Two Toronto women have created a performance piece not only important to see but to talk about.
A genre bending piece that follows one woman for one day as she tries to find her voice is Mouthpiece. We spoke with Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava who built this show as a “reflection of our own true experience. Amy and Norah. Today. Living in Toronto, Ontario. Reflecting a culture that we experience on a daily basis.”
TSR: I’m really excited to see what Mouthpiece is all about! Without having seen the show yet, it seems to me to be an visual collection of thoughts. What is Mouthpiece?
Norah: A visual collection of thoughts is definitely part of what Mouthpiece is, that is an astute estimation. I would say it is not just visual, however, but also an auditory collection of thoughts, a collection of thoughts expressed through movement and song and text and dance and everything in between.We have taken our own brains and turned them inside out in a certain way. We have exposed the way in which the two of us think in a very naked and non-linear fashion.
The constant dialogue going on inside of us, whether it is in conflict or in harmony, whether it is moving forward or spinning in circles. Whether it is explosive or gentle, like a soft lullaby or a violent shriek. Our discovery in the making of Mouthpiece was not so much what it was to “find our voice” as women in a singular fashion, but to be brave in sounding like many things.
TSR: How does one “find her voice” exactly?
To acknowledge the reality that we may have many voices within us and it is not necessary to curate ourselves to sound one specific way which we may feel a pressure to conform to. So it has become more about having ANY voice, expressing ANY and ALL truths we experience. It is about enriching the fabric of what the possibilities of our voices as women might sound like in the public sphere as opposed to trying to emulate a certain voice that we might feel obliged to speak with to keep everything nice and tidy and easy to swallow.
TSR: Mouthpiece takes place over the span of one day. Why only one day?
Amy: The narrative of Mouthpiece follows one woman, Cassandra Hayward, for twenty-four hours: she wakes up, checks her messages and discovers that her mom is dead. She has to deliver the eulogy the next morning, but she has woken up without a voice. We observe Cassandra accomplishing a seemingly simple set of tasks: getting dressed, buying a casket, choosing flowers, picking out a dress for her dead mother…they are trivial errands, but that’s life. That is real life, that’s what we do. We go about our day without asking too many questions about our actions.
TSR: Do you feel that only exploring one day may trivialize the female voice, considering the ongoing struggle we’ve seen from women/womyn to find their collective voice in our society?
Amy: Our challenge was to take a very simple story about one woman and load every moment, every choice, every one of her movements, her words, her every breath, with the weight of something much bigger than her. Cassandra feels the burden, she feels the pressure, but she can’t name what it is. Through stylized physicality and a cappella song – that ranges from opera to southern hymn to Billie to Janis to Beyoncé – we interweave the struggles of women gone by with the confused inner state of our heroin. We follow her as she progresses and regresses, as she takes three steps forward and two steps back over and over and over again. We follow one particular woman, for one single day because as theatre makers, both if us believe that it is in the utterly personal that you reveal the universal.
TSR: As modern filmmakers exploring the ides of the modern woman, how exactly would you define “the modern woman?”
Amy: I wouldn’t. And I think posing this question can be problematic because it forces us to box ourselves in, to narrow our scope, to choose – am I the friendly nice girl, the slut, or the laid back one-of-the-guys? Am I Marilyn or Audrey or Tina? Samantha or Charlotte or Miranda? Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty or Snow White? Am I a good feminist or a bad feminist or definitely not a feminist?
I am none of these things because none of these things are real, but wait no, I am some of these things, or wait no I am all of these things, depending on the day, but wait no…I am too complex to be contained within one single definition. We use the term “modern woman” to indicate that we are speaking about a woman today, right now, this second. But other than that I can’t define “the modern woman” any better than I can define what a woman is.
TSR: On that note, why is a show like this important to our current cultural landscape?
Norah: Although there is a fictional narrative, Mouthpiece is a reflection of our own true experience. Amy and Norah. Today. Living in Toronto, Ontario. Reflecting a culture that we experience on a daily basis. On our way to and from rehearsals. With our friends and our families, with strangers, in the street, with our roommates and our peers, at bars and parties, at home alone, in coffee shops, on streetcars, and in the middle of Dundas Square. It is important because it is our truth. And the best we can do is air out our truths so that other people might hear truth that and do the same. We are interested in dismantling the mask of the ‘feminine mystique’ and talking about what it really feels and sounds like to be female. Of course we can only speak to our own experience, but our hope is that if we do that, it will open up the space for other women with different experiences to do the same.
You can catch Mouthpiece as part of The RISER Project from April 17-May 3 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St W). Tickets for this show and others are available at The Theatre Centre box office as www.theatrecentre.org, or at 416-536-0988.