FRINGE 2016: Part I by Project X

Jess's thoughts on Part I

In the late nineteenth century in Paris, French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot fixed his interest upon the disorder 'hysteria' - seeking to taxonomize what had been neglected for centuries as an incomprehensible jumble of symptoms, described by one historian as “a dramatic medical metaphor for everything that men found mysterious or unmanageable in the opposite sex.”1 Charcot set up shop in the Salpêtrière Hospital, a long time asylum for the most vulnerable members of the Parisian underclass.

At Charcot's Tuesday Lectures, young symptom-presenting women would be paraded onstage to be poked and prodded as live demonstrations for the fashionable elite of Paris, where the women's speech and screams would be described as mere 'vocalization'.

What stories these women might tell were irrelevant- this was science, and with the rise of a secular France, Charcot raced to claim their symptoms in the catalogues of the Enlightenment tradition rather than cede to the Church's dominion of religious ecstasy and states of possession.2

The two plays I saw this week push back on this exploitative theatrical legacy, a not-yet-dead heritage for women and femmes who seek mental health support through institutional avenues. The plays I refer to are Extreme States from Get Fresh Productions (Review coming up soon), by Stephanie Lawrence and Carol Tenbrink, and Part I from Project X, featuring Jacqueline Van de Geer, Lyne Labrie, Ilana Zackon, and Mercedeh Baroque.

Part I is in moments Charcot's Tuesday Lectures in mutiny. As you enter the gallery space, the actors are already present, stock still and blank faced, being gowned in flimsy gauze by their tech person, blood pooling in their feet, waiting for the audience to enjoy them before erupting in a rotating chorus who characterize their own experiences of instability, anguish, fear, and loss.

The pieces are drawn from the real life experiences of the performers, and the shows are set up as a fundraiser for Expression LaSalle, the only free creative arts therapy program in Montreal.

Against the rendering of our most vulnerable moments or breaking points as unspeakable, I encourage folks to really listen to the stories spilling from the lips and rumbling through the bodies of no-longer-'subjects' at the Fringe this year. Extreme States and Part I bravely offer self-articulations of lived experiences in a time where so much stigma around mental health still exists.

For a long-form discussion, catch our extended talk spot on Creators Chorus (Wednesdays 5 - 6pm ET) where Annick MF and I delve more deeply into what we loved and what we took issue with in these two pieces. Because, you know, its not all sunshine and rainbows.

End the stigma!

- JG

Reference: (1)(2) Trauma & Recovery. 2015 By Judith L. Herman

Annick MF's thoughts on Part I

Mental health is an area of our lives that we all should be tending to on a daily basis but unfortunately the society we live in stigmatizes it and leaves so many of us struggling with the repercussions of unhealthy mental practices, limited resources and unrecognized experiences. So when I see four performers decide to create a piece that not only brings forth their own realities with mental health but also addresses and challenges society's position in relation to mental health, I have to applaud their work.

Part I is a brave and creative sharing of personal struggle that many will likely relate to and those who don't may be enlightened. It is a raw piece that doesn't leave room for neutrality. There were moments I loved and others I deeply disagreed with but in the end I left the performance more in tune with how I feel about my own mental health and the ones of those I care for.

I wish Project X much luck as they move forward with their mandate of addressing the 'unaddressed' in our society through performance. It is an honorable mandate with promising outcomes. If I were to offer one constructive critique as they move forward, it would be to truly embody 'safe space' in and around their performance.

Sharing stories and experiences is a sacred act and it requires a lot of care and respect, which I don't feel that Project X has fully embodied yet. I speak more about this is our audio review of Part 1 on Creators Chorus. Feel free to tune into the archive if you're interested on hearing my more in depth thoughts.

Much love,

- MF

Part I is brought to you by Project X, and continues to play at Studio Bliss, located at 3845 Saint-Laurent, at the following times:

- Friday, June 17 from 20:00
- Saturday, June 18 from 20:00
- Sunday, June 19 from 20:00


Jess Glavina and Annick MF are both part of CJLO's Official Fringe Team covering the sights and sounds from the 2016 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Together, they host Creators Chorus - every Wednesday afternoon from 5 – 6pm ET, only on 1690AM in Montreal and online at