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11.07.2018
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When I was young (like about 4 or 5 weeks ago...) I was completely obsessed with Medieval Times. For those who are not familiar with the age-old suburban New Jersey tradition of attending Medieval Times, it’s a “medieval” (and I’m purposely writing it lowercase with quotes) dinner theatre and jousting tournament. The audience is divided into teams and throughout the night you root for your knight to win the tournament and the heart of the princess. There are castles, kings, crowns, chicken, ribs (you eat with your hands… just like “back in the old days”) but... at the heart of this very special place… and the ONE thing that I was most fascinated with as a nine-year-old (which is probably the last time I visited Medieval Times), was the ONE exhibit my mother would not let me visit… the “medieval torture chamber”, a museum of mock-medieval torture devices. Well, fast forward 22 years to my roaming around the Belgrade Fortress today (which by the way, has areas dating back to the Neolithic era... read the incredible history on that link) what is the first thing I stumble upon? An exhibit of torture devices from Medieval Europe.  And, oh boy, after 22 years of repression, the rebellion had come...  The truth is, I’ve always had an interest in torture as a performance and disciplinary tool (on both an individual and societal level). I’ve written several sociology papers on it in undergrad and have read a number of books on the topic. There is no shortage of writing on this subject, as I learned when I proposed to write about torture as performance in a class I took on early modern theatre. (If you are interested in exploring this topic more you should read the first chapter of Foucault's Discipline and Punish which details the public display of humiliation, torture and execution of Robert-Francois Damiens... and take it from there...)  Of course, it’s important to point out that the majority of the 60+ torture instruments that I saw today were used specifically on women accused of witchcraft and anyone accused of sorcery (mostly women, of course).  Here are some photos… Entering a wing of the museum through the catacombs.  The Virgin of Nuremberg a.k.a. The Iron Maiden  The Virgin of Nuremberg (a.k.a. The Iron Maiden)  Dates back to Germany in 1515, possibly earlier. Supposedly this is one of the first instruments to mechanize torture. The condemned was locked into this sarcophagus (which gets its name from the fact that some folks believed the device resembled a Bavarian girl). Inside they are penetrated with deliberately placed spikes that penetrate the body but purposely avoided vital organs to prolong the suffering of the condemned. The Noisemaker’s Fife Dates back to 18th century Italy. It was placed around the neck of the “offender” so that their fingers were also locked into place. It was used primarily for minor offences such as disturbing the peace… and also to punish bad musicians. The Scales The Medievals believed that witches and other followers of Satan would weigh significantly less than they appear so the scales were developed to weigh people accused of witchcraft. The scales were most commonly used in Belgium and the Netherlands throughout the 18th century. To quote the museum’s information about this device, “There was obviously tremendous room for abuse of the system and it was easy to declare someone guilty. During the 18th century, a court in Oudwater in the Netherlands controlled the weighing of those suspected of witchcraft. If the outcome was favorable to the accused, they were given a certificate to prevent them from any further accusations. The court collected sums of money from people in this way and it became a profitable business. The certificate was so sought after that people traveled from far and wide to be weighed and receive their document ensuring their safety from suspicion. The court had difficulty processing the number of people waiting to be weighed that there was often a backlog" (quote supplied by curating team).  Instruments of Public Humiliation Medievals love some public humiliation (and let's not kid ourselves... as a society we still kind of love it). Many smaller offences involved serving time in the stocks, the pillory, wearing metal shoes or masks. While enduring this, offenders were subjected to being spit at and having food thrown at them. These masks above had no particular torture device attached to them. The purpose was to serve as humiliation. However, you can read about similar more sinister devices here.  While I loved my visit today, I’m not entirely on board with the way in which the exhibit is curated. I think setting these grotesque instruments up as something to “gawk” at (alongside piped in sound effects of chains and torture) completely cheapens the experience and alienates visitors from any kind of meaningful engagement or critical thinking about the objects at hand. Also, aside from the plaque at the entrance, there is not much context or information about Medieval society.  As mentioned, there is a plaque at the beginning of the tour that explains the reasoning for showing all these devices (we should acknowledge our history, etc.) but then tries to say it's not political, when in fact it's nearly impossible to separate politics from torture considering these instruments were mostly implemented by the church which was the governing power at the time. It does provide a little information about Medieval life but appears mostly apologetic. I was also reading the English translation. I don't know if it's different in Serbian.  The practice of torture continues today all across the world. I immediately think of capital punishment in the US, for example. Europe has abolished capital punishment (except for in Belarus) and refuses to sell the United States the drugs needed for lethal injection, which has led to a number of botched and pro-longed executions as states are still trying to figure out the most effective cocktail to use.  Museum Entrance  Also, can we call it irony that directly outside the torture exhibit is a display of military weapons and tanks? Obviously, it is all part of the military museum but I can't ignore that, especially given that today is the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.  For under $3.00 I highly recommend this museum if you find yourself in Belgrade. Not to mention, exploring the Belgrade Fortress is a MUST (and worth its own blog post).  Feet overlooking the fortress.  In 500 years I wonder if folks will come across a torture museum showing the electric chair, lethal injection, drone warfare, etc.? I hope humanity has progressed enough that they leave thinking about how inhumane things were "back then" and has no sort of contemporary situations to compare it to. History has shown us that this will probably not be this case.  Also... just worth noting that there is a wonderful sale happening at New Jersey's Medieval Times right now so anyone that wants to take me for my birthday in 6 months, or on a date (wink, wink) can hop on that in August... 
09.07.2018
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Photo of House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in Belgrade.  I often start blogs by stating how bad I am at blogging – not that this won’t be a nice adventure, it will just, most likely, be an inconsistent one (note how consistent the posts on this blog are from 2015 to present day).  I gave up on it all together for the longest time but am trying again for two main reasons: 1.     To contextualize and share the work I’m doing on a public forum (and practice being comfortable with it).  2.     My field notebook is bordering on middle school diary with long diatribes about long lost lovers and current haters and everything else in between. And while gossip is interesting, it's not integral to the purpose of this trip, which is for research. So, this will (hopefully) pluck some of that out.  This week I’m in Belgrade, Serbia for the IFTR World Congress... Photo of a playground in Belgrade near my Airbnb apartment.  What is the IFTR World Congress, you ask? Well, that’s a good question… it’s the annual International Federation for Theatre Research, a gathering of theatre scholars from across the globe (150 of them happened to be on my plane yesterday). Pretty much I’m going to find my people (those who are working in the same area as me), talk about the "work", make connections and eat lots of good food.  I’m presenting on the New Scholars Forum on Thursday. My presentation tackles the performance of self in New York City youth theatre (but we will talk more about that on Thursday…) My IFTR swag.  Following IFTR I will be on the road for the next month conducting pre-dissertation research and be participating in the Ashtar Youth International Theatre Festival (which is considered performance as practice). I received a Provost’s Pre-Dissertation Summer Research Grant so I will be traveling through the Middle East.  And what is the research that the CUNY Graduate Center has so graciously funded this summer, you ask?  Great question. And the purpose of this blog.  My academic research explores the impact and functions of theatre in conflict areas and war zones. I am primarily looking at how theatre helps maintain cultural identity and how it works as a method of resistance to oppression in communities affected by war and displacement. Yes. This is very broad. TOO broad, actually. So, this summer I will be narrowing this very broad topic down substantially. To do this, I will be seeing theatre, visiting and interviewing artists, observing rehearsals and documenting this through writing, photo and video. I will be asking a lot of questions and doing even more listening. In fact, in my notebook, I jokingly named my trip in April the “Shut Up and Listen” tour as in addition to research questions, I was even more interested in hearing about how artists want to be portrayed and how they want their work talked about. I began some of this work in April during my trip to Beirut (to participate in another conference). I was able to connect with a number of local theatre artists and learned a lot about the robust theatre community in Lebanon. Check out this article on a site-specific production of Blood Wedding and my Instagram, which features a few interviews. In the next weeks, I will be posting more about my research, this current trip, theatre and lots of food. I'm happy you'll be coming along for the ride!
22.04.2018
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After 12 years, I finally returned to Beirut, Lebanon last week for a conference and to do preliminary dissertation work. These are some of the highlights from the trip. More photos can be found on my instagram page and on this site's "Beirut 2018" tab.  
26.01.2017
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Images from the 2017 NY Women's March (where an estimated 250,000 people took to the streets) and the Writers Resist action outside of the New York Public Library.  Writers Resist - Outside of the NY Public Library on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue.  Youth standing up for women's rights and reproductive health, outside of the New York Public Library during the 2017 Women's March.  Marchers dropped their signs outside of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street - creating a collage of messages representing the goals and demands of the NY marchers.  A poet holds up a sign outside of the New York Public Library during the Writers Resist action. 
24.12.2016
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I had the privilege of taking headshots for the talented actor, poet and performer, Jesse Krebs. They are one of NYC's fiercest activist/poets I can think of. Jesse is also a co-founder of a new theatre collective called Theatre Who, which will be debuting new work in 2017. 
17.06.2016
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A Day in Cape Cod. Summer, 2016.
30.05.2016
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Ryan and I spent our Memorial Day weekend at the Bronx Zoo. I can't miss an opportunity to shoot these beautiful creatures... with my camera. We love seeing the animals up close and are especially enamored by the gorilla exhibit. Watching the children interact with the gorillas through the glass was pretty special. This was our first time at the zoo in about four years. We will not be waiting another four years to return.  Children interacting with silverback gorilla.  Another photo of a child with the silverback gorilla.  Comparing feet and arms.  Peafowl. We learned that male peafowl are peacocks and females are peahens. The babies are peachicks.  Sleeping monkey.  Red panda.  Nile crocodile.  Lion basking in the sun. 
23.12.2015
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One day I'd love to publish a photo book of images of the Jersey Shore I've taken over the years... because there are many. However, these are my favorite from 2015. At some point in the new year I will figure out a brilliant way to organize all of these photos on a hard drive or computer. Right now they remain scattered on multiple hard drives, in multiple places and on multiple computers. Allenhurst, NJ.  Allenhurst, NJ.  Allenhurst, NJ. Kids playing in the water on Thanksgiving. I've never experienced the warm weather that what we've been having this fall and winter in my entire life. I imagine since winter is just beginning, things will change. The rumor is Christmas Day it will reach 75 degrees. Forget ice skating, we're going to the beach!  Christmas trees replace palm trees. Allenhurst, NJ.  Sandy Hook, NJ. Elberon, NJ. 
26.11.2015
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... for old friends and new friends, family and found family; because I call NYC home but am a citizen of the world; because I have options, the privilege to do what I love everyday and follow my passion(s) in whatever form they take; for the privilege to tell stories for a living; for health, happiness, joy and community; because after years of struggling I got to a place where I'm generally content with who I am; for access to resources; for good food, good art and the deep/transformative conversations that come with these things; for students who teach me more than I could possibly teach them; that we live in an age where social media keeps me close to loved ones despite distance and most of all because more times than I can say in a week I find myself wondering how I got so lucky to be surrounded by such bold, brave, bright and truly inspiring humans ... I am truly grateful today and everyday. Photo by Ashley Marinaccio - November, 2015
04.10.2015
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We *finally* did it.  We've only been talking about it for two years and at times had taken slow baby steps towards possibly living together. In retrospect, it happened quickly... or maybe we just acted on it quickly. We solidified the plan to go forward with "the big move" while I was in Sarajevo so when I got home I had about 2 weeks to pack everything up but since I procrastinate, I did it in about 4 days. To be honest, we tried to push it back until January but Patrick had already found someone to take my spot for October so it was time for me to leave the Harlem nest.  Ryan and I are learning how to live together. I think the biggest adjustment for me will be learning how to live with a partner as opposed to a roommate. Ryan has already reminded me of this a few times. He's wise like that. In addition to sharing a studio (which for two only children has been a challenge), we're at the beginning of sharing our lives... which is huge. We are figuring out how to both be together and alone in such a small space. We are also realizing that despite major concerns about the two of us living in a studio apartment, we have adjusted the space to make it work. It's now a very different space than it was a week ago when it was just Ryan here.  The move has reminded me of my privilege - not only to live in Chelsea but looking at all the *stuff* I've accumulated over the years, and throwing away so many items for no reason other than not having space to keep it. I donated most of it - but by the end, a lot of decent furniture had to be curbed due to space constraints. By day three all sentimentality had gone out the window and I was throwing everything out.  I've been thinking a lot about the value and meaning that we place on objects. I keep so many items to feel connected with a person, place or space. I'm trying to figure out how to be connected without accumulating *stuff*. I think that may be why I'm so drawn to photography, especially as I get older... it's the idea of holding on to a memory, a person, a place, a space. Maybe some of these things aren't meant to be physically held on to.  In the whirlwind that has been the last 72 hours, I managed to run around the neighborhood and take some final photos on my phone, as my camera was packed.  No matter where I go, I always manage to find a piece of nature and get attached. I named her the magic tree and I will miss her. I'd look at her every morning. After the long winter, I'd jump out of bed every morning to see if there were buds on the branches and count the weeks until spring. She turns a beautiful gold in the fall. In fact, her top was just starting to turn. Somewhere in my archive of photos I have a photo of her in each season. I hope the new occupier of 127 enjoys her as much as I have.  One last photo of the neighborhood - 127 and St. Nicholas Avenue.  The corner of 127 and the Terrace.  Patrick took this of me. I look sad and nostalgic but I was actually admiring the space without stuff in it and listening to the echo of my voice singing Regina Spektor songs bounce off the wall. My babies found their new home.  Let's face it... now that *most* of my books have been shelved, I'm feeling at home. We still have boxes everywhere but we've managed to carve out pockets of what will be a lovely new home. We've rearranged furniture and are loading our walls with art, photography and tapestries. The goal is to have most everything done so we can have folks over for dinner next weekend.  Onwards and upwards...  Tomorrow I will start searching Chelsea for my new slice of nature to fall in love with. I have a feeling the High Line will help me out...