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World Premiere - Conjure

FST Co-founder, Kelly Bremner, and I just opened the world premiere of CONJURE in the black box theatre of Emory & Henry College. Written by Iowa poet and playwright, Jen Rouse, the E/H produciton was originally intended to be a double bill of Rouse's plays; To Be The Not and Conjure: A Cycle in Three Parts. Fortunately, Rouse took a risk and allowed me to intertwine the two pieces, and the result was CONJURE.

This beautiful production wove together the story of Wren and Meg (played by myself and Bremner, respectively) as Meg struggled with letting go of a relationship. Her struggle manifested in a series of stories that came to life before her eyes. Characters from history, mythology, dream and nightmare filled the stage. It was a wonderful production and I thoroughly enjoyed directing from inside of the piece.


DIRECTORS NOTES for the Emory & Henry production of CONJURE

It has been my privilege to have walked with playwright, Jen Rouse, through the evolution of this beautiful piece of theatre. Jen and I began working on this project together in 2014, when Honey Song was performed as a part of the Theatre Cedar Rapids Underground Play Festival. Since then, Jen has graciously allowed me to play as a director, dramaturg and now as an actor, in her world of whimsical gardens, haunting ghosts, poetry, love, loss and hope. In the Emory & Henry production, Jen once again took a risk on this director and allowed me to combine her two pieces, To Be The Not and Conjure: A Cycle in Three Parts, into this production of Conjure, and I’m excited to see where she takes both of her pieces in the future. The process of working with Jen, her poetry and her plays, has been a thrill and I am better for it.

The theatre has always been a place for community to gather, discuss, and hold space for the stories that matter in our lives. The Ancient Greeks gave us the word for theater as it translates to mean, “the seeing place” and since then it has been a place were we witness the struggles, concerns, joys and triumphs of our society. For some, these stories are so very common and form the fabric of the privileged and mainstream culture. They include recognizable characters who offer easily digestible stories with plot twists that we know by heart. These are valuable stories that influence our daily relationships, choices, hopes and dreams. They have given us heroes and villains; those to aspire to and those to condemn. They have made our society what it is today.

Along the way, some stories have been forgotten. More often than not, these stories are of cultures, genders, religions, sexualities and languages (the list goes on) that do not hold the privilege of mainstream culture. Rather, they are the “dismissed and turned away.” These stories have been forgotten, willfully forgotten, denied and and sometimes even suppressed. For those of us who have had our stories buried in the rubble of taboo, secrecy, and fear, we have less opportunity to gather, listen, witness, validate, and heal through story. We come together tonight to offer one of these stories, and to remind ourselves that we are also what makes our society what it is today. And we are amazing; we are atomic.

Tonight I invite you into our community of storytellers. I invite you to laugh with us, cry with us, and heal with us. And when you leave this beautiful theatre, I hope you “say that she matters.”

~J. West

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