Lots of people try acting as a way to step outside their comfort zone. I stepped out so far, I went into orbit. Like an astronaut exploring space, I explored theater this past summer with the Theater of Possibility in Seattle, WA. Nothing in the world could prepare me for the happiness of hearing my words on stage.
I wrote a scene familiar to many nonspeakers- languishing in a most ridiculous life skills class. They say, “write what you know.“ To read the script of Words Unheard, check out this month’s Leo In Bloom. I wrote myself a small part but couldn’t trust my body to keep it together to actually play myself. I’d love to introduce you to my two onstage Sofis. Beezus played my body, and Valentine played my voice. Here’s what they said about it.
Sofi: To play my awkward body without mocking me seemed a balancing act. Nicely done! What was that sensation like for you?
Beezus: It was very difficult for me. My strategy was that I tried to check in with you and your mom as much as possible and do my best not to play you as a stereotype. I think the fact that it was quite a struggle to get right helped me properly convey the frustration you felt at the hands of the discrimination you endured.
Sofi: Beezus, I need to mention that I loved how you were openly your true self. Have you always been so outstandingly self-aware?
Beezus: Yes, yes, I have. Not sure what else to say.
Sofi: You are a role model, to be sure!
Sofi: Valentine, you have experience in theater. Have you ever played a character who was still alive? Did that affect your work process?
Valentine: I’ve never played a real person before, much less a character who was still alive. In fact, I’ve mostly played Shakespearean and classical characters, so playing your onstage speaking counterpart was the furthest thing from what I’m used to. It was an interesting challenge to bring my own perspective to the character while also portraying an authentic and faithful version of a real person. Having Beezus as my nonspeaking counterpart was also interesting since I’ve never shared a role with someone like that before. We had to be in tune onstage as I reflected on the character’s inner monologue, and she portrayed the version that everyone else saw. It was helpful to email you and get your feedback and notes on the character and to get more insight into what it’s like to be a nonspeaker. One note that you gave that stuck with me was when you encouraged me to be graceful since that’s how you said you imagined yourself. That was what helped me embody the poetry, as I thought of my inner monologue version of Sofi after that as a physical reflection of your elegant words.
Sofi: Do you plan to study something related to the theater?
Valentine: I plan on studying production design and playwriting and possibly directing. I would like to continue to act for fun, but I don’t plan on it as a career.
Sofi: You will be amazing!
Sofi: For both of you, what is one thing you thought about nonspeakers that you now don’t?
Beezus: I guess I’d never really considered the challenges you go through on a day-to-day basis.
Valentine: One thing I didn’t know about nonspeakers was how many different communication methods there are. I had never met someone who spelled on a letterboard before, and I had no idea that was even an option. I knew some nonspeakers used text-to-speech programs, but it was interesting to learn about the different accommodation tools that exist. I also, based on stereotypes and my own biases, assumed you would be quiet and passive. Your presence, ambition, and vision for your piece completely shattered my misconceptions.
It was such a pleasure working with both of you, and I really hope it won’t be the last time! I am back on Earth and ready to launch again. Houston, we do not have a problem!
Play photography by Ryan Enkema
By Sofi Ghassaei, with Beezus Murphy and Valentine Wulf
18-year-old Beezus Murphy authored My Mom Had an Abortion, published by PM Press. She has acted in plays in both her school and at the Seattle Rep, recently starring in The Youth Works’ Festival’s original play Party in the Bathroom.
Valentine Wulf awoke one morning from troubled dreams to find that her eyebrows still did not match her bad blonde wig. She is an aficionado of all things macabre, tacky, and kitsch.
Sofi is a Poet, playwright, logodaedalist and a rain girl from the Pacific Northwest.