The scene is dark, and when the stage lights come on, the performers are silent, somehow spectral even though most of them appear collapsed in sleep. They are dressed in otherworldly attire that spans the spectrum of green: olive, emerald, seafoam, sage, mint, chartreuse, shamrock, fern. We know we are in unfamiliar territory. A woman in the center of the stage serves as an ethereal conductor, her dress split vertically below the bust with folds of fabric that appear vaginal, suggesting creation, birth, and motherhood. A rhythmic percussion stirs the dreamers. Slowly they rise to stand, zombie-like, an ominous chorus line.
If a good performance is one that resonates, then Collective Dreaming at MICA’s BBOX theater March 6 and 7, was spectacular, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made the performance unexpectedly relevant and poignant. Director Joy Li drew her inspiration from the short story “The Circular Ruins,” by Argentinian writer Jorges Luis Borges. In the fantastical story, a man spends years constructing a boy, body part by body part, hair by hair, inside of his dreams. Once the boy is complete, he comes to life in the man’s reality.
Collective Dreaming, presented by the artist collective Cliff Banquet, modifies this narrative so that rather than a single person dreaming another into reality, a group of people collectively creates a new person. This modification makes a significant change in the narrative’s implications, and speaks to the power of collective consciousness: that what we envision, as a group, has both muscle and durability. That what we envision as a group can create solidarity, turn the abstract and the yet-to-be-imagined solid.