Community Health is at the Heart of ‘Your Healing is Killing Me' at Cara Mía Theatre

Playwright Virginia Grise talks about the community tour of a free interactive performance, presented on Aug. 19-22

Virginia Grise Cara Mia Theatre Your Healing is Killing Me
Netza Moreno

More than 18 months after the coronavirus pandemic began, a new theater piece confronts the disparities of care within the larger community. Cara Mía Theatre is presenting Virginia Grise’s Your Healing is Killing Me as a free community tour Aug. 19-22.

Your Healing is Killing Me is the culmination of a three-month project in which Grise worked with community members from each neighborhood, or cultural promotoras, who created “community toolboxes” for collective care and positive community change.

This community tour is a part of the 2021 ArtsActivate Program supported in part by the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, a todo dar productions, the Art of Change Agency, the Community Language Cooperative, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Howlround Theatre Commons.

Cara Mía Theatre encourages audiences to come in comfortable, ready-to-move attire as they will become part of this experience that is part performance, part writing, and movement workshop.

Cara Mia Theatre Your Healing is Killing Me
Cara Mía Theatre
Director Kenda Ware, Playwright Virginia Grise, Performer Florinda Bryant are joined by audience members during an interactive, on-stage dance party closing out a performance of Your Healing is Killing Me. Photo was taken during Cara Mía's 2019 Latinidades Festival of New Works.

Grise talks about the inspiration for Your Healing is Killing Me and creating ecologies of care.

NBC DFW: What drew you to the subject of healing and varying ideas of healing in different communities?

Virginia Grise: The title of the manifesto is Your Healing is Killing Me. It is not a manifesto about healing but about political and artistic practice. It is a performance manifesto about the structural forces trying to kill us, putting us and our communities at harm.  Based on lessons learned in San Antonio free health clinics and New York acupuncture schools, from the treatments and consejos of curanderas, abortion doctors, Marxist artists, community health workers, and bourgie dermatologists, the performance manifesto asks us to identify the context and the conditions in our communities that are causing us to suffer from mental and physical distress and asks the question how do we defend ourselves against what is doing us harm so that we can build vibrant communities.

NBC DFW: Why is it important to make this project a community tour?

VG: Your Healing is Killing Me speaks about and to intersecting communities and people including Black, brown, Asian, and indigenous communities as well as women, working-class, and queer people. As a project that poses questions about community health, I saw this as an opportunity to build and learn with the local Dallas community. The community tour is designed not just as a performance but as an intervention, a call to informed collective action to share strategies and resources in order to confront systemic violence, with the commitment to building communities of care. The performance itself is part conversation, part writing, part movement and will be interactive. The tour is not only a model for community engagement but also a different approach to outreach and community building. All of this work is also leading up to the actual workshop production of the show which will open in late September as part of Cara Mía Theatre’s Latinidades Festival. 

NBC DFW: You have worked with community members to develop "community toolboxes.” What is in those toolboxes? What did you learn about collective care through that process?

VG: The community toolboxes are not meant to give any “answers” but designed to share stories, tools, recetas, and strategies. As opposed to sharing one right way to organize a campaign, for example, the toolbox lives as an open-sourced document to archive the many and different ways communities are already engaged in self-defense and movement building. We created this model for gathering information together with the Art of Change Agency in Tucson. This is the first time that we have the opportunity to work with community-designed toolboxes in Texas.

Cara Mia Theatre Your Healing is Killing Me Pleasant Grove Crew
Cara Mía Theatre
The Pleasant Grove Crew, Priscilla Rice, Tamitha Curiel, and Lyrique Jaye, organized a community reading group to read Your Healing is Killing Me together.

People are identifying and documenting resources from their own communities, so each toolbox is different. Bachman Lake is creating a toolbox that includes art-making workshops for youth; Pleasant Grove has included a language justice statement and also organized a reading group to read Your Healing is Killing Me together; the Oak Cliff performance will include a social justice fair and they have designed their toolbox as something people can actually take home with them the day of the performance.

I believe that by gathering a community of people most impacted by the crisis of the health care system in this country to engage in a series of workshops, where we begin to creatively explore the question what is killing us and our communities, we can actually begin to reclaim a system of life and knowledge production that helps re-organize community health.

NBC DFW: There's a companion piece, "This is a Manifesto!," allowing people to share their perspective.  How do you help people - regardless of their writing experience - express themselves?

VG: The tagline for the Manifesto Writing Workshop is, “You do not have to be a writer to attend, you just gotta have something you wanna say.” We are going to explore what you have to say through writing, through conversations with each other, and through movement. The workshop really is designed as an opportunity to explore your own voice, your own desires, your own dreams and to create a space where people are able to articulate those ideas and share them with others.

NBC DFW: As we contend with this pandemic, what does community healing look like?

VG: The pandemic really exposed health disparities as they pertain to both race and class. In Dallas, you just have to look at I-30 as an example of a clear divide between communities, separating a city. If we want to talk about “healing” then we have to address these divides, these disparities, and eliminate them. The questions I am asking with this work are: How do we, in the face of state violence, create ecologies of care? How do we dream when our communities are under attack? What are our collective tools for self-defense against those attacks? My goal as an artist is to create spaces for movement, mutual aid, joy, and celebration, amidst all of it - to study together and think together, work and collaborate together, imagine and create together. I am actively trying to create spaces for us to dream together, to imagine, and build a world where we are all free.  

Cara Mia Theatre_ Your Healing is Killing Me 2019
Cara Mía Theatre
Performer Florinda Bryant performing Your Healing is Killing Me in Cara Mía's 2019 Latinidades Festival of New Works.

English language performances will be presented at 7 p.m. at Pleasant Grove Center on Aug. 19 and Oak Cliff Cultural Center on Aug. 21. A bilingual performance will be presented at 2 p.m. at Bachman Lake Pavilion.

Learn more: https://www.caramiatheatre.org/yhikm-community

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