One by one, students take center stage in the Ring Theatre and share personal stories about sexuality, isolation and identity conflicts. Without costumes or scripts, the “actors” take part in a devised production of their own creation.
The ensemble of Wake Forest students spent three weeks with visiting actor and director Tim Miller producing “VOX” (which is Latin for “voice”) — creating a production based on their own personal stories, experiences and memories.
In this Q&A, Anita Ostrovsky, a senior from Johnson City, Tenn., majoring in theatre and Russian, shares what it was like finding her voice and talking about the challenges of being a first generation American with Ukrainian parents.
Q: How did you decide what part of your life story you wanted to tell?
A: As I went through a week of workshops with Tim, my feelings about my family and identity kept popping up. Growing up as a first-generation American with parents who spoke Russian at home made me feel conflicted. Many cultural nuances that were handed down to me from my family conflicted with cultural nuances in the U.S. I felt myself having to determine whether to align myself with the values they grew up with or with those that my American peers supported.
Talking about these experiences seemed natural. As director, Tim stressed that we let our strongest feelings come to the top. My final piece in “VOX” is a sum of all the pieces I did in the rehearsal process.
Q: How do you communicate your story to the audience during your performance?
A: I use the whole stage and move from one corner to the other to communicate the dichotomy and to explore the question, “Am I a loud, proud American or a poised, quiet, Ukrainian/Russian ballerina?” I also strive for high-energy performances that excite the audience while making them think. I incorporate my dance training into the piece to give it that energy. Its heart lies at its very instinctual and a bit improvisational nature.
Q: Can you describe the relationships that developed among cast members?
A: Tim encouraged us to delve into hard issues from the start. He provided an environment where we were all comfortable with each other. To help us organize the play, he encouraged us to look at how our stories connect, and I think the audience members will see these connections. Some stories are very heart wrenching. All are raw and real. We supported each other, and I respect everyone in the cast so much for opening up their hearts first to their peers, and now to the community, to share their thoughts and experiences.
Q: What do you hope that the audience will take away?
A: For my story, I want them to understand that a person’s identity is not black or white, and that an individual can identify with more than one culture even though the values of each can conflict. I think immigrants and first-generation Americans will identify with my piece.
“VOX” runs through February 10 in the Ring Theatre of Scales Fine Arts Center. Click here for ticket information.