It is not often that the global community shares a collective experience simultaneously. Since the pandemic, seemingly quotidian activities have halted and the absence of ordinary life has led to a fall in general well-being. This has birthed a body of introspective art, and How Do We Navigate Space? is one such brilliant, temporally relevant work by artists from Strawdog Theatre Company.
How Do We Navigate Space? compiles responses from surveys sent out to Chicago residents and reenacts them through multimodal art forms. Some sections of the performance represent the responses through narration and dance, others use performative snippets. Most of the sections are filmed in varied settings, including the actors’ homes and snow-clad outdoor paths, while others have compiled stills and short snippets into a visual collage. The part “I Miss” shows the struggle of missing out on everyday experiences through flowing movements by four performers taking walks, while “Three Minds” narrates the transformed mind flow of a COVID-wary brain through visual snippets of surroundings. “Pet Life” provides some respite from the gloom by showing clips of adorable pets overlaid with narrations of pet owners’ experiences. The sequence of snippets in “Hands,” showing the general avoidance of touch and hands being washed, lays out the hygienic procedure to neutralize the virus. Hands became the carriers of the microcosmic enemies during the pandemic and “wash your hands” became the mantra of the day.
One particularly striking portion was “I Didn’t Go,” which involved the movements of people getting ready for the Black Lives Matter protests, only to change out of their clothes and stay in out of fear of contracting the virus. Likewise, “Bored” and “Devour” felt complementary in their explorations of projects and failure to follow through.
UChicago alum Terri Lynne Hudson (A.B. ‘95) renders a brilliant performance. The performances by Yuchi Chiu, Josie Koznarek, Mah Nu, Gloria Imsieh Petrelli, and Erik Strebig are oh-so-striking, and the direction of the theatrical piece by Denise Yvette Serna is impeccable. The movements, coupled with music or narration, are intriguing and touching. Each section showed the rigors of different elements of the pandemic experience and the entire play speaks to every audience member in one way or the other. It provides a resonance to one’s own pandemic experiences and the overall performance is powerfully resonant with the audience.
How Do We Navigate Space? is currently streaming until April 18, 2021. Tickets (pay-what-you-can with a suggested price of $15) are currently available at www.strawdog.org. Following the production, Strawdog Theatre Company will share a portion of ticket sales with Black Lives Matter Chicago.