Friday, October 14, 2016

The breakneck 'Speed' of pain

Andresia Moseley
photo: Kasey Anisa
by Jennifer Haaland

A race to outrun pain flashes across the ASU Gammage stage Saturday night in an original multi-media performance called "Speed Killed My Cousin."  Andresia Moseley, who plays Debra, a traumatized African American soldier returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, visited with PHX Stages yesterday during a break between workshops and rehearsals on campus.

"Debra's is just one of many, many untold soldier stories," Moseley said about the play with music by Linda Parris-Bailey (who is also a cast member). "There is a history of secrets in the military and we see it this time through the insights of an African American woman."

The Gammage BEYOND series is hosting Tennessee-based Carpetbag Theatre for their Arizona debut and powerful depiction of issues faced by deployed military personnel. Sponsoring world-class artists who both present evocative work and also connect Valley residents through engaging Cultural Participation programs like master classes and workshops, the BEYOND series is an eclectic companion to Gammage's well-known Broadway Across America tours.

"The initial difficulty is accepting it's true," said Moseley regarding audience reception of the jarring character immersion that opens the show. "From the first second they want to say, 'This lady is crazy,' and not believe the reality. But the script is an onion. It peels the layers back slowly to reveal how and why Debra became the way that she is."

Moseley shared that Carpetbag Theatre's mission is transforming communities. And the workshops on campus this week have been about just that. An education in the art of addressing PTSD and the atrocity of war, she said that telling the difficult secret stories empowers others to own and work through theirs. The presentations allow Carpetbag to draw out and soothe some of the workshop attendees' own stories.

Carlton  Releford and Andresia Moseley
photo: Kasey Anisa
"We start with basic exercises," Moseley explained. "Body awareness, exit awareness. Many of our audience members serve in the military or are with people who have. They are trained in hyper-vigilance."

Quick getaways figure into a cultural mindset of escape.  To that end, getting the word out 'in time,' succinct  high-impact messages, have been a focus of Moseley's career.  A classically trained working actor for 20 years, she is also known as an aggressive, emotional Spoken Word performer.  She went on to broaden the implications that one story about a soldier's return might have.

"The show addresses how to handle hidden stories and the trauma symptoms they may carry. The important reminder is that war isn't the only experience that can cause these symptoms," she said about the seriousness of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other debilitating behavioral health conditions.

Addressing how music figures into the message, Moseley said the singing is acapella with some  harmonizing and beat boxing.  The actors' voices also create background music. It's one of those mediums we use to both emphasize and diffuse our anxiety.

Experience provides that a sprint to avoid pain is often a losing one.  Slowing down enough to feel and process and begin to heal is the opportunity "Speed Killed My Cousin" at ASU Gammage this weekend offers.

"Speed Killed My Cousin" plays at ASU Gammage on Saturday, October 15th

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