Previews: BIPOC PLAY-READING SERIES: IZZIE M: THE ALCHEMY OF ENFREAKMENT at Straz Center

On stage on May 26 in TECO Theatre at 2:30 PM

By: May. 16, 2024
Previews: BIPOC PLAY-READING SERIES: IZZIE M: THE ALCHEMY OF ENFREAKMENT at Straz Center
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Coming to TECO Theatre on Sunday, May 26 at 2:30 pm is The Straz Center's annual BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Play-Reading Series. The final writer featured is Monique Mojica, a Guna and Rappahannock actress and playwright.

Monique's theatrical practice centers on land-based embodied research and culturally specific Indigenous dramaturgy development. She is a member of the newly formed Indigenous Dramaturgy Circle at Tarragon Theatre and was the inaugural Wurlitzer Visiting Professor at the University of Victoria's Theatre Department in 2023. 

She was thrilled to learn her play was accepted into the last slot of the 2024 BIPOC play-reading series.

Previews: BIPOC PLAY-READING SERIES: IZZIE M: THE ALCHEMY OF ENFREAKMENT at Straz Center Performed by Monique and Barry Bilinsky, "Izzie M: The Alchemy of Enfreakment" tells the story of a not-too-distant past when "Indians" were considered freaks and exotics. Set during the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, "Izzie M" reveals how sacred things in Indigenous societies became profaned for entertainment and profit.

A quote by Robert Bogdan - "Freakshows are the pornography of disability," to which she expanded to "Freakshows are the pornography of othering, and we were all in it together," inspired her interest. This and her own family's experiences sparked Monique's exploration of the freak show. In the 1930s, her mother and aunt (the future founders of New York's Spiderwoman Theater) performed in the Side Show at the Golden City Amusement Park in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, New York.

"As is true with my work, it was layered. The first seed was wanting to look at my family's history as performers in the sideshow, knowing that my mother had been a child performer in a sideshow that was part of the freak show at The Golden City Amusement Park in Canarsie, Brooklyn. It was a competitor of Coney Island and burned down in 1939. She and her older sister went on to form Spider Woman Theater in 1975."

During the Great Depression, Monique's family and neighbors chose to earn money by playing "Indian" over standing in the relief line. She explains that they were meant to exalt white man's progress in civilization, and they provided the savagery in contrast to that. To do that, Indigenous people from all over the world went through a process of "enfreakment."

"There was money to be had for the performative way. Indigenous peoples fit into the North American psyche. It was at a time when our dances and ceremonies were outlawed. Our clothing and dances were for the entertainment and amusement of the non-indigenous people and, therefore, the North American society. And in a way, that still goes on; it's just morphed a bit," she explains. "In 'Izzie M,' we learn how to 'disenfreak,' undo that, and dislodge the gaze on the Indigenous body."

Monique's play asks the question, how do the indigenous peoples who are still here reconnect their bodies to the stories on the land from which they were forcibly removed?

"Indigenous bodies on land is a revolutionary act, and healing from colonial violence is a revolutionary act. And I do that through the vehicle of theater," she said. "I'm hoping Indigenous, Black, and Persons of Color will think, 'Hey, there's something I've been waiting for someone to say for a long time,' I hope that other folks will say, 'I never thought about that before.' I hope they are not only thinking about the words but also folks feel it in their bodies."

The BIPOC play reading series is FREE at 2:30 pm in the TECO Theater. Reservations are required by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or visiting the website at www.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/Voices-of-the-Community/BIPOC-Playreading-Series




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