Welcome to The Thought Residencies.
And not just any old thought residency but ones coming from the Class of 2020 and the Fall Term Residency!
This semester of questionable schooling decisions, the thoughts are going longer and themes are being considered.
Resistance revolution resilience reclamation and relay.
However they arise. It is time for something. That’s for sure.
This 4-pack of Fall Term Residents are going to pass the baton from one resident to the next. Starting with Donna-Michelle St Bernard, each thinker will have been tapped by the thinker that went before them. I can’t wait to see who will cross us over into 2021.
Launched in 2014, the thought residency was one of our first. I love it, a lot.
In short samples, you can hear and/or read, theatre folks sharing their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. My first impulse for the Thought Residencies was to offer a brief holiday from the mantle of our own thoughts, to create a space to virtually unwind over brief interludes with some of our country’s most interesting performance creators.
In the ‘before times’, each month, I invited an artist to join us. In turn, we invite you to listen to their thoughts. New thoughts are born online each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And with the class of 2020 you can find thoughts on the same release schedule but the curation process has changed.
It is completely free and digitally intimate. If you would like to respond to the thoughts please feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Garton Stanley
Curator/Creator, Thought Residencies,
Executive Producer, SpiderWebShow
September 1, 2020
Class of 2020 Thought Residents
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my first thought.
This is the very first thought that I have ever had.
I mean, obviously I’ve had thoughts before
but I was asked to introduce myself in that way –
this is my first thought –
and I’m not a liar
so I threw away everything that I ever knew before
and I thought to myself,
“well if it was true before and I knew it before,
then it is true still and I will surely come to know it again”
They say that the joy is in the learning so I will have that twice,
I will get two times to know
the thing that I thought that I knew
before I thought that they told me to throw it away,
though now I think that maybe nobody said that
but it’s too late.
It’s all gone.
And this is my first thought,
and I haven’t really thought anything yet
so I’d better get started thinking.
What am I good for.
That’s my first thought.
What am I good for.
I didn’t say it would be a complete thought.
What good what that be? // (music credit: Days by Everest Media)
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my second thought.
Last night I dreamt of my brothers, both runners.
We all were. That was a thing to do, in my family.
A thing to be excellent at. Running.
One thing I picked up off of them was the trick of training in water.
Getting into a pool knee or waist or shoulders deep,
running across its width as hard as possible, back and forth.
For runners, accustomed to and striving for speed, it’s frustrating.
the water pushing back against your efforts,
the dissonance between your labour and the outcome.
But by the time you get back to dry land,
you are an earthman landing on the moon.
Gravity is a non-factor.
After engineering all of this resistance, the race is a release,
a flight, you can achieve a seemingly superhuman speed.
Now, in this moment, there is no need to engineer resistance, it is there.
We are in it, and unless we stand still,
we are strengthening beneath the surface.
When I get back on dry land, I will be released, and I will fly.
Now, I just need to understand, in this moment,
what is the water?
And what is the race?
Good teaching, bro.
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my third thought.
Today a friend invited me to go for a walk.
Having a friend, them wanting to see you, wanting to see them, saying yes.
I can dig it.
She says two o’clock at the entrance to the park and i say yes.
I’ve never been to the park. I don’t know where the park is.
instead of looking up where the park is, i look up who it’s named after to see how i feel about being there, and then i go.
now, had i looked at a map i would have seen that the time it took to get to the place where our walk would begin is approximately the amount of time after which i think that a walk should end. but i am here, she is here, we are beginning.
we walk, and we walk, and we walk.
til i’m like, “oh, that’s a nice bench. let’s go look at it.”
we sit. then we walk some more.
and it’s nice, because i like her and we are spending time together.
but that walk was like jumping into a collaborative project without asking any questions upfront because i like the people involved. because they asked, and that was nice, so i got excited and committed to a thing that i thought ended where they thought it began, and i don’t know my own way home from here, so here we go, i’m walking.
Today, i agreed to the walk, but if we had walked one more minute than we did, i might like my friend just a little bit less, and that would have nothing to do with anything that she did.
next time i’ll ask. but now that i know her definition of “a walk”, she could probably get me to go anywhere.
When I was a young Catholic schoolgirl, I thought Jeanne d’arc was the most badass. wearing pants, hearing god, sitting up on a horse, riding into battle, on fire, for some reason. She seemed to be on fire. At some point it occurred to me that never in history, not once, not ever, has a horse asked to be ridden headfirst into a rain of arrows or a wall of spears. Anyhow, today what I think is that if PETA really wants my attention, they should get to work liberating every police dog who never asked to be weaponized, and every police horse who wasn’t born to tread pavement and terrorize protestors. Get them all out of the way so we can abolish those slave catchers without collateral damage. I’m saying.
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my fifth thought.
It’s for you.
You are enough.
No bells, no whistles, just you. It’s enough.
Not because you’re better than you used to be
not because you’re as good as someone else.
Just be with yourself, out of context.
Don’t measure up.
Don’t measure anything.
cuz if your value is not tied to your accomplishments, your intelligence, your earnings, your status, your face, your birthplace or your family name, then how can you use any of those things to judge other people’s value? something has gotta be worth something, right? else how will i know who sucks and who’s the best? i’m not trying to let go of that, i’m trying to be the best, i basically am that, but somebody else is always getting better so i need to keep ahead…
this is my fifth thought and it is for me.
Me, you are enough.
(photo by Keith Barker)
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my sixth thought.
I want to be worthy
in whatever service I’m able.
But worthy’s a short swerve away from “of use”
Opposite of refuse,
perilously close to productive,
which is nothing like worthy, as a word,
and useless to it as a companion concept.
Worth is more like work – no, that’s a trap.
It’s more like value, or values, in my calculus.
I am neither parts nor a sum
but a thrumming existence
resistant to quantification,
I’m relevant, I’m broken, I’m dented, I’m perfect, I’m junk.
And junk is beautiful and you are, too.
I value you.
(Photo Credit Keith Barker. It is a picture of a 6 car pileup. The cars are 1970 vintage toy cars)
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my seventh thought.
whenever Desmond Cole shares photos of flowers, I smile.
I can’t read more than a chapter of
“The Skin I’m In”,
not in one sitting, without hitting a nerve
and needing a breath
before reading the next.
thinking this substantial text
holds just a fraction of the actions undertaken
to receive the story, and to convey it.
I am stilled by a portion of what he relates,
a small shard of what he has heard,
stilled, though only ever glimpsing the edge
Of the people and pages
and pixels and grief that the writer receives
and distills for us,
the guts that they spill for us
and what it takes to pack them back in again,
never mind the ones that won’t fit anymore,
so full of new truths, crowding out room for you
some people do that every day,
on public pages, in private homes,
alone in the long dark night of the soul.
If someone is willing to do all that, then I want them to have joy, too.
I’m so happy when they find joy.
Have you seen this guy’s smile?
(photo credit: Desmond Cole. music: Smile by Nat King Cole)
My name is Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and this is my eighth thought.
I rarely use the word “pretty” without irony.
It’s like “nice.” Essentially positive but so banal as to be back-handed.
Lately I think it’s curve-related:
The air is so thick with hyperbole that if you’re pretty, you’re several levels below drop-dead gorgeous – so attractive that you could literally end someone’s life, aesthetically. And we don’t even know what the top of that scale is yet, but pretty ain’t it. We’ve gone so high that pretty is about one up from plain.
I understand that language evolves. I just don’t like when words get taken away in bad faith. Not over time, with usage, but in front of our eyes, with malice. Which is happening.
It’s probably the thing I appreciate most about African American vernacular – a survivance tongue that can’t be taken: it’s resistance to codification, it’s improv-adeptness, both in creating and interpreting new configurations of old symbols, old syllables, the reuse of existing expression invested instantly with new meaning by context. It’s verdant, sprawling and variegated. It’s complex and alive, and I love it. It’s pretty.
(photo by Desmond Cole. Sounds from zapsplat)