Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 41

THE ARTS, PARTICIPATION, AND GLOBAL INTERESTS Voice and silence help make up an actor’s theatrical performance. Enunciation, intona- tions and inflections enrich characters for audiences. But today, the Global Cultural Fel- lows explored how voice and silence not only appear and disappear in performances, but also in our everyday lives. Using last night’s performances of Pike Street and Lal Batti Express as references for to- day’s discussions, the five fellows comprising the Voice/Silence group facilitated open, small-group discussions on a variety of aspects of the topic. Asif Majid led a talk on pow- er and rawness; Xenia Hanusiak explored the ‘echo chamber’ and the voice of theatre in the outside world; Jane Saren provoked questions about the art of persuasion; Jenna Ashton asked her group to analyse ways gender is performed; and Eona Craig helped her fellow participants think about authenticity and advocacy.   It became clear as the Fellows re-grouped in large circle—synthesising the small-group discussions—that tensions transcend the multiple ways voice and silence are used and given for theatrical effect and political movements. Jenna initiated an exchange on the question of who has the right to communicate stories to audiences. This provocation fa- cilitated discussion between multiple fellows on their discomfort over the context of Lal Batti Express, a performance staged by teenage girls from India relaying their own expe- riences with sexual abuse and exposure to prostitution. A contingent of Fellows worried that the NGO that sponsored the girls’ performances were exploiting their stories for their own purposes, potentially undermining the performers’ agency and ownership of their own experiences. Abdulkarim Ekzayez, a medical doctor, referenced his profes- sion’s ethics guidelines to propose the need for a similar set of rules in the art community to protect performers from being used for the power of their message. In these conversations, the Fellows also made sure to clarify that silence is not an empty process. Luis Felipe Ferra equated silence to “hearing from yourself,” noting that a per- son does not clap aloud for finishing a book. He described silence as a key for depth of thought, which is crucial to the processes of listening and contemplation. The power of silence was further elaborated on by Michael Anyanwu, who deconstruct- ed the opening scene of Pike Street, a one-woman play about a family on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which depicts a mute adolescent girl on dialysis. Among the characters in  Pike Street  was a celebrated Navy Seal veteran coping with PTSD. Mahtab Farid used the female actor’s portrayal of this character to examine the balance between stereotypes and giving voice to marginalised groups. She stated that in this case, the actor needed to take on this group’s voice in order to give them ability to be seen by publics. Her comments demonstrated that the matters of power, agency and visibility are not black and white issues. Faisal Abu Alhayjaa reiterated this nuance to voice. Speaking on the Fellows’ reserva- tions over Lal Batti Express, Faisal stated that audiences need to ask what kind voice is 41