REVIEWS: Rearranging The Furniture

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Heather May asks us to think about the idioms in our daily vernacular that revolve around sight. And after that, she keeps on asking. She asks us to be open, and to listen. And then she asks us to trust her, and slip into the dark. How do we discuss and reconfigure our perspectives, while all at once checking in with the ableist undertones of having a “point-of-view”? Its a lot, right? Sure is! But what a doozy worth thinking about! And Heather carries us along, with just her voice, on this dreamy journey into stillness with a gentle determination, and a graceful heavy hand. “Rearranging the Furniture” is an unpacking and shifting of the subliminal prejudices that all able-bodied people carry with them, despite their best efforts at being inclusive. Heather’s honesty is refreshing and necessary. Rearranging The Furniture forces you to challenge how your definitions of theater and entertainment rely solely on senses that others are not afforded.

— MACKENZIE BARTLETT, PortFringe 2019 Review Team

Heather May’s piece “Rearranging the Furniture” is a gentle but very powerful journey into marginalization and disability. This masterful theater professor and director lays bare her fear and asks us to share for a moment how she sees. My brother is blind. That process was a slow one and for years we didn’t know he was blind. He drove cars, played pool, did what people do. Except he was visioning the world through one dark lens and one lens coated in black paint and Vaseline. Once when we were at a restaurant he was asked a server what was on the menu. The server told him it was right there in front of him, what was he blind?!?! He answered back, yes. He started carrying a white cane after that signal others, not because he used it. Heather May asked us to “watch” her performance as though we were blind. She gently helped us to do this. She guided us through the performance with her voice, her swooshing clothes, her footsteps, her breath. She let us use artifacts from people who sat where we did before…people who were okay after the experience. She reminded us we need to be mindful of what we have and of the way we interact. And to be mindful of others. Disability does not always look like a wheelchair. And folks who have disabilities are not a monolith. Heather May is a very capable artist with a powerful presence. And my brother doesn’t drive cars anymore but he still kicks my ass at 9 ball. Thank you, Heather May.

— BRIDGET M, PortFringe 2019 Review Team

Heather May’s well-written meditation on sight and insight hearkens back to the roots of Western theater with references to Oedipus Rex (who blinds himself) and Tiresias (the blind seer). This seems the perfect launching point for a theater professor and director as she takes us into the unsettling and vulnerable world of someone grappling with a progression toward disability that threatens the future of her work and art-making as she’s always known it. In her sleek and well-crafted short solo show, May asks her audience to spend time blindfolded listening to her voice and engaging in a tactile experiment that reveals, ever so briefly, different ways of engaging with performance. Perhaps due to the acoustics of such a large venue, May is occasionally hard to hear, and yet because the material is so compelling I don’t think I missed a word.

–BESS WELDEN, PortFringe 2019 Review Team

You know it’s Fringe when there are blindfolds. In this fascinating exploration of sensory bias, Heather May takes us on an intense journey through her own series of diagnoses. Honest, brave, and intriguing, this show largely communicates with the audience through auditory and tactile means. Interestingly enough, without my sight, I found it hard to focus on the show – my mind kept wandering – and I wonder if that wasn’t part of May’s question all along. When our sight, which we lean on so heavily in our daily expression and communication, is pulled from us, how do maintain a connection with a sighted world?

— ALLEN BALDWIN, PortFringe 2019 Review Team