Back to the Project / Reading Eugenio Barba

I am back to blogging! I have taken a few steps back for the past couple of months, but now I am back on the project. The traveling is over, reflecting has been practiced, and now it is time to start researching styles of theatre for me to present my piece. I am brainstorming how my time traveling lends itself to the ultimate goal: the performance.

Today I began reading excepts from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts, which my mentor, Gretchen, assigned me. I began with a chapter on Eugenio Barba, an Italian/Norwegian theatre theorist and director. He founded the International School of Theatre Anthropology, which really excites me because I had no idea this field already existed! Something he wrote actually reminded me a lot of my motivations for this performance project. He wrote, “Like a melting pot in which the most disparate metals fuse, so inside me at the outset I tried to blend together the most diverse influences, the impressions which for me had been the most fertile” (p 39). Though he is speaking of different influences than those that apply to my project, I too feel as though I am drawn to diverse areas of study for reasons I am not necessarily conscious of, but for an inner need that I must seek to fulfill.

What I am currently working on is research for HOW to present my piece. I have decided to narrow my “performance project” into the category of “solo performance.” Right now Gretchen has me researching different methods and approaches to theatre, which will guide me in the creation of the piece. I have a lot of content, but now is the time to find the structure for communicating it.

Something that I think of often from my trip is when a man told me a story of his friends’ father. He said, “Black fella, white fella, yellow fella, pink fella. You cut-a the skin, we all the same.” I think I want this to be one of the major pinpoints of my piece. I will most likely use characters loosely based off of those people I met on my trip. One of the challenges I am facing is how to make my research in Australia relevant to an American audience. I think I can illuminate that bridge by bringing my attention back to the reason I myself was drawn to this project in the first place: I am drawn to the Indigenous knowledge and spirituality. I think in America too there is landscape, history, indigenous knowledge, and spiritual life that has direct parallels to the Aboriginals in Australia.

Now to continuing reading . . . I will be posting my responses over this weekend. 🙂

Thank you for reading along!


The Outback, Bondi Art, and Bangarra — A Quick Overview

Hello from Sydney!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog — sorry! I’ve been either very busy or crashing. Since my last post I spent five days camping in the outback in Kakadu National Park, went hiking for two days in the Blue Mountains, conducted field work at Smith’s Lake, and am now stationed in Sydney. There is so much to write about I don’t even know where to start.

In Kakadu two beautiful souls guided us around Nourlangie, Mt. Bundy, Guymarr, Anbangbang Billabong, Ubir, East Alligator River, Warradjan, and Mamukala. My time spent in Kakadu was nothing short of phenomenal. There was a palpable sacredness that I sensed everywhere we visited. We slept in tents, so sleeping on the ground I felt so close to my Mother Earth. It shifted something in me. I really felt like Kakadu gave me back to myself, if that makes sense to anyone. There were a lot of things I was lost about before arriving and now I feel like more of a whole person. Although it was a magical trip, there were definitely some challenges for me. First of all, I caught a bad cold in Brisbane, which lasted my entire camping trip. I also fell in Brisbane, so my elbow and ankle were injured during the intense hikes. I embraced the whole experience though and I actually have a lot of gratitude for the challenges, because I realized it was my choice whether or not to enjoy myself during the trip. One of the guides took a liking to me and actually pulled me aside to put Dogwood Eucalypt tree sap on my ankle cut. It is a traditional Aboriginal “second skin” type of natural bandaid. He explained how he was making it and applied it to my foot. The next day he walked me to a tree to show me where he had gotten the sap. Then he looked me in the eyes and said, “you remember what I did? Here. Take this with you.” He handed me a tin Eclipse mint box filled with crushed up Dogwood sap, just like the one he has. It was a simple yet very meaningful moment for me. He had taught me something, passed on his own knowledge to me, and trusted that I was someone who would appreciate it. It meant a lot to me. He was a beautiful man with powerful, disturbing, and enlightening stories. His father was apart of the Stolen Generation, which is a generation of Aboriginal children who were abducted by the European Australians and assimilated by the church. There is a lot more about the Stolen Generation that I could tell you about and it will definitely be an element in my performance project. Anyways, this man told me the story of his father as he was applying the sap. It was a vulnerable interaction that I felt very humbled by and grateful he was willing to share with me.

Something that I found really interesting in our class discussion the other day is that a big way that the west “conserves” nature is through establishment of National Parks. This is effective in some ways, but my professor pointed out this is also a way of separating humans and nature. There is the park, where wild nature is, and then there is the life we humans live, in civilization. I drew a parallel to street art with this same concept two days ago when I was in Bondi Beach. Bondi has street art lined up all over this one street. It’s breathtaking and powerful. I was so excited because it’s art in the street! It’s not just in galleries. It’s not just for people who pay. It’s art for everyone to see and it’s art mostly with messages or with strong images. I realized the significance of street art because it embraces humans and art in the same arena, rather than separating art and humans, much like galleries or theatres may actually do.

Last weekend I saw the Bangarra Dance Theatre do a performance at the Sydney Opera House. Bangarra is an Aboriginal modern dance company and the name literally means “to make fire.” Not only was the show AMAZING, but I had a very interesting experience going because I went with my classmates, who are mostly science majors. It was fascinating to listen to their commentary afterwards. In fact, as soon as the show was over one girl turned to me and said, “I didn’t follow all of it, but it was cool.” Most of the people who I spoke with were more concerned with following the storyline. They kept asking me if I got the whole story. It made me think… There is no objective right or wrong way to experience a piece of art. Some people said they would have liked it more if they knew what was going on or if someone told them the story. I responded to this by saying you can go see a piece of art and have an experience, but not really know what it was about. It’s not about being able to follow a story, it’s about experiencing what the story has to offer you. Personally, I was very affected by the story. It was the telling of first contact with European Australians. I was crying for half the show. There were two very powerful moments that I have to share with you. One of them was when two dancers came on stage, one painted black (almost like blackface) and one painted in white ochre, which Aboriginals use to do sacred paintings on their bodies or to make rock art, etc. Then two other dancers came and washed the paint and ochre off. It was literally like their “blackness” and heritage and sacredness and whatever else you want to associate with the paint was being stripped from them. It was a visual representation of assimilation in a very disturbing way. The other moment I want to share is when a large number of Aboriginal dancers entered the stage with “X”s on their shirts. Someone told me afterwards they didn’t get why that was. I told them I interpreted that as those people being colonized, being assimilated, and literally crossed out. I am a very big fan of this dance company and I hope to see them perform again one day!

I am only in Sydney for two more days before I leave for the Daintree Rainforest and Cairns, where I will get to see the Great Barrier Reef! So much more to share… I will try to update more frequently from here on out!


Here are photos of the Bondi Skatepark street art and Kakadu Rock Art overlayed w/ Nourlangie Rock:

Nourlangie Rock & Rock Art IMG_9651





I’m writing to you from Brisbane, Queensland.

Today my professor said, “Conservation is both an art and a science. We have brought together scientists and artists and it has the undercurrent of both.” It’s so crazy because I am REALLY considering going to graduate school for something either in the earth sciences or anthropology now… And I want to go abroad to do it. This is so radical for me because I’ve been studying theatre for so long. No matter what, my roots and people are in the arts. Having my artistic background is actually what is currently propelling me into considering these new paths. The course and experience wouldn’t be resonating with me in the same way.

It’s pretty cool because there is only one other person on this trip who is in school for an art and she and I are quickly becoming very good friends. We both love art — and we are good at what we do. I want to do my art now because I love it, but I also intuit it will lead me to other places. My friend told me statistically people will have aprx 6 different careers in their lifetime… And I’m so young!! There’s so much time to indulge my curiosities!

What is really hitting me lately is that the earth holds both practical and metaphorical knowledge. It holds the law and lore of the people living on it. You can’t study the earth without the people on it — it’s interconnected and they ebb and flow with one another. I am a storyteller… and I am broadening my definition of “story” through this trip.

I am finding it encouraging meeting people from all over the world, many of whom have uprooted their lives to just GO and TRAVEL! And I find they are like-minded to me. There’s so much out there… I have only been here a few days, but it’s already changing my life.

On another note, last night my friend and I went to a bar and were chatting with the bar tender. When I told him about this project he scoffed and went on a rant about Aboriginals. It was fascinating to watch!! I have the perspective of my professors, who care deeply to conserve Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, whereas this man literally said “98% of them are scum living off the government.” Good material for my project… It’s cool because I have people as resources for information, but observing the person is another dynamic element of study for the project.

On another-nother note, I have an accent!!! All of these things are relative. I never thought of myself as having an accent until these Aussie men started impersonating me and asking me about America. An Aussie guy asked me “is LA near NY?” Crazy putting it into perspective..

Tomorrow I leave for a five day camping trip, so you won’t be hearing from me until next week. I can’t wait!! My trip is guided by Aboriginals living in the national park.

Spending all of this time in nature is the most healing and self-aligning thing I’ve ever done.

Hope you’re all well on the other side of the world!


Secrets of Aboriginal Healing

“It doesn’t matter what we call the energy force that delivers the message, the important thing is that we listen to it.” 

In preparation for my studies abroad I read a beautiful book, Secrets of Aboriginal Healing, by Gary Holz, D.Sc., with Robbie Holz. The book is Holz’s retelling of his experience with a remote Aboriginal tribe. The story starts when he is diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, during which your nerve cells are disrupted and your body slowly goes numb. Western medicine has not yet found a cure for the illness. He is a successful physicist who is failed by western medicine, so he decides to try another approach. Although he is resistant to the ideas at first, he ends up embracing the Aboriginal healing techniques, recovers from the multiple sclerosis, awakens his own healing abilities, and even returns to the US to teach the techniques to others.

If you know me, you know this is exactly the type of story I love. Although I am beyond excited to start my academic journey, this book makes me want to study exclusively with a remote tribe. Maybe during my next visit down under.

What I appreciate most about this practice so far is that although it acknowledges intellectual pursuits as valuable, it recognizes that the pursuits of the heart far surpass what the intellect can achieve. The path of the Aboriginals is a journey to the heart, a path to go inward. Already, this is a fundamentally and radically different way of life, relative to that of the West. Although I have been drawn to spiritual paths that hold similar core concepts, these specific techniques, used to access those “higher” parts of the Self and achieve wholeness and healing, are both uniquely beautiful and totally common sense, in my opinion.

This book has introduced me to a few core ideas of the traditional Aboriginal spiritual life. The book discusses in detail the six steps to healing, which are all intertwined:

  1. Connectedness
  2. Willingness
  3. Awareness
  4. Acceptance
  5. Empowerment
  6. Focus

One of the more controversial ideas in the book is that we attract and create our own realities. While this could understandably be interpreted as inhumane, at the same time I am somewhat convinced. Though it implies you have created something negative in your life, it also gives you the power to destroy it and create something else for yourself. Holz comes to realize that it is his set of beliefs and mindset that are literally creating the disease within his body. Western medicine treats the diagnosis, whereas these techniques heal the whole person. This tribe believes the root of any physical symptom is the result of a spiritual or subconscious problem. In the book they find the root of Holz’s disease by discovering that he has trained himself to emotionally numb and distance himself from life’s circumstances and relationships, which led to his nerves literally choosing not to feel anything. When I say his nerves “choose,” that is because the book also explains that every cell in the body has it’s own consciousness, another radical and impossible thought for most Western scientists.

Another concept I found helpful for myself is using the power of your words for good. In the book we learn that words and thoughts contain our energy and they are what we send forth as the manifestation of our realities. It’s not as simple as changing the words we use though, it has to be on a subconscious level as well. The book goes into detail about how to access those parts of yourself and utilize them to give yourself positive results.

Although I could write about this book for hours, one of the last things I will bring up is the idea that we not only carry our own emotional baggage from this lifetime, but we have psychic programming, left over from past lives and even our ancestors. I was so excited to read more about this, because I was first introduced to this notion during research for a solo performance piece I wrote and performed last year. According to Aboriginals, so much of healing is linked to releasing ourselves of this programming.

Although I won’t be traveling to study with remote tribes in the outback this summer, I do feel there is a great spiritual and life journey that awaits me at the other side of the world! This book has sparked excitement and inspiration for that adventure. I can’t wait to contextualize this information more by taking my course and doing my own exploring!


Thanks for reading my first post! 4 days until I take off…

– Ariana