We are nearing the close of an indiegogo campaign to support The Ghost Walk and as my excitement for the future grows I have been reflecting on the journey that brought me here.
While the current incarnation of this project is very specific to my environment in Brooklyn it has had many manifestations; the original inspiration stemming from a play set in Juarez, Mexico. Juarez is where I plan to culminate this project to raise awareness about the rape and murder of hundreds of young women that has been plaguing the city for the last thirty years.
It all began when Victor I. Cazarez's brilliant play "The Women of J-Town and Smiley" was given a staged reading by Shana Cooper and Jacob Padron at the Yale School of Drama in 2008. This epic and ferocious play about violence, sexuality and religion includes the ghosts of five incredible women who are victims of femicide; Jessica, Josefa, Chela, Gloria and Mayra. These restless women are caught in between worlds as they seek to find retribution, forgiveness and revenge.
I played the role of Josefa and for my character I created a dress made from garbage (not pictured). The idea was that as Josefa traveled through the purgatorial desert and the clothing she died in began to decay she would pick up pieces of detritus along the way and dress herself with it. The reading was a huge success and the stories of these women stayed with me.
A year later still transfixed by Victor's words I teamed up with designers Katherine O'Neil and Scott Dougan to produce a costume for each of the five female ghosts in the play. We traveled to Amherst, MA to prepare and build. The experience was thrilling, overwhelming and joyous. Katie and Scott are tremendously talented artists and I feel very blessed to have witnessed their process in such an intimate way. The wisdom that they shared has served as a touchstone for me ever since. It changed my path and inspired me to create in new ways.
A month later with two of the costumes complete I traveled to Chincoteague, VA to see how the costume behaved in differing environments. These pictures were taken at sunrise on Thanksgiving day.
It was remarkable to see how quickly the costume came alive.
After experimenting in a number of environments we ultimately settled on Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal for the debut of The Ghost Walk. The graduer and transience of the space lent itself well to the spirit of these five characters. On Friday December 4th, 2009 we were ready for our first site specific performance art piece.
With lookouts in place we quickly dressed into costume.
And then we were off. . . .
The walk was planned to take us through to the main concourse but we quickly drew a crowd of spectators and with them came security.
We were unable to complete our path but we were allowed to stay in character and proceed to the nearest exit. All in all it felt like a triumph and we were very happy with the outcome.
Unbeknownst to us this was to be our first and final walk as Jessica, Josefa, Chela, Gloria and Mayra. The costumes were sadly lost soon afterwards and the project came to a halt.
For me, it was a new beginning. The ghosts were haunting me and I knew I had to find a way to rebuild and move on. In the fall of 2011 I began collecting material from razor wire and trees with my co-producer Alex Major. A year later I spent three days in a rented studio piecing a new costume together and the results were striking.
Working with only found material added a layer of history and immediacy that I really loved. I knew I wanted to contunue to build in this way. In November I spent a day with Brenna Palughi (in costume) and Sarah Lasley photographing and experimenting with the completed dress.
You can read more about this day in an earlier post "a little love song to three very big hearts."
We felt that we were onto something and decided to expand the project to nine costumes in seven locations. We created an indiegogo campaign to support production staff and performers for a one day film and photo shoot. New costumes are being built and we are in rehearsals creating ritual movement through the use of vocabulary derived from Butoh (a japanese form of dance) and mystical imagery. It is my hope that the footage generated will gain us the kind of support and interest we need to realize the ultimate vision of The Ghost Walk; a return to the stories of the women of Juarez. Seven years after my first encounter I remain committed to finding a way to make change. This project is about reclaiming our connection to ritual through the performative act, acknowledging art as the great healer that it is and shining a light on the social injustice and atrocity of femicide.
If you would like to know more and/or to support the project please visit
April 12th is the last day to make a donation to the current production.