Dramaturgy as Advocacy and Archive
Part of the Invisible Diaries series:
Week 10 / Day 1
The task of diary-keeping is itself a political act. As a form of archive and embodied memory, these writings are ones that persist – ones that, even if lost, can be found if they haven’t been destroyed. Inherently tied up in this practice, though, is race and class. Simply ponder who had the means and the ends. Diaries served businessmen, historically farmers, as a form of record-keeping. They served those who could read and write.
I can’t help but think of the history that has been lost/stolen/forgotten due to a lack of means despite an abundance of ends. As we fast-forward to the now, we sit in a much different place, one where the writing of diaries (or their more virtual counterparts, blogs) has been democratized.
As a dramaturg, journalist and oral hxstorian, my endeavors sit at the intersection of amplifying and archiving what has been lost/stolen/forgotten, both in terms of people and their stories. For me, this means I move loudly and proudly as a queer, fat, enby, femme. It means navigating spaces that weren’t built with me in mind, but taking and making space anyway.
Writing from Austin, TX, USA (with much of my heart in Chicago, IL) in this moment of pandemic and the rightful protesting against the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, it almost feels frivolous to spend energy on writing a diary that follows my daily happenings and musing on an imagined future. But I’m hoping to chronicle the ways I’ve seen our world (more specifically my country and cities) move or buckle during this time.
If diary-keeping is a political act, then I feel compelled to be truthful about the messiness, the hope, the disparity, the activism, the love, the narrative, the fight, the grief.
To that end, the gigs I picked up for the summer are ripe for metaphors when cycling through these emotions and necessary action that follows. I just wrapped my first year of graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, in pursuit of an MA in Performance as Public Practice. So now I am gifted with the space and privilege to explore my artistry over my scholarship. (But really, what is the difference if we are always striving towards radical accessibility?)
This week will feature my 'questioning spirit' (à la Mark Bly) as an Editorial Producer on a radical block-optic community-made news show, The Hoodoisie; my queer joy as Production Manager on 50 Blind Dates with Melissa DuPrey; and my ‘why here/why now’ musings as a writer/researcher for American Theatre magazine’s “This Month in Theatre History” column. Along the way, we’ll dive into ethics of care, the importance of brave spaces, and institutional accountability – all during pandemic and protests.
Ready, set, diary!
Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel
Maren Robinson and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel, Co-cordinators of the LMDA 2019 Chicago Conference: Crossing Borders Pt.2. (Photo courtesy of Brave Lux.)
Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel (she/they) is a Chicago/Austin-based dramaturg, journalist, and oral hxstorian. Their multi-disciplinary work as a queer, fat, brown, femme endeavours to amplify and archive stories that go lost/stolen/forgotten. Select bylines include essays and arts criticism with American Theatre, Chicago Reader, Windy City Times, Rescripted, The Austin Chronicle, and Sightlines. They are currently pursuing an MA in Performance as Public Practice at the University of Texas at Austin.
Learn more at www.yasminzacaria.com and follow them on Twitter/IG @yasminzacaria.
Portrait photography is courtesy of the author.