The moment the lights go to black, the audience is captivated by a film of water that slowly becomes backlit to reveal dancers moving, floating and drowning behind the screen. It is both disturbing and beautiful at once. The image fades and viewers are thrust into a scene with a therapist and a woman, which begins the journey into Everett’s exploration of personal traumas and how we carry them with us in our lives. Good Grief depicts each performer’s personal life and the baggage they carry with them — performers literally carry, drag and kick bags throughout this production.
Good Grief was created in collaboration with the Internal Family Systems Model (IFS), a type of psychotherapy that views consciousness as composed of a central self with three types of subpersonalities, each with its own perspective, interests, memories and viewpoint, and each with a positive intent for the person even if its actions cause dysfunction.
This performance piece shows the relationship each of the five dancers has with one or more of their subpersonalities through a complex use of movement, spoken word, film and dialogue. We meet Mr. Over Thinker, Miss Self Conscious, Mr. Anger — the spectrum of personalities is as diverse as the movement and the music used to create each vignette. Many of the dialogue scenes were transcribed directly from therapy sessions the dancers had with IFS therapist David Medieros. This intimate sharing shows bravery on the part of the performers, but it can be unnerving. At times it was difficult to watch and experience true personal trauma.
Many of the movement segments use masks to indicate how people wear masks to hide what they don’t want the outside world to see. This examination of what the process of healing from trauma looks like and feels like is fascinating to experience. The work is deeply personal and requires each performer to be courageous and vulnerable with their own personal history.
The video sequences by Aaron Jungels, Everett co-artistic director Laura Colella and Todd Winkler bring an added depth to the entire production. The use of a “Fellini-esque sound design” states Jungels, “was a conscious effort to juxtapose the often difficult material being presented.”
The creation of Good Grief has led Everett to develop a Social and Emotional Education Program that will share the insights of IFS through the performing arts. Richard Schwartz, the developer of IFS, has signed on as a partner and consultant in this endeavor. The Social and Emotional Learning Program will help youth gain self-awareness and self-control through a deeper understanding of their emotional responses and develop relationship skills.
Good Grief will tour nationally over the next two years. The company offer workshops for youth suffering from trauma, as well as trainings for artists, clinicians and educators. The production runs Feb 8 – 10 and 15-17. Tickets can be purchased online at everett.org or 401-831-9479.