Closeup Image of polished vintage wood flooring at CFPA - Center for Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rehearsal Reflections: Margo Gray

New Works Residency: Kat Purcell, Nelle Anderson, and Margo Gray have been selected to spend roughly two months in residence at cfpa to make a new piece that in some way addresses ritual and resilience: ritual of all types (secular, cultural, religious, spiritual, mundane, ceremonial, invented, reinvented, quoted, etc.) and ritual’s relationship to/with/around resilience.

Each Resident will contribute blog posts over the course of their residency. This first post addresses the central question of the project each is building during the residency, and discusses aspects of their creative processes.

Margo Gray

Margo’s project builds on her experience creating interactive storytelling events to intimately explore “the confusion and trauma of being uprooted from your family and culture of origin and being compelled to conform to another way of life. . . This piece is inspired by events in US history such as Indian boarding schools, the sundering of enslaved families and the recent implementation of ‘tender age’ shelters for detained immigrant and refugee children.”

Details about the presentations on December 14th and 15th and the other resident artists here.

On Tuesday, November 20th, Margo met with Essma Imady, her mentor for this residency, and with cfpa’s Jackie Hayes and Jennie Ward, in an open rehearsal of their work in progress. Margo offers a reflection on that open rehearsal here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those solely those of the artist. More about Margo here.


In creating any interactive performance, a major question is always how to balance narrative guidance and audience agency. I’ve spent much of this residency exploring this and other questions with a rotating mix of collaborating performers, and still have plenty of exploration left to go before public showings later this month.

Some of the performer’s in Margo’s project, engaged in a movement exercise in cfpa’s Chapel.

This piece, A/part, draws on the US history of enforcing assimilation by taking children from their parents. One prominent example of this history is the Indian boarding school system of the 19th and 20th Century. A modern day instance is the seizure and detention of refugee children arriving in the US with their parents. Ritual and tradition, among other things, are stripped away and forbidden in these examples. I’m using personal rituals to create a window for the audience into the forced assimilation process.

Children detained at the US Border (photo: Ross Franklin)

Native American Education propaganda image c.1950s (from the collection of the Sherman Indian Museum)










The open rehearsal was the first chance I had to work with a test audience: my obliging mentor Essma Imady and cfpa’s Jackie Hayes and Jennie Ward. Discovering weaknesses in the audience instructions was helpful, of course, but of even more value were reflections on the deeper personal and cultural connotations felt in exploring rituals. Memories of ritual can bring up big feelings about family, organized religion, and historical trauma. This is especially true when audiences are being asked to participate personally, not just view a narrative. Because of these reflections, I’m working on ways to encourage participants to explore the rituals of their past in healthy, positive ways.

Image captured mid-rehearsal by Margo.

As the end of the residency draws near, I’m continuing to explore and refine the audience’s role in the piece, with a goal of enabling participants to invest in their own story within a secure guiding structure, and to build empathy for the historical and contemporary experiences we’re drawing from.