- Honest storytelling
- Visceral, calm, joyous, and surprising all at once
- An honesty about how hard it is to process grief
In my pockets
The tropes of experimental theatre can oftentimes bother me, so I was hoping this wasn’t going to be self-indulgent. I knew the piece was inspired by hospitals (with which I am very familiar), and I had seen a promo image of paint splattered on a wall. I was also coming off of a Fringe whirlwind and was looking forward to seeing the show all of the “BEST THINGS TO SEE IN FRINGE” lists had included.
Walking into Magda’s small studio in the ground level of Bok, you automatically feel taken care of. There are cushions on the floor and the audience is comfy and cozy the whole time. Like a sleepover. Fluorescent lights stay on for most of the show. Props are simple and surprising. The most delightful of which include a paper mache tiger and snake, marshmallow rainbow ice creams, a pink IV holding a wig and sequins, and a trophy with no engraving.
The evening is extraordinarily careful and I never felt unsafe once in the space, even as the piece embraced chaos. From the beginning, we are aware that this piece was inspired by Magda’s time as an artist in residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the kids she met there, and how it has shaped her life.
I saw this show almost a week ago, and I’m still processing. One of the first segments includes Magda putting an IV tube up her nose and down her throat. She tells us she watched youtube videos to get it right, and if anybody needs to leave or close their eyes, feel free. “I know what this means to me,” she told us, “but I can’t even begin to understand what this means to anybody else in this room.” A fellow audience member fainted during this portion, and Magda stopped her performance to make sure the audience member was okay. We were all in this space together, as a unit, and we were looking after each other. This is because of Magda’s heart and honesty and the semi-non scripted world she created. For the next 45 minutes, we watched her dance and sing and bring joy and thoughtfulness into this little studio. Paint was flung all over two walls of her studio space, and the “mess” was crafted into a beautiful tribute to one little girl Magda had met who left the biggest impact. We, the audience, were given smocks and hoods to cover ourselves in case of rogue paint splatters.
With every serious point about grief and illness and sadness or poignancy, there’s was an equally giddy and childlike observation to follow. The piece became a tribute to these brave kids at CHOP, who carried themselves with joy and strength. At the end Magda said “This is it. I’m going to leave now and I’m not coming back.” And she left.
And that was that. The show was over, and I still cannot stop thinking about it.
I look forward to seeing how the work will grow and evolve, and to hear other people’s experiences with the piece.