NERVE gave local voices a stage with powerful results
It was standing room only in the Richmond Triangle Players performance space on Tuesday night. People crowded in, standing in the back of the audience and perching at the edge of stairs, in an attempt to catch the one night only performance of NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience, a devised theatre piece created by TheatreLAB artists to support the Virginia Anti Violence Project.
Even though the show lasted nearly two hours, those forced to find more creative seating didn’t seem to notice or mind.
This was due to the unique and powerful performance that was taking place.
NERVE’s script was created by taking real stories of turmoil and resistance in the face of ignorance. The hodgepodge of stories ranged from heartbreaking to joyful, some of the stories were deeply personal, while others were newsworthy events that may have been recognizable to audience members. All of these true events were given a chance to be seen and heard by NERVE’s talented cast of actors.
The performance started out with a group piece entitled “5 Ways To Avoid Being Bullied.” In it, the cast showed the absurdity of using the traditional routes of avoiding conflict when you are part of the LGBTQ community. This piece was high energy, making it a great way to kick off the show. It highlighted all the funny and depressing ways a person has to learn to cope with an often unkind world.
“Going Home” was the first in a string of monologues. Performed by Wes McWillen, it was a story about a young gay man returning to his dysfunctional childhood home to see his parents. What made this piece powerful was the slow reveal of information. You learn piece by piece what the story is, and McWillen did a wonderful job of holding back the emotionality of the piece until absolutely necessary.
McWillen’s choice to portray the character as fragile kept the audience tense enough to wait for the cracks to come.
The next piece; “Riot” was one that was poignant in its relevance to what we see so often in the news today.
Performed by Lucretia Anderson, the piece was a monologue in which a young woman spoke to an invisible police officer during a protest. She thought of all the things that she wished she could say about the trans women of color who have died from anti-trans violence.
As Anderson delivered the powerful speech, her hands visibly shook holding her notecards where the words were written. It was a haunting reminder of all the names that don’t make the headlines.
With 17 powerful pieces in total, some pieces did stand out more than others. “Love Isn’t Always Enough” performed by Linda Beringer and Jody Smith Strickler was particularly striking. Told from the perspective of two mothers of LGBTQ children, both Beringer and Strickler did a particularly good job of painting a picture of vibrant and alive children who they loved. Their ability to make you see their children through their own eyes, made the tragic conclusion of the piece all the more heart breaking. The creative choice to have “Love Isn’t Always Enough” lead directly into “Invisible” (Performed by Maggie Bavolack) while Strickler remained on stage was a brilliant move by director Melissa Rayford.
Arguably the most powerful piece of the evening was “You Don’t Know This, But” performed by Chandler Hubbard. The challenging monologue detailed one young man’s near suicide attempt. Although you never get a clear description of the friend that helped to change the characters mind without even knowing it, the strength of that bond is truly brought to life by Hubbard’s wonderful performance.
Two more standout pieces were “Brief Of Amicus Curiae” and “It Do Take Nerve.”
In “Brief Of Amicus Curiae,” we are presented two very different reasons that one may oppose marriage equality. Performed by Carolyn Meade and Maggie Bavolack, this duet of opposing views forced audience members to see a highly contested issue in ways they may not have before.
“It Do Take Nerve” (performed by Andrew Etheridge) showcased the fear that many in the LGBTQ community face every day in only the way that a drag queen could. With comedy, grace, and an abundance of confidence Etheridge explained to the audience, in no uncertain terms, what it takes to survive.
NERVE: Stories Of Queer Resilience was a unique and influential performance that I can only hope becomes yearly tradition. Telling the stories that may not have been told without this performance is a perfect way to showcase that the men and women who lived these stories have a community that is ready and able to shout their words out to the world.
Photos via Melissa Rayford
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