UNCERTAIN PERFORMANCES: An Introduction by Marissa Blair

I’m one of those Americans who left. The decision to leave, made two years ago, was due to a number of colliding circumstances which catalyzed an escape plan.

The father of my daughter is half Quebecois. Over the years we’ve stayed in Montreal frequently, visiting family and friends, always knowing we would eventually move here. What we didn’t expect was that the day after giving birth to our daughter on November 7, 2016, the political climate of the US would change forever, and the decision to move felt all at once immediate. Dire, even. 

Sure, it was also my hormones. It was also having lived in New York City for twelve years and the grind that was beginning to wear us down. It was the undeniable struggle that was facing us as our educator incomes would no longer keep up with impending daycare and healthcare expenses.

We began our immigration process. But this maneuver came at a great cost: everything I had built up as my performance practice was put on hold while my focus shifted to integration and child-rearing.

Putting my art on hold is something that took its toll. The drive to create new work, or even engage with the Montreal performance community, was simply not there. I became sedentary, slow, and comfortable - something I never expected to become. 

You’ll have to understand this about me: I don’t turn away from discomfort, and I bring this into my theatre practice. My personal level of discomfort manifests itself in certain ways, usually on an emotional and/or physical level. I like to sit in discomforting moments. For example, with disgust: I enjoy facing it head-on. This growth and enjoyment that comes from discomfort does not mean I start fights just so I can feel uncomfortable, nor do I run out into traffic so I can feel the adrenaline or pain. On the contrary, I am quite methodical about my discomfort, my actors’ discomfort, and the audience’s. I believe theatre is a place where we can remain seated in our discomfort, and in this position we are able explore emotions, and uncover latent feelings and abilities. 

My desire to create uncomfortable work is no doubt linked to my time working with performance artist Ann Liv Young. As a performer in her company for eight years, I have experienced high levels of anxiety when the lines between performance and reality have been ruthlessly blurred, and I am not certain what is real and what is art. Ann Liv tells me that the spectator watching my uncertain performance further adds to the paradigm. 

In my own work I openly examine theatrical conventions (stage death, stage blood, staging violence and trauma, the actor’s process, lights and sound) and engage directly with the audience while doing so. Most of the theatre I make is inspired by the writings of Antonin Artaud, specifically his Theatre of Cruelty. I am interested in making performances that are intimate and immersive in style - vulnerable, authentic, extreme performances requiring a high level of dedication and sensitivity. 

I am Imago Theatre’s new Artistic & Administrative Assistant. I am very happy to be here!

Unstoppable WomenImago Theatre