Moonset Sunrise Promotes Social Justice Through Theater

By Zeki Salah
Facilitator, Mutual Aid Collaborative

From June 8-18, Chicago Peace Fellow, Pilar Audain, acted as a guide for Moonset Sunrise, a theatrical experience rooted in healing, self-care and collective growth through song, storytelling, dance and ritual. Pilar co-created the program alongside the theater company Collaboraction as the inaugural event for Beat Kitchen's new restaurant/lounge and event space: Bar Sol.

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Moonset Sunrise was conceptualized by Collaboraction, a social justice theater that builds knowledge, empathy, dialogue and action around oppression and inequity through live theater, film and online interactive programs. Pilar was approached by Carla Stillwell and Anthony Mosely of Collaboraction because they wanted to produce something that would promote healing and connection in the community and had heard of her experience doing ritual healing work. Pilar’s healing work on the Southside, as well as her use of ancient indigenous art forms as healing modalities attracted a lot of attention to her work and the team at Collaboraction asked her to be a priest in their latest production, Moonset Sunrise.

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While the team at Collaboraction provided set design, musicians, dancers, and other artists, Pilar was tasked with creating a release experience for members of the audience. Pilar relied on audience participation to create a feeling of freedom and emotional release. For instance, at one point in the play, members of the audience were given a paper and pencil and asked to write down their emotions. They were then told to give the paper to a Goddess statue before the paper was burned by Pilar. By allowing space for emotional vulnerability and reflection, Moonset Sunrise aimed to provide audience members with an acceptance of who they are.

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One of the goals of Moonset Sunrise was to make members of the audience feel as though they were entering a safe space and leaving their ordinary lives behind. Pilar and the team at Collaboraction aimed to create an atmosphere where people viewed different forms of art that elicited different emotions. Pilar’s vision of the set and performance were delivered by Collaboration “in the most organic and beautiful way.”

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The set of the event included a mock sanctuary with running water that visitors encountered when they came into the auditorium. As audience members watched libations and sacred dances, they were encouraged to relax and focus on their breathing. By creating an immersive experience with different art forms, Moonset Sunrise provided audience members with a variety of modalities through which they could experience healing and release.

One of the outcomes of Moonset Sunrise was that people expected one thing and received what they did not know they needed. -- Pilar Audain Reed

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She encouraged members of the audience to focus on the events that led them to their current positions, so that they could better understand themselves. During performances, many members of the audience expressed difficult relationships with loved ones and allowed for a breakdown of the emotional boundaries that are raised in everyday life. This freedom allowed them to focus on how they suffer in many of the same ways and helped them find a common humanity amongst themselves. By the time Moonset Sunrise concluded, many members of the audience were provided with a transformative experience that left them feeling a bit lighter and freer.

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