For a show about scars, YOU HAVE MADE A STORY ON MY SKIN is surprisingly comforting. It embodies a beautiful acceptance and even love for the wounded past and scarred present that make us who we are.
Produced by her own company Collective Eleven, Rachel Hynes performs autobiographical stories about her many scars, punctuated by interludes.
She is supported by co-writer and “facilitator” Gregory Ford, who does everything from running Will Call to finger-painting on Hynes’s back to simulate the ritual scarification of the Kaningara people of Papa New Guinea. The two work well together, despite the deeply personal context of this show. Hynes’s openness with Ford, and with the audience, pays off.
Stories that reveal the sources of Hynes’s many scars make up the meat of the show. Some are confessions tinged with regret and even anger, while others seem almost blithe in contrast. All are told with great sincerity, making the audience feel like trusted loved ones.
YOU HAVE MADE A STORY ON MY SKIN takes a gamble and lets the audience select which stories get told and in which order. By choosing between horse figurines or clay tiles, volunteers pick the shape and pace of that night’s performance.
In its favor, this helps make Hynes’s casual, friendly storytelling seem even more authentic, as if seeing the horse figurine just happened to reminder her of a funny story about where she got this one scar…
But in trade, Hynes relinquishes control of the show’s pacing. At any point, you could hear a quick story about a little girl bumping her head on a radiator or a recounting of the worst year in this woman’s life. Without a consistently rising tension or even predictable rhythm, the show meanders and risks frustrating those with short attention spans and imprecise internal clocks.
The interludes feature a range of art forms and topics. Early on, Hynes uses clay to demonstrate the scientific classifications of scars. In another, she mimes bathing in skin products. Songs are used to great effect, warming the black box theater and making good use of Ford’s vocal training and history with singing. On the other hand, the movement pieces often drag, interrupting what is otherwise very accessible and engaging.
YOU HAVE MADE A STORY ON MY SKIN
closes October 1, 2016
Details and tickets
Set designer Brian Gillick surrounds Hynes with rich, red fabrics hanging from the ceiling and worn, wooden furniture. It is the exact opposite of the sterile emergency rooms where Hynes has all too often found herself.
As the show progresses, the set follows the story of Hynes’s own body. She ties the hanging fabrics together in clumsy, ugly knots. By the end, the set is a tangle. But not for the worse, as having been there and watched the irreproducible connections form gives it a unique beauty. How’s that for metaphor in set design.
Serendipitously, YOU HAVE MADE A STORY ON MY SKIN shares Flashpoint with Mending, an interactive installation by Nicole Salimbene. The artwork is on display at Flashpoint Gallery until October 15, a fortnight past the show’s final performance. Much like Hynes’s work, Salimbene’s bridges different mediums to explore how things are imperfectly repaired. It is no stretch to suppose she also had scars in mind.
Both offer opportunities for the audience to participate. For Hynes, her laid-back, experimental spin on the Neo-Futurists’ Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind play selection. For Salimbene, stools, needles, and thread provided for the audience’s use, so they may sit, reflect, and add threaded needles to growing collections in bowls next to the artwork. These two artists in tandem make for a great night for adventurous audience members willing to invest.
As Hynes shares stories of trauma and silver linings, it’s difficult not to get lost reflecting on your own scars. But her positivity and warmth gives the audience a new opportunity to fall in love with what might be their least favorite parts of their bodies.
YOU HAVE MADE A STORY ON MY SKIN. Written and performed by Rachel Hynes and Gregory Ford. Production managed by Kaylin Peachey. Elena Day as movement consultant. Goldie Patrick as script advisor. Set designed by Brian Gillick. Lighting designed by Gordon Nimmo-Smith. Sound design and composing by Aaron Finkelstein. Stage managed by Patrick Gallagher Landes. Produced by Collective Eleven. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.