"I Thought the Earth Remembered Me"
Before audiences enter Banished? Productions' "I Thought the Earth Remembered Me," they're asked to consent to a number of potentially alarming actions: Are you okay with being blindfolded? Kneeling for a short period of time? Being spoon-fed a mystery substance? ("It's vegan," offered my guide.) Banished shows -- maybe they need a safe word? -- are never for the close-minded or faint of heart.
— banished productions (@banishedpdtns) July 10, 2015
"I Thought the Earth Remembered Me," which gets its name from a Mary Oliver poem, is no different. Banished has made a name for itself offering site-specific, non-narrative, immersive theatrical experiences, and this production, which addresses themes of rootedness, place and mortality, was one of the more adventurous offerings of the Fringe. Admitted in groups of five at a time, audience members move through different installations and vignettes , sometimes placing them in a makeshift structure one-on-one with a performer.
You will feel something during this performance -- emotionally, and literally. In one vignette -- David Szanto's "The Gastronome in You" -- the actor talks about how we are all connected by the microbes in yeast, and presses some of the sticky substance into the audience's palm, before explaining that it's a 20-year-old sourdough starter that came from his late friend. In "The Ceremony," a song and dance by Ronee Penoi and Roo George-Warren, you'll feel the vibrations from a tribal drum, and you'll run your hands through a tray of dirt, which reveals a hidden message. And in "Being Moss," by Carmen C. Wong and Ashi K. Day, you'll feel the moss and straw under your knees and on your hands -- senses heightened by the blindfold. (For the record, the spoon-fed substance is surprising, but not so bad. I think it might have been aloe.)
Because the experience is so sensory -- there are so many tastes and smells, and surfaces to touch -- it can be hard to process the stories the actors are telling you. And when you're able to focus on the dialogue, you might be tempted to roll your eyes at some of the New Age spirituality pervasive throughout. But as the actors and guides take your hands and lead you through this wildly creative experience, whether or not you're left with a sense of rootedness, you will sense the intimacy of this highly personal performance.
Performances of this show have ended, sorry. But Banished often remounts its Fringe shows at later dates.