Tag Archives: object

Theatre Pre-Performance Ritual for RENT

Main Piece

“[This ritual] is very common: the whole team tapping a sign before a game. In RENT, we have a plaque hand-carved by Jonathan Larson’s uncle that he carved when he died that his sister gave us. She came in and talked to our cast, and her and his college roommates gave us this plaque for the duration of our show. And it’s this big hand-carved plaque that says “Thank you, Jonathan Larson” on it. It’s hung up backstage, and after our group circle, we all have to go up to it one by one [before every performance] and like, place our hands on it and thank him before we go onstage to perform…Really simple, but we all do it and constantly remind each other of it and it’s really important to our cast.

Some of us like, if we’re feeling especially emotional, will literally sit in front of it and cry. I’m so serious, I’ve done that, ’cause Jonathan Larson is really important to me.”

Interpretation

Informant Interpretation: Informant related ritual to common sports team rituals of tapping a specific sign for luck or protection before a game. They also mentioned that the pre-RENT performance tapping of the sign was a means of “community building” and enabled cast members to “ground themselves” and “remind themselves about why they’re doing this piece of art.”

Personal Interpretation: This is clearly an important tradition to the informant and their cast, furthered by the subject matter of RENT (queer people living in NYC during the HIV/AIDS crisis) and fact that its creator, Jonathan Larson, died one day before the musical’s original opening in 1996. The sign is a physicalized reminder of the humanity and weight the show carries, and gives the cast members a material way to remember the real people it’s grounded in before going onstage. To me, it sounds like tapping this sign is a ritualized remembrance of the responsibility to tell and represent an important, nuanced story to the audience, and for the cast to honor the people around them–cast, crew, relatives, friends, and more–as well as the source of the art they’re bringing into the light.

Background

Informant is a 21 year old college student studying theatre at USC. The performance of RENT mentioned happened this semester, with rehearsals running January-April and performances in April. It was put on by the USC School of Dramatic Arts–informant performed in the ensemble for all performances. Informant is mixed race (white and Pacific Islander), and identifies as queer and fem-presenting.

Thanksgiving Ornaments

The informant is a student in university who has spent the entirety of his life in the United States, starting various different traditions that she has the ability to experience due to family members building upon their values.

Ritual/Ceremony:

On Thanksgiving, the United States’ annual national holiday, the informant, her family and extended members join together to “share [their] love with one another by bringing [their] Christmas earlier in the year.” The ceremony that takes place accompanying the traditional Thanksgiving feast and activities includes the “exchange of an ornament on Thanksgiving because we often won’t be able to be together during Christmas but we get to carry a reminder of them on the tree.” This is typically done “after the meal ends, giving each other the ornaments, symbolic of our love on Christmas eve and day, is mainly for the extended family members who we don’t get to see on the most chaotic days of the year”.

Context:

The informant states that this tradition has existed in her family since “[her] brother was 5 so that was 13 years ago” and was a very important ceremony that played a “unique part of Thanksgiving day” as it was “more symbolic than the turkey was to [them]”. She had also expressed that these ornaments were usually personalized according to each family member and their interests, specifically over the course of that year. Examples of this in her family exist through an ornament that she received years ago that was “Nemo themed because it was my favourite movie as a child” and that resonated with the rest of the family as they put it on their tree for that Christmas season. Ornament ceremonies had a certain dynamic and were typically done between specific individuals most of the years with an exchange of “the older generations giving the younger generations personalised ones” and the entire family giving the elders “a collective personalised one” from their descendants. This can be seen through her family giving their grandfather a wooden ornament because of their “family memories and love for nature.” She summarises her experience with the ceremony as a “matter of how we can share our love with unfortunately not being able to be in the same space as each other” on Christmas day.

Analysis:

This unique ceremony being done during Thanksgiving presents a different approach to the traditional holiday by implementing the effects of the religious/community holiday of Christmas together. The mix of holidays in a familial setting embraces and highlights the true impact of these holidays on the informant and her family, placing her family in an important position in their lives. Although it is not a generational tradition that has existed for decades, it emphasises the significance of this tradition to the informant herself and her siblings. The personalisation of the ornaments presents the beginning of a narrative of sorts as she is able to collect the personalised ornaments she has received over the years to show the growth in her persona and values as a human. Besides this allowing the family to celebrate the family essence that they do not have on Christmas with the ornaments received on Thanksgiving, it also supports the ideology of feeling extreme gratitude on Thanksgiving. Spreading the “love and family joy” all year round as they prepare for the year ahead of them, with the ornaments piling up over the years symbolizes the impacts of implementing this ceremony onto Thanksgiving. It allows the informant to have grown up feeling connected to her extended family which is evident in the manner she has expressed the importance of family in her life, missing the ones who are not there for Christmas Eve.

Folk-Belief of Protection

text: “My grandma carries a dried up banana leaf at all times, because when the Japanese invaded her island during World War 2, her family would hide under banana leaves. Now, she carries one around to give her protection and hope wherever she is, serving as a reminder of her culture, when she moved to the US when she was 30 years old.” -Informant

context: The informant’s grandmother is from Mindoro, Philippines, and during World War 2, her island was invaded. The informant is very inspired by his grandmother for having so much bravery, and now hangs banana leaves over his door to serve as a means of protection. She lived in a very remote area, on a rice farm with hundreds of banana trees. These trees have given her so much, so to this day, she still uses them to give her protection.

analysis: Similar to a Folk-Object, like an evil-eye, these banana leaves serve as protection from negative things. The superstition that she has, that these banana leaves protected her once, so they will protect her for the rest of her life, has been passed down to the informant. The story of the dried banana leaf being carried by the grandmother serves as an example of how folk beliefs can be passed down through generations and become deeply ingrained in a person’s cultural identity. It is a manifestation of the human need for protection and the desire to hold onto one’s cultural heritage for decades. It was her way of coping with the situation she was in, and now preserves that cultural memory.

The “Round Tuit”

  1. Text
    The “Round Tuit” is a circular, coin sized disk often made out of wood, but could be other materials, with the word “TUIT” printed or engraved.  Sometimes they’re accompanied by additional engravings that say something along the lines of “This is a Round Tuit. Guard it with your life, as Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones. This is an indispensable item. It will help you become a more efficient worker. For years we have heard people say, I’ll do it as soon as I get a Round Tuit. Now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got a Round Tuit!”
  2. Context
    I learned about Round Tuits when I was a child, perhaps around 6 or 7, and barely understanding the concept.  I discovered one laying around at my grandma’s house and asked what it was.  My mom explained the idea, and told me how my grandpa used to own them and pull one out whenever someone would say, “I’ll do it when I get around to it.”  We used to have one wooden one and one red plastic one, and for a while as a kid I would hold on to them in case I had the opportunity to give one to somebody.  
  3. Interpretation
    My interpretation of this folk object is that it’s merely punny humor in the form of an item and right up the alley of my parents and grandparents.  I can see how an object like this would be a funny interjection in a conversation and could also even fall into the category of dad jokes.

CTR Ring

Context:

CTR Ring

The informant had been raised in a Morman family and society for most of their life and has many experiences with the cultural aspect of Mormonism and the type of folklore that had been embedded in them throughout their childhood. They describe the visual aspect of the ring when stating “It has a little green shield which stands for ‘Choose the Right’, which is supposed to remind you to do the right thing and make the moral choice whilst remembering to be a good person. The informant described the ring as being “mostly for kids and the younger group of the church.” They are to be given at any young age and “whoever is teaching the lesson that day will give them out after the service” as it is given by the church to wear. It is also dictated that the saying is used for multiple scenarios as “choose the right is a common saying in games like in mazes and how you would always get out by going right” The age that the rings are most commonly worn is between “late toddler years and stop around the age of twelve” therefore being worn for a large part of their childhoods.

Analysis:

The aspect of having a shield on the ring provides children with the chance to view the church and the society in that they are being raised in a protected environment where they can learn to grow and continue to learn the values of Mormonism. Engraving the acronym “CTR” on the ring and embedding the phrase ‘Choose the Right’ into their thought process allows the children to develop whilst remembering that they will always be protected as long as they do what is right by their culture and the church. The idea of incorporating the acronym into a ring is symbolic as rings are typically worn in a traditional manner when referring to marriage, therefore, using a ring to produce this message and phrase conveys the attachment that is built between the child and the religious group. This is similar to marriage as it possibly foreshadows the same Christian ideology of ‘til death do us part’ conveying that they are forever connected to the community, culture and religious upbringing and that the church will perpetually be linked to their being when ‘Choos[ing] the Right’.