If I believe in it, I'll go for it. Always. “To the women left behind. To the women who lost their men to mountains; the women who held me when I lost mine. The women who continue to hold me. The women who put silver on my wrists and promised me I wasn’t broken. Who gave me mountain stars that hang above my head while I sleep to remind me what it feels like to breathe. The women who drove through the night to hold me while I silently screamed and tore down the sky. To the women who wrote me letters of loss and love. Who never gave up. To the women who still ask about him. To the women who say the names, tell the stories and incorporate the amputation of their loves into a richer heart song. To the women who fought for my survival and thrival; the women who fought for their own. To the women who took the late night phone calls and made me soup. To the women who listened. To the women who move within.
To the women who know that it’s a journey not a destination. This is for you.”
- reflections on Chomolungma, September 2019
Chomolungma is one of the most special pieces that is so so close to my heart. When I had the privilege of performing it in 2019 at Shrillfest at MCS Theatre in NYC, I have remained overwhelmed that somehow, of all the pieces of writings that exist in the world…this piece by Molly Jones somehow ended up in my life. What Molly gave to me was the first time that I had ever felt a writer put part of the accurate reality of my grief brain into words. To have the cathartic privilege of bringing them off a page and speaking them out loud in front of a theatre full of people was such a profound gift within how I have experienced some layer of healing.
It was no coincidence that Chomolungma was centered around the specific topic of grief in relationship to losing someone to the natural world, given the community that I have grown up in. Lander, WY is a little town at the base of the Wind River Mountains that borders the Wind River Reservation. It is home to the a thriving rock climbing community which hosts the International Climbers Festival each year, National Outdoor Leadership School, is close to the mouth of Sinks Canyon State Park and along the way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. In our community, we have witnessed so many people that we love, lose their loves and lives to the mountains. Now, I don’t know what that’s like in as intimate of way as some. But, I have had the honor(honor is an understatement) of hearing their stories, they have shown me glimpses of their hearts, and this is part of a thread fabric that weaves together our mountain community of Lander, Wyoming. But, it is not all that we are. It is not all that they are. The women who have held me up within my pain are not defined by their grief, but they have helped me walk again. Loss has made us richer in ways that…maybe most times we wish we were lacking. The price of this richness can’t be truly measured.
Chomolungma was a gift of a piece when it first fell into my life and if I’m not one for letting gifts like that pass me by. After the final performance at Shrillfest, I approached Molly about the possibility of adapting Chomolungma into a short film.
— February 2020—
Molly and I tossed around ideas of what that would take and what we would want that to look like. Because, this play is so specific to themes that are extremely universal but also specifically unique to the community that I come from, I suggested to Molly that we work together to adapt it into its film version by intentionally using my hometown and community of Lander, WY as inspiration with the long term intention to film it there.
Molly has a genius for adventure and agree to step into this one with me, using her play as a catalyst.
When the muse comes…listen. Pandemic life threw us all for a loop in a lot of ways and within the global loss, grief and pain, we are witnessing a Renaissance. But, what I have been struggling so much with is feeling like I’m living a half life. Half within the universal and personal trauma of the last year and half pretending like everything is “normal” when it really isn’t…and never should be. Part of this perception has been the lack of acknowledgement of this universal trauma. Our systems haven’t been given the opportunity to grieve. Just as quickly and elongated the process was into the pandemic, we faded back into a former life that seems to have just come out sideways with no metabolizing of this major event that has taken place(is still taking place).
Molly continued to reach out to about Chomolungma over the year (because she’s a badass who knows how to make stuff happen) and finally something shifted for me that gave me the drive and space to move forward. Maybe it was the buildup of living in my personal Trauma Town for the last year and maybe it was just damn time. Either way, we made the decision to bring Chomolungma to Lander to do some performances that we are going to utilize as workshops as we adapt it into the short film. We made that decision at the end of April and have been collaborating with local organizations and businesses in Lander to help make this a reality, including but not limited to the LOR Foundation, our co-producer Communal Pancake, Lander Art Center, Second Wind Productions of San Fransisco and the International Climbers Festival who have graciously included us on the roster of their opening night Art Crawl.
With the intention of collaborating with the built in audience of Climbers Fest, we also will be focusing on the lived experiences of ALL Lander community members and their relationship to death and grief. Death, grief and all the waves that carry us within life and living, are topics that our societal relationships to are slowly shifting but still are not given the space and light that they deserve. It is our intention to help expand that space in collaboration with our community. All are welcome. Following each performance, there will be recorded talkbacks to be used for research in our adaptation. On site there will also be bereavement resources available. During the opening day of Climbers Fest, the Climbing Grief Fund will also be offering clinics.
It also must be noted that within this work, since the source material is so specific to the outdoor recreation community and we have always rehearsed and performed it on Indigenous land, we will also be focusing on how to decolonize our narratives. We will start by amplifying the reality and the voices that speak to the truths of mountaineering, alpinism and the outdoor recreation community wherein the roots lie in colonizer mindset. Our performances will be taking place on Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone land.
During our three day in person rehearsal process on the days leading up to performance (we’ve also been rehearsing over ZOOM obvi, as I am in Wyoming while Gulshan and Molly are in Upstate New York and Brooklyn respectively), we will be doing site specific rehearsals up Sinks Canyon, near Wild Iris, and other TBD locations with our other brilliant actress, Gulshan Mia. Gulshan is a genius artist in her own right. We have worked together at the Metropolitan Opera for years and when I say that it is an actual DREAM job to work alongside her in any capacity… well…I think that anyone who knows her would say that by bringing her onto any project, elevates any work and forces you to level up your art in truly spectacular ways simply by how she moves though the world.
The last two months, making the decision of going forward with these workshops and maneuvering all of the logistics has been(still is) exhausting. But, anyone who throws their whole selves into the things they love will tell you that the exhaustion is worth it if you are still loving it. Because we always have the autonomy to walk away. It’s already been worth it, even if I sometimes question if I’ve made a huge mistake…that doubt isn’t real and the payoff has already been profound.
There is so much more to say about this process, this piece and this work. But, for the moment I needed to put some of this out into the world so whomever reads this, knows a little bit more about something they didn’t before
Chomolungma will take place during
July 15,16,17th at 6pm
at the Bhava Shala in Lander,WY
Tickets can be found here. All performances are free, however please reserve your tickets.
For the safety of our actors and communit
y, COVID precautions will be in place
Performances will be limited to 40 ticketed audience members per performance
Please bring your mask.
Run Time: 20 min
Content Warning: strong language, grief, death