What started as an adaptation of Heinrich Ibsen’s “A Dolls House” transformed over the course of a year into a raw and powerful battle cry of reclamation and honoring of those who came before me and lived in silence—reclamation of my family’s hidden secrets and the women we’ve kept hidden, my own mother included. I wove Nora into our family, although my family’s immigration to New Orleans occurred long before the turn of the century, and from different heritage than Nora would have been; Nora’s defiance, unwilling performance, and her controversy makes her perfect for our family. This is the story of unheard women. This is my shout out of the ether of crippling silence that the women in my family have held around them like a cloak, my mother and I included. Until this piece. Now everything is changing. Everything started after my mother and I went back to Mobile, Alabama in January of 2016 to move Grandmother out of the house my Great Uncle Warren had built for her and “Tommy,” my Grandfather and patron saint of our family, and into an assisted living home after an unexplained fall allowed her Alzheimer’s and OCD to surface and cripple her independence. What follows is woven out of her circular and shifting stories of the past. What follows is the telling of a Creole history never written only hidden. What follows is the end of our family repeating the past of beating ourselves into nothingness. I believe the truth is what gets told to each generation, what gets passed down, not only through stories and whispers but through blood, bodies, breast milk, and things that are simply known. Some of us don’t have the luxury of ancestor’s diaries or even accurate records. What follows is an invitation to look at your ancestors and ask, ‘where do we come from? What are our stories?’ Listen to them. Honor them.
About the Artist
Sarah Moley is a performance artist, writer, and oral family historian. She graduated from Vassar College in 2016, with this piece winning the Molly Thacher Kazan award for distinguished work in the theatre arts. Since then she has worked at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project as a Gardens Coordinator, working to build community in the Community Garden and working to increase access to herbs and herbalism knowledge in the Meditation Garden. She loves her cat, her family, and friends.