At New Years I lost a dear inspiring friend, Kibibi Dillion. Her spirit told me to stop fucking around and do what I’m here to do: perform, teach, coach. MAKE A ONE WOMAN SHOW.
I’ve fantasized about doing this for years. Every time I saw a performer create a one person show it felt like a coming of age ritual and I sensed it was a matter of time before it would be my turn.
What stories will I tell? What dances….songs? Ok. I wasn’t expecting that. This piece is growing me.
I decided at New Years that I wanted to perform my show in Kentucky and New York, the two birth places of my parents. I took out a calendar and highlighted labor day weekend, this is when I want to perform I told myself. A few months later I was at a party and a man asked me, “aren’t you Zahava from Appalachia?” He recognized me from a performance I had attended a year prior in the Bronx. Yes.
Now Appalachia for me has been a deep secret. My roots there seem to be the core of my sense of not belonging to the world I see and feel around me. He turned out to be the director of the Clear Creek Festival, an incredible annual festival for healing, performance, and cultural transformation. After a beautiful conversation that brought me to tears he invited me to come perform. He said he would email me the dates.
When I returned home I opened the email to discover that the festival was on…Labor Day weekend! Oh, universe I think I asked for this. But I was so terrified that I didn’t respond for months. In the past few weeks I have met 3 people who had been to the festival or were from Appalachia. Suddenly the reality of Appalachia was showing up in my NYC life. As much as I feared going back HOME it seemed the greatest fear would be to say no to this invitation I had requested.
I sat in the park with my soul sister, Chelsea, who is also Appalachian and Jewish and had performed at Clear Creek in 2010. She said to me, “you’re going to feel at home.” At which point I lost it. I cried so deeply — What if I don’t like it? She looked at me, “you and I are the kinds of people who go everywhere, we have such an expansive experience visiting other people’s cultures and realities. Sometimes the scariest thing is to go home.”
I called the director this week. I want to come, is it too late? I borrowed a tent, I cleared my schedule…it’s official universe, I accept.
Making a one woman show has been a journey. At first I was just trying to find language for my memories and what I felt was important. Then I started doing showings for my dear friends, lovers, tribe. Yes, they sometimes gave feedback but I really was at the stage of needing to be witnessed and seen in my story. Reading your life story aloud every Sunday is an interesting ritual. Some weeks it’s really emotional, and some weeks it feels less so. Just this past week I felt a shift. I am really ready to hear how its occurring for others.
What I’m learning is that a one woman show cannot be made by one woman. I need my community and friends to tell me what it looks like from out there. There is an intimacy in asking for feedback and really receiving it. There are parts of this show that I edited out this week because I realize they were for me. There’s something generous about knowing what not to share. And generous about this stage of the process, because this show is for you. Just like living is for ourselves, AND for each other. Performance is the HOW we live for each other.
And! I don’t have a venue for NYC yet. Universe? If you want to produce my show, sponsor it, have recommendations for festivals, venues, performance opportunities to apply to, please email: Zahava@LoveMakingDances.com.
Sex, Earth, Ancestors
A multimedia solo performance ritual created and performed by Zahava Griss.
My roots bridge religious, cultural, and class lines gifting me with the ability to be and to communicate Love across socially defined realities. I am the child of a New York Jewish sociologist and the Appalachian mountain woman he was assigned to “study.” I was raised by the ballet community and the African diasporic dance community. I learned how differently cultures define dance, the body, sex, the soul, and our relationship with the Earth. This performance ritual is about their evolution and how
our personal life story plays a part in it.