The first thing to know about I Thought The Earth Remembered Me is that it isn’t a play, at least not in the traditional sense. The second thing to know is that this is the weird Fringe experience you’ve always heard about, but never manage to see. The last thing to know about banished?’s newest offering is that it well worth the brief yet intriguing experience.
I say “offering” because their really isn’t a good word (yet) for what I Thought The Earth Remembered Me is. It’s a set of 5 different experiences, all highly sensual (in the ocular, aural nasal sense rather than the sense of sensual massage), through which the audience is guided in ones and twos in a randomized order. Each is focused on using those senses to reconnect with something of the earth among the thoroughly gentrified and paved Monroe Street Market with WMATA trains blaring by. Somehow the artificiality of the surroundings juxtaposed with the search for reconnection to nature made these 5 experiences seem, if not more authentic, more earnest at least.
I hesitate to describe these experiences too specifically. Not just so that I don’t give away the surprise of them, but because each of them is so intimate. The audience isn’t only shrunk down to ones and twos, but so are the performers. The gravity of these experiences hinge on creating intimate connections between these tiny groups.
I Thought the Earth Remembered Me
Conceived by Carmen C. Wong
Directed by Ronee Penoi
Details and tickets
Will you be transfixed by smelling the bread a performer baked with his own hands and a sourdough starter with a special story? Possibly you’ll roll your eyes, but I was transfixed. Will you be amazed at the recreation of nature in the smallest (but still human-sized) terrarium banished? has made? Perhaps, but I was amazed.
Will you be inspired by a palpable use of sound mixed with a musical number about how Native Americans were stripped of their culture? Maybe you will, but I certainly was given much food for thought.
Everyone will come at these experiences differently, but if you keep your heart, mind and body open, I think I Thought The Earth Remembered Me will strike a resonant chord with you.
But this production isn’t for everyone. It requires walking around, sitting in some awkward places, being blindfolded, and eating things. Yes, eating things. Could banished? really use the sense of taste without it? But they will warn you about these aspects, and offer alternatives to the skittish audience member. Nothing was foul or, even to my gangly and massive body, very uncomfortable. In fact, the main complaint I have about I Thought The Earth Remembered Me is that these experiences are far too few and short. The whole of the five experiences only runs about 45 minutes, so when I was finished, I felt shorted that it wasn’t a full evening’s entertainment.
The real evening’s entertainment will be discussing banished?’s offering with your friends. It’s a rare and very Fringey thing to be this close with performers, and you’ll discover quite a bit about who your friends are as social animals and what their personal space comfort levels are after you see I Thought The Earth Remembered Me. A famous theater director, Jerzy Grotowski once said, “There is only one element of which film and television cannot rob the theater: the closeness of the living organism.” And in I Thought The Earth Remembered Me, I haven’t seen any production more fulfill that aphorism.