Familiarity

As Kat and I pulled in to the parking lot of the TCCC on Friday morning, we noticed that, once again, the lot was over-full. Indeed, cars were parked in the unpaved area to the right of the paved surface lot. The day was sunny, so parking in the field wasn’t much of an issue; nevertheless, remembering last fall, when a mud-caked car (thankfully not ours!) lodged itself firmly in the ditch, we decided to park in the far lot and walk back to the visitation building.

We were excited to be back, and I think we surprised ourselves with our relaxed and easy manner. After winding our way through security (and past the “paperclips are bad” sign), we took the elevator up to level two of the education building. As we signed in, the officer handed us our roll sheet, a plastic tub with dry erase markers and our radio, and a wooden tray filled with stubby golf pencils.

Several women were sitting in the waiting area, including a familiar face from last fall. It has been several months since we were at TCCC, and we were expecting a completely new group. Needless to say, our hope for the women is that their cases are processed, their time is served, and they are able to move forward with their lives. Yet, for us, it is great to have someone in class who is already familiar with our work—it makes our job easier when the women hear from each other that they will feel better by the end of our sessions (and maybe have some fun too!).

We had a small group, and our lesson was fruitful and smooth. There was a distinct difference in the energy level of the group between our initial check in and our check out. In fact, we roused so much enthusiasm during our game of Zip, Zap, Boing that I made sure to include a long, slow, group breath at the end, just so everyone was calm and centered before they moved on to their next class.

It was a big week for Conspire, with two presentations at UT in addition to the start of a new round of classes, and yet (for me at least) none of these activities were new or for the first time. Our Wednesday visit as panelists for Katie Dawson’s graduate-level applied drama course and our Friday presentation for Performance as Public Practice’s Fridays at 2pm series were both opportunities for me to share with the university community some of my post-grad school experiences. They were also opportunities to reflect on the ways in which, as both a teacher/facilitator and as an individual, I have continued to develop in my understanding of and passion for community-based movement and theatre work.

As our Friday morning class exhaled together, I was struck again by Kat’s choice for naming this organization—Conspire Theatre, meaning “to breath with.” Shared breath cultivates shared experience. Shared experience nurtures familiarity. Reinforcing the positive aspects of familiarity creates a space for relaxation, develops feelings of self-empowerment, and affirms self-expression. In this way, developing familiarity enables women to better cope with obstacles and change. Over this next round of teaching, as we all become more familiar with one another, I look forward to cultivating a shared expressive space and look forward to seeing how the women respond to the tools we have to share and what they have to teach us in return.

–Meg Brooker

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