Photo By: Tethered the Ghost
Meryl Ochoa and Kaylyn Valdez-Scott are the creators and performers behind the theatrical group, Tethered the Ghost. Both artists are alumni of Brock University and have been working on Healing Thread since January 2020. The play is being performed as part of the In the Soil Arts Festival. This production is taking place in an outdoor garden with limited audience sizes. The outdoor setting is lovely and both performers fill the space with their voices and expressive acting.
After a year of digital performances from theatre companies, sharing space with the actors and other audience members makes the experience feel intimate and touching. Ochoa and Valdez-Scott are incredibly grounded and their connection to one another is tangible as the story of Healing Thread unfolds. The intimacy of the space and small audience size elevates the performance. The narrative is also well-constructed and beautifully woven together.
They are not afraid to take their time in their storytelling, sitting in the moments where silence is necessary and moving with intensity and conviction through the faster moments of dialogue. The script is detailed, and the characters feel real to the audience even in the absence of a set or props.
What makes Healing Thread so outstanding is the joy both performers take in storytelling. This story is important to them and the work that has gone into telling it is apparent. The story follows Jasmine (Valdez-Scott) as she connects with her family history during an encounter with a spirit (Ochoa). Jasmine is asked if she will bear the responsibility of connecting the present to the past by allowing the spirits of her ancestors to visit her and someday passing the gift on to her descendants. It asks questions about lineage, what we owe to our families, and to our past.
In The Soil has adapted well to creating and putting on performances while keeping COVID-19 and safety in mind. Staging this play outdoors does not take away from it, in fact, there are moments when the sounds of the cicadas line up with the crescendo of drama in the story. There is a symphony of nature and construction noises that come from performing outdoors, yet the performers are easy to hear and have adapted well to performing in these conditions. Despite the distractions that are unavoidable when performing in a park, both actors remain grounded, focused, and in character for the entirety of the performance.
It was easy for the audience to be transported to Jasmine’s kitchen without the help of effects like lighting or a naturalistic set. The minimalist design choices allowed for the focus to be given entirely to the performances of Valdez-Scott and Ochoa. They have chosen to include only the necessities in staging this production; a dining room table and chairs, some dishes, and a podium the audience understands to be the stove. If the acting weren’t as transfixing as it is, perhaps this minimalism would not be enough, but the production choices perfectly complement the actors.
Valdez-Scott and Ochoa are immensely skilled at telling a story that they have clearly put their hearts into.
Fans of live theatre should keep an eye out for any future performances of this play or anything Tethered the Ghost is involved in. In the Soil will continue to run until Sept. 25 with pay-what-you-can festival passes and a variety of arts events happening across the city.