Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cameron Altaras's "Voice of the Residue": The Intergenerational Trauma of Growing up Female in a Patriarchal Religious Context

In the past, I have shared here some of the valuable work of Cameron Altaras, a scholar working to combat sexual violence based in patriarchal religious traditions. Cameron speaks from the experience of someone who has roots in the Amish-Mennonite tradition. I have shared her work here and here.

Now I'd like to share another statement by Cameron pointing to a new project on which she is working, and to a website she has set up to share material for the project, which is linked below. I hope readers of this blog may be interested in Cameron's work and her new site. Here's her essay:

This past winter, I began work on a script titled "Voice of the Residue," on the theme of the intergenerational trauma of growing up female in a patriarchal religious context. While the theme grows out of my personal experience in an Amish Mennonite world, the theme is not limited to that particular setting and as I have already found, speaks to the experience of women who grew up in religious and cultural contexts much different from my own. 

It has been more than twenty years since I left my love of theatre behind and so, after the script took shape, I hired a vocal coach and a movement coach. We determined in what venue the performance would take place and set a performance date. Then Covid-19 restrictions closed theatre doors. I switched gears and turned it into an audio recording. 

Additionally, the script formed the backbone for a chapter I wrote for a friend's forthcoming book on the topic of revitalizing/revisiting the Anabaptist Vision. One thing led to another and I recorded another piece, this time on the theme of deep questions of existence — as in WHY? and what's the meaning of all of this? That piece, in 2 parts, I titled "Thoughts of Existence." These 2 recordings bring together my academic tracks: first theatre, then theology, then philosophy of religion, as well as my personal experience of some of the less savory parts of growing up female in a Mennonite world. 

Both of these recordings bring into sound thoughts that are often unarticulated because they are so filled with pain. I used multiple vocal tracks to portray in sound the many voices in our head and in the case of "Voices of the Residue," the voices of multiple generations who have been waiting for someone to speak what they never could. My husband came up with the phrase "polyphonic poetry" to describe this work, because this is not simply the spoken word. Rather, the words spoken are on many levels, including the thoughts that keep us up at night, the words that almost drive us crazy and the deep angst that pushes away not only sleep, but also inner peace. Additionally, the tracks of music and soundscape form part of the dialogue, in some cases supporting or building to a frenzy the thoughts expressed, in others holding spaces of silence when nothing can describe what is felt. 

The question then was: what to do with this material? The end result is a website which I've titled: "Vocem Redisuum", which is Latin for "by returning to the voice" — for it is in returning to my voice that I am discovering that which has lain in wait for my returning. (I explain more on the website.) My plan is that this is only the beginning.  

The 2 recordings I've noted here are found on the RECORDINGS page. I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to collaborate with Joseph Seuferling, an award-winning film-maker, composer and sound engineer, as well as his partner, Susan DuMett, who designed the website and provided vocal coaching. An added bonus has been that my husband, Jeff, also participated in this creative endeavor. He composed the music for one of the recordings and some of his photography accompanies the texts of poems I've written. 

Cameron Altaras, PhD

No comments: