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A month and a half ago, I attended the Cleveland Fringe Festival which features emerging artists. There were 35 shows to choose from – both free and ticketed – and a silent disco which I wish I had known about and possibly attended. I’m not a dancer; in fact, dancing makes me extremely uncomfortable, but now I am intrigued by what it must feel like to attend a silent disco. 

While at Fringe, I attended an immersive art installation titled “Her Mark” by playwright Renee Schilling and artist Faye Hargate. 

I was so incredibly moved by the experience that I am inspired to reach out and ask Renee to do a collaborative spin-off of that work with me.

I walked into a room ‘set’ up like the inside of a house. It felt familiar, and also foreign. Like I was a voyager peeping in on the very intimate details of a stranger’s life. Actually, I suppose that is exactly what I was doing. 

Everything in the room was free game in terms of interaction. You could nibble the snacks on the coffee table, smell what was in the various perfume bottles on the vintage vanity (stale breast milk from midnight feedings, the smell of gardenia perfume, etc.), play the piano in the corner of the room – even pick up the rotary dial phone perched on an end table and hear a woman’s voice telling you about her day on the other end of the line. 

Additionally, journals lay scattered around the room inviting you to add to the entries and thus become a part of the exhibit. Aside from the glimpses participants got into this family’s world, they also were invited to explore their own through question prompts on the walls such as, “Whose laugh are you afraid of forgetting?” 

Something about seeing the mundane (a scribbled grocery list) alongside the deeply personal and often shameful (a diary entry telling a teenage daughter to use her body to her benefit while people still craved her sex) hollowed out a space inside of me where the experience of this exhibit still sits.

I wanted badly to capture what was happening, but it definitely didn’t feel like the place to take out my phone. A somberness and seriousness hung suspended in the air. A tension between wanting to know more and wanting to turn away. 

You could tell that ‘her mark’ hurt in the making. 

You can find out more about Renee and her work here and Faye here.

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