Comment: In Search of Catharsis, Here for Now Festival, Stratford, Ont.

by Lynn on September 3, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person, as part of the Here For Now, New Works Festival, on the back lawn of the Bruce Hotel, Stratford, Ont. Until September 11, 2021.

Part of the reading series, so no review but a comment.

Written and performed by Jessica B. Hill

Directed by Rodrigo Beilfuss

Actress-writer, Jessica B. Hill has got us thinking again.

Last year for Here for Now Theatre, New Works Festival she created “The Dark Lady” asking and answering who the model of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady might be. The play was provocative, literate, literary and no doubt had us Googling the name of the woman she posited was the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

This year with In Search of Catharsis she has us thinking about weasels, Pandora and quantum physics.

First the meaning of “Catharsis”:

“The term itself comes from the Greek katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing.” The purpose of catharsis is to bring about some form of positive change in the individual’s life.”

Jessuca B. Hill approaches the stage in casual footwear that she takes off carefully when she approaches the playing area of a beautiful rug behind a lectern. I love the ritual aspect of taking off one’s shoes when on the sacred space of the stage.

She takes out a smart, white lab coat from her large carry all. She opens a binder and announces her Ted Talk. And she apologizes. A lot. She apologizes for every disappointment we have had, every failure, every bad day, rain, snow, heat, burnt food, etc. Her fault and she’s sorry. She tells us that she was given a box once by Zeus (!) and told not to open it. She was told rather pointedly, “Don’t open it!” She couldn’t help herself. She opened it. All hell broke loose. She of course is Pandora and from then on all of life’s ills are her fault.

She talks about trying to fix the mistakes, all of them. She went into quantum physics to further her in her quest to fix things. She talks about a huge atom crusher that broke down and she was chosen to fix the mistake and she did it.  She mused on the pandemic and how we have all been changed and frustrated by it. She talks of weasels that get into the works and screw things up.

And more than anything Jessica B. Hill gets us thinking about all of this. She got me thinking that it was a ‘man’ god who got Pandora in trouble in the first place when he gave her the box and told her not to open it. Why would you do that? If you don’t want it opened, don’t give it to anyone—keep it in your closet with your god stuff. A test? Jessica B. Hill got me thinking of the other “God” who told another woman, “Don’t eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.” Why would you do that? Such temptation. Jessica B. Hill got me thinking, “Who built that big atom crusher?” Guys. And who had to fix it? A woman.

Jessica B. Hill has a dazzling imagination. She weaves intricate ideas of life, art and history and makes them accessible and applicable to our pandemic-lives. She juxtaposes the word “longing” and “belonging” and made my eyes pop with the creativity of that pairing. Her performance, right down to the determined way of turning over the pages of her binder, is full of exuberance, gusto and enthusiasm. I also praise her director Rodrigo Beilfuss for adding to the pop in this performance.


In Search of Catharsis plays until September 11, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour.

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