Soon after my mother died, more than one person said to me, “it takes time”. They meant well, but the words sounded a bit passive to me even then, and I have found grief to be anything but passive. In 2012, I had the initial idea to create a show that would become Speculation. It’s 2018 now, and to be honest, I can’t believe I’m still working on it.
After the first iteration of Speculation, two shows in Kitchener, I felt satisfied and glad I’d done it. I learned what a video designer was and what a stage manager did. It was hard to talk about my relationship with my mother in a monologue, but it seemed necessary because of why I was creating the performance. When I returned to it a couple years later at the Banff Centre, I could not believe I had said those things in public.
The most obvious reason for me to create this show was that I used to be an optometrist and I witnessed my mother lose her vision. For someone who still had their full sight, I probably knew more than most about the experience of sight loss. I could bridge a gap of understanding that I saw between sighted and partially sighted people.
The less obvious reason for me has been the constant catharsis of the grieving process in working on this show. At some point it became apparent I would need to talk about not just the facts of my mother’s vision loss but also our relationship if I wanted to connect with people. Repeatedly going over some very uncomfortable things in my life and my mother’s life while trying to refine Speculation as a performance has really tested my belief in sharing the story.
This past year I have been working with Alex Bulmer as a voice coach on the monologue. I had initially reached out to Alex for her feedback on the show as an acclaimed blind theatre artist and experienced disability arts advocate. Turned out, she was also a voice coach and she offered some coaching. A little training on the monologue did seem like a good idea. I’m not a trained actor, or that great a public speaker, and would way rather communicate something to a large group with a violin in my hands, preferably not totally alone.
So here I am, in 2018, learning about working with a hazer and lying on the ground making long sighing noises as Alex has instructed me. They weren’t wrong. It’s definitely taken time to get here. But, in doing the work to learn how to use my voice for this performance, I have noticed lately the grief and my relationship with my mother changing. I’m able to share more things than I did four years ago that make the ‘bridge of understanding’ stronger, and I’m not sure which is the chicken or the egg.