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#Howtoconstructaportretbycreatingempathyforanunsympatheticcharacterinordertoseethe worlddifferent #why #basicmaterial #workinprogress #brainsstorming

Is perfect the word I would use? - Julia
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Stories about Julia

I recorded this sound fragment of my friend Julia during the fall of 2015. Julia and I met in NYC where we acted in a show during the summer of 2014. One evening, we sat in the car on our way home from a rehearsal and she told me her family story while we drove from w3th street all the way up to Flushing, Queens. 

Julia grew up in a nice neighbourhood in New Jersey. She described hot summers, eating fruit on the porch and playing with her sister whom she loved. Coming from an Italian background she was raised very Catholic. Her mother was Italian and her father American. He had a small business while her mother was a big CEO in a important company working in one of the top buildings of Manhattan. They seem to be quite wealthy and had an extended network of family and friends.

Around the time Julia got 8, things started to shift. Her mother decided she wanted to stay at home with her kids. Her choice was one of the first steps in a serie of events where the family lost there grip on each other as well as themselves. Julia described her mom as a woman who had lots of potential but refused to use it and she described her father as a man without any potential. Julia interpreted her mothers decision as a result of her upbringing, coming from a traditional Italian background where mothers stay home to raise their kids and look after the household and cook for their husband…

This woman decided her man should, from now on, provide for his family financially. 


The father failed in his new given responsibility and bankruptcy manifested itself. The mother didn’t put any effort in finding another job, instead, the family moved and seemed to settle in this situation according to Julia.

The new neighbourhood somewhere around the Berkshires was very isolated and they had no further contact with any relatives. They grew so poor that they ate mainly green beans. Sometimes the lights went out or the heating, cause the parents were not able to provide for a constant supply of food, electricity or hot water. Around that time, a very rich relative died and they inherited some money that could solve all their financial problems.

In the chain of weird events following up at a racing speed, now the FBI found this correlation between a bankruptcy and an inheritance very suspicious. The FBI decided to investigate this family and their resources and kept hanging around the house, creating an atmosphere of fear amongst the children, partially provoked by the parents who didn’t communicate what exactly was going on. In the end, the family didn't inherit any of this money. Instead, the lost it and it was divided amongst other family members. Accumulation proceeded and Julia's mother, who used to be very attractive, got sick. She got painful blisters all over her body and started to develop obesitas as well. One evening, the mother was cooking dinner. Julia, as a kid watched her mother cook, in a house that was nearly no house. Her mother was standing with her back towards her kid in her kitchen. Julia watched her mother while white hot steam was surrounding

her, coming from the cooking pots. She wore an old T-shirt with holes where blisters were popping out. Because the blisters were so painful, she couldn’t bare the friction of texture on her skin, so she cut wholes in her clothes at the spots were her blisters occurred. She had a gesture that barely betrayed all hidden emotional despair raging within her body and the impuls to burst into crying any moment. She didn't.


The held back tension, the understanding of this kid of her mother with her face hidden. And the steam of the cooking pots, probably creating the only heat in the house is a striking image to me.


I stayed with Julia for a week and gained more inside in her life. She lived together with her boyfriend who was an Australian actor who had only a working visa to work as an actor in NY. Julia had high ambitions towards an acting career and he was so in love with her he worked illegally in a magician shop for kids to support both of them so she could hunt her career. As well, she saw a psychologist for free. Her psychoses went up and down. I wonder if the psychologist was intrigued by her as well, or just good hearted or was afraid she would be a danger for society if she wouldn’t get help. One evening we were talking and I make a recording of this talk. It was a monologue of Julia about how perfect she thought she was. Julia was in a high that time. The last bit of the recording is recorded five months later, when I visited her and filmed her again in march 2015. She was working on several movies by that time and she was very upset by the initial recording I made, the one I just shared above. She felt bad. She added a new perspective to the original thought and these two were put together in the fragment below: 


(add the sound recording ) 


Now, this monologue is very interesting to me. For a long time I searched for a suitable form of presentation. First I have put this text in an movie of Julia, a kind of portret. But this choice seemed very arbitrary so I thought, this sound piece is so strong, maybe I should create a physical space for it. So I started to draw possible spaces for Julia’s perfectness. Still, this didn’t seem right. 


(add drawings ) 


It is hard though, to understand what exactly I find interesting. I would say I find it funny and somehow this whole idea of her of being perfect sounded really not intelligent, yet her vocabulary was eloquent. I found this dichotomy very interesting. A second part I found interesting is that there’s some parts in the text you could relate to as an audience. For example, next to the annoyance it invokes when people listen to this sound fragment, you could also hear her need for acceptance. In order to make this text more layered for the audience I asked a neurologist, an archeologist, a dramaturge and a songwriter to interpret the text according to their profession. These documents you can explore here below: 


(add the interpretations ) 


I still didn’t quit find what I wanted. So in a second attempt, I held a workshop/presentation about these bits and pieces of information and  students could listen to the fragment and we would evaluate it, partially according to the Dasarts evaluation technique. 

(add documentation of workshop)


In a third phase, what I realised, is that this character missed empathy. In order to hear all the layers in the text, you have to like the character and without context, this is very difficult. I can’t just share the backside story of the julia to an audience cause I’m afraid I would become sentimental, so in this third phase, I plan to work with a performer who will bring the text and put as much sympathy in this character as possible.


As well, I’m looking for different faces who could represent Julia. 


(add random faces)

I still haven't found what I'm looking for ... 

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