Stories We Don’t Tell Explores Gender-Based Oppression

Stories We Don’t Tell: Personal Experiences of Gender Based Oppression
Friday, February 1, 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Education Centre North, 4-104
Free, space is on a first-come, first-serve basis

Theatre is at its best when it takes an emotional exploration of another’s experience. That’s just what Stories We Don’t Tell: Personal Experiences of Gender Based Oppression will do as one part of the University of Alberta’s International Week finale. Directed by Brooke Leifso, Stories We Don’t Tell explores the issue of gender violence, as told in a series of monologues by those who have lived through oppression.

Director Brooke Leifso says, “We all live with a residual narrative of thoughts and experiences of violence towards our bodies, towards our gender – from the minuscule events that make up our everyday reality to the seismic ones that shift our world, leaving nothing the same.”

Dales Laing, who will be performing a monologue in Stories We Don’t Tell, allowed Sound + Noise to publish an excerpt of their story (Dales identifies as gender-neutral and prefers the pronoun “they”).

In speaking with Dales afterward about their intention in being part of Stories We Don’t Tell, Dales told me, “my intention was first to build off of The Vagina Monologues, they’re sort of women’s stories and as a female-bodied person who doesn’t identify as a woman, it’s a voice that’s not normally heard. Also, I think finding new ways to tell my story. My experience is really insidious – my Grandfather never touched me and yet it embedded in my body and life and he was very clear about what I was worth and what I should be. That really followed me for a long time, so just trying to grab the full spectrum of gender in oppression and the full spectrum of what forms of oppression actually occur and the insidious emotional violence and control is really, really damaging.”

I know from my experience observing the rehearsal process of Summer and Smoke that even actors telling another person’s story can be emotionally affected by being the performer, and I was curious about Dales’s journey to being able to tell their story as a monologue in front of an audience. Dales said, “I came into this project having done a lot of personal work for a really long time, so I sort of walked in and said, ‘oh, this will be a piece of cake, I know how to talk about my stuff,’ and for me there was a lot of letting go. Having not experienced physical violence, and having [my] story devalued, a lot of the process for me was trusting that telling a story about what might look like my Grandfather turning up the TV every time I talked was actually real, and as a six year old kid it fundamentally changes your being… I actually discovered how protective I am of [my story]… it was a lot of letting go of the assumptions I had made about what other people would think about my story or what’s most important about my experience. Also, I think just working in a group of people who are all doing this, it was such a great vibe, so part of the process was also building connections and trust and safety with each other. Because, a lot of us have never told these stories, and to tell them to someone you’ve known for two weeks requires a lot of courage.”

Dales hopes that Stories We Don’t Tell will also open up a more public conversation of oppression and abuse, saying “as a whole project, my goal is to start a conversation… for the complexity of what’s going on and the multiplicity of the ways it manifests in our culture to be a talking point or a point of conversation that people take with them or share with someone else.”

– Jenna Marynowski

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