Running In Place
Tell us a little about yourselves! What is Et Alia and how did you begin?
Hey! We are Et Alia, a theater company based in NYC committed to making work for international womxn. We (Maria, Giorgia, Ana, Isabella, and Gemma) came together during the summer of 2019 after having many conversations surrounding our cultural backgrounds, languages, upbringings, and how all of these tied to our contemporary lives in New York. Our members come from across the globe -- Romania, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa- -- and we opened a theater company that would allow us to continue to explore our experiences in the world.
"You know when you are just in a passionate,
driven and fast-paced conversation that
just never really ends?"
So you’re just embarking on your fist full-fledged production! What is it about? Tell us everything!
Giorgia (Rebecca): Well, in June I went back to India. During this time, I met the playwright Hasnain Shaikh and we got into this deep conversation about film, TV, and theater. You know when you are just in a passionate, driven and fast-paced conversation that just never really ends? It was like that. And, well, Hasnain’s playwriting work came up in this talk and I told him to send one of his plays my way. He did, and that is the one that will be going up at Dixon - Running in Place! Running in Place is funny, real, vulnerable, complex, juicy and relatable. We are really excited to see what the response of the audience is going to be!
In the original version of the play this romantic relationship central to the play was cast as a woman and man, however, in your version, it’s being played by two women, essentially making it a Queer narrative! How did you approach this play from this perspective?
Georgia: I think that as rehearsals went on and our exploration of the play’s relationships went deeper; we decided that the way we had changed the couple from being heterosexual to homosexual was not going to be a BIG deal for us - but that we simply wanted to create a world where the concept of being homosexual or heterosexual doesn’t really exist. We normalize the couple and present it on stage the way we believe love should be normalized in the present world - without labels.
"It tells a normal, human, emotional
and complex love story between two women."
How did making it a Queer narrative change the story? Enhance it? Tell a different story?
Georgia: I think it has certainly made the play more interesting and purposeful without us really trying to create that; because it tells a normal, human, emotional and complex love story between two women.
When I sat in on rehearsals I could see how emotionally involved each actor was. While working on a play that is so focused on intimacy in different forms, how has the play allowed each cast member to explore sex, sexuality, and pleasure for themselves? Did the actors draw from any of their own experiences?
Isa (Director): As a director, it is always about communication. When began Running in Place one of the first conversations that we had as a team was “How do we want to tell the story of these two women in love? How are the intimate moments between them expressed?” Talking through them we unearthed details that excited all of us about the intimacy of this couple on all forms. The actors drew from the text, pictures, visual art paintings, and personal objects. I was purposeful about the way in which we navigated the intimacy choreography and of course, the actors brought out their tastes.
And in addition, what was it like for the cast to explore queerness?
Ana (Zoe): Telling a beautiful love story that just happens to be queer has excited me from the beginning. Working with a team I have such a strong connection with, both professionally and personally, has allowed me to go deep into this exploration. I hope our work contributes to a more normalized view of queer intimacy.
From what I saw physical touch plays an important role in displaying intimacy in this production. Why do you think that is? And how is touch used in the play?
Ana: Physical touch is the main force that grounds our characters. The moments of touch happens when the characters somehow manage to break from their internal conflicts and allow themselves to show vulnerability. Lack of touch, on the other hand, comes alongside the tragedy of loneliness; when life catches you by surprise, it might be too painful to find any groundedness.
"Love makes intimacy scary because there’s so much at risk."
How do the character’s own internalized fears-- fear of intimacy— affect the character’s relationships?
Giorgia: Well, Rebecca is very insecure. There are people out there in the world for who it is hard being sexual and exploring that part of themselves - Rebecca is one of them. Rebecca has also never really been so intimate with anyone as she is with Zoe, so she is definitely discovering what real intimacy and comfort with a partner is, for the first time.
Ana: Zoe, on the other hand, has much more sexually experienced than Rebecca, but the seriousness she sees in her connection with Zoe makes their intimacy very unique. Love makes intimacy scary because there’s so much at risk. However, the fact that she has more experience definitely makes her more confident with her body she’s aware of her own desirability and plays with it, which affects the balance of their relationship. The conflicts they’re facing are mostly a result of this unbalance.
"As much as you want it to be true, life isn’t binary."
The play is really well written and I left with a few things that really stuck. In your opinion, which lines from the play is the best expression of intimacy, sex, sexuality, or pleasure?
Maria (Brea/Penelope/Mother): “As much as you want it to be true, life isn’t binary. It isn’t one or the other. It isn’t my fault or your fault. It can be neither. It can be both and neither at the same time.” I think that says it all.
"This play presents an entire relationship
between two people from their first date
to their last conversation."
And we cannot end this interview without asking THE most important question “Why now?” Why this play and what can it offer people at this moment in time?
Maria: In a world where everything happens so fast and we are busy trying to save it, we tend to forget how important and powerful love is. This play presents an entire relationship between two people from their first date to their last conversation. We see them have intimate moments, disagree, build together, laugh, make fun of each other, get jealous, but in the end, they love and fight for each other in an admirable way. At the end of yesterday’s rehearsal, I started crying because I realized that I’m sometimes so focused on everyday things or work, that I forget to remind the people I love how much I love them. I think it is important to show just how beautiful and special a queer relationship can be, especially because we don’t have enough of that today!
Et Alia: Running in Place
Tickets: Get tickets here. Dixon Place, November 15th at 10PM. Running time: 60min.
Soma Okoye is Artistic Director of Under The Covers. She is a multidicsiplinary aritst who uses acting, modeling, and film to explore the nature of identity. @soma.okoye
This week Under The Covers Collective sat down with Et Alia : a new New York based theater company that is committed to making work for international womxn, to talk about their first play, Running in Place by Hasnain Shaikh. The show follows the main character Rebecca as she struggles with the loss of love, the pain of loneliness and guilt, and her fight to move on.
"It tells a normal, human, emotional and complex love story between two women."
Interview by Soma Okoye