Thursday evening, a bustling audience gathered in the Granoff Center for Creative Arts to see Everett Company’s “Good Grief” — a multimedia performance centered around trauma’s grip on both mind and body.
The audience faced a stage cast in a cool, blue light, growing silent as members of the Everett Company began to emerge from behind a projection screen, their shadows and vague features visible among rolling ocean waves. Bells tolled in the distance while the artists swayed back and forth in composed movements, giving a sense of unity between their bodies and minds.
The artists used both dance and pantomime to convey their life experiences. Dressed in various costumes, the artists employed dioramas, projected videos and used a variety of music to enact particular scenes, all of which were charged with physical and emotional intensity. Scenes ranged from conversations with an assumed therapist in a suburban living room to a depiction of a ghost-like figure trudging through a forest with literal baggage. Artists cycled through various identities, using masks, dresses, cloaks and even shadows to portray family members, emotions and stages in their lives, providing a fully immersive experience for both themselves and the audience.
The physical toll of trauma was emphasized throughout the play. During dance, Everett Company’s artists provided dialogue on the nature of trauma and its physical effects on the mind and the body. Bodies became fluid as the artists leaned against, pushed and supported each other. At times, artists even grappled with “parts” of themselves, engaging in dialogue with their insecurities and trauma.
Throughout the performance, artists visualized this dialogue with their “parts,” a method highlighted in Internal Family Systems, a psychotheraputic model. IFS emphasizes conflicts between “subpersonalities,” according to the Center for Self Leadership, an organization that focuses on the IFS method. At one point, with the use of a projected video, an artist began a conversation with one of their “parts,” their insecurity. At first, the dialogue was angry, aggressive and resentful, but once the artist began approaching their part with kinder words, a sense of familiarity began to settle over the two.
“Good Grief” showed how trauma of all kinds can be a visceral experience, taking over an individual physically and cognitively, while also evidencing how the artists could begin healing and recognizing their trauma by confronting it with the IFS method, dance and theater.
After the final dancing act and a standing ovation, Everett Company opened up the stage for a question-and-answer opportunity. Attendees lauded the theater troupe for their talent, skill and emotional vulnerability in presenting their story. When asked about the process of developing the theme of “Good Grief,” one of the artists replied that trauma was a focus for the performance. “We’ve been doing a lot of work in high schools,” they said. “All these artists have been going into middle schools and working with clinicians and creating artistic adaptations to clinical programs and group therapy for students who have been identified with suffering from PTSD.”
The artists emphasized how significant IFS therapy was to the overall performance. They all met a therapist who specialized in IFS, and one of the members of Everett Company elaborated: “You’d go in and find a part of yourself you’d want to talk to, and talk to that part, and then we played each other’s parts; we brought in movement. … Those were some of the ways we created some of the material.”