heartbroken go to the red side, if you haven’t go to the blue side.”
People silently moved from side to side according to which statement applied to them.
“The beginning part was especially intense for me,” said sophomore Katie Butt, who attended the performance.
“It was interesting to see those who identified with the statements,” she said.
The last scenario split the room into men and women.
The audience was asked to sit around the performers as they lined up in the middle of the stage, starting together and then breaking out into their own stories.
A variety of subjects was portrayed on the stage—from religion to sexuality and self-identity, nothing was off-limits. The audience watched each performance in silence.
“It was deeply emotional and hard to watch in the best possible way,” Butt said.
After the 18 performances, everyone on stage got up and joined hands.
The performers closed with a single line similar to the introduction. Everyone then applauded and embraced each other, supporting one another for sharing such personal stories.
Junior Anthony Lamoureux, one of the performers, said he learned a lot from the experience, and that it made him grow as an individual.
“I was able to validate myself as a performer,” he said.
“I was always concerned with comparing my work and my abilities to others having just got into the game of performing myself, however, he (Miller) taught me that everything I do, though it may not be great, it doesn’t mean the piece itself isn’t valid, and a gift to myself.”
Lamoureux said he hoped the audience understood each performance was a reflection of the performer’s life and how their stories helped them become who they are today.
Sophomore Ryan Haddad said he felt the experience empowered him as an individual, but the most rewarding aspect of his participation in the “Breathing Underwater” process was the strengthened relationships with his fellow performers.
“In the theatre, we’re all like a family, but even as close as we are, we all learned things about each other that we hadn’t known before,” Haddad said.
“We shared our greatest joys, heartbreaks, fears, and triumphs with one another, and it was a privilege to deepen so many friendships in a single week.
“As a performer, I learned what trust truly means, and I was able to let go and expose my vulnerabilities because I knew the rest of the ensemble would be there to support me.”