Melbourne artist Maysa Abouzeid recently performed her theatrical show
Nest at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
In this performance she created an interactive space where her audience could walk through and experience four sensory stations in the forms of hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.
The audience was then ushered into a small, cosy space where Maysa was asleep in a nest wearing a white dress. Also on stage is her golden-legged guide who lies contently in her own nest, as well as an Auslan translator and audio describer who are integrated into the performance.
Maysa wakes up and delivers a series of short monologues and approaches audience members asking them to be her eyes and explain objects to her. She gives them the gift of seeing the world through her eyes as a woman who is blind.
Inspiration as an artist
Maysa explains her inspiration for the show
Nest as being about challenging conventional theatrical forms.
I like the idea of moving away from the traditional forms of theatre where you just sit, listen and watch, she says.
It leaves the quality to be very limited, especially in my experience as a profoundly blind woman.
Throughout her teenage years Maysa struggled with her cultural identity. One side of her family has an Egyptian background, the other Italian. Maysa says these two cultural backgrounds have very different ways in interpreting how women should be in society. It is this cultural background that has also helped to inform her as an artist.
I started in stand-up comedy so I could poke fun at my background in a healthy artistic platform. My parents always worked hard, which inspires my brother and me to be the best that we can be. My ethnicity is an important part of my artistic practice as it gives me the gift of the good and the bad of several bilingual communities.
Maysa says theatre is about taking the ugly and beauty out of cultural context, and exposing the truth and value of who we are as individuals. One way she does this is to challenge her audience to imagine the world from her own eyes as a blind woman.
My story is about a struggle of who I am as a Western woman versus an Italian/Egyptian woman. It's about my identity and who I'm supposed to be, how I'm meant to present myself and how I'm meant to dress. My disability is the cherry on top as an emerging artist. I take all these complexities and embody them together to create my narrative.
The messages she sends to her audiences always have a key theme of self-identity due to being raised in an environment where culture is an important part of who she is as an individual.
I convey my identity through using my narrative piece that expresses personal aspects of my life, that are clearly cultural and by engaging my audiences in all their senses.
It's a highlight of my production as it not only introduces the audience to a different individual, but it also takes them through hear, touch and taste.
She believes there needs to be more work done to improve accessibility for patrons with vision impairments in theatre venues.
As an audience member, I struggle to grasp the idea of theatre productions, so I miss out on integral parts of understanding a show. I miss out on the physical and visual aspects of the show.
As an artist, she fights the social stigma and stereotypes of people with a vision impairment and women. She exposes these stereotypes loudly and proudly.