To disrupt is to interrupt the normal course by causing a disturbance or problem. On paper, my dad and my path seemed clear. We both had wonderful childhoods, received fantastic educations, were/are dedicated to our work and family, held drive and fairness as essential qualities but along the way, were both disrupted. To me the word “disrupted" represents the combination of life happening to us, around us, and with us; the amount we can control, when we have a choice, when we don’t, and what follows. Disrupted is the past tense, all of us have a past, all of us have a future and through it questions that may or may not be answered.
After my dad took his own life in July 2018, my eyes were opened to how suicide is discussed (or often not) in our society and how it is portrayed in media. It is a strange combination of taboo yet over exposed with how often we interact with the topic. From the phrase “I’ll kill myself” being used in everyday conversations to it being used as a plot device in media. I found that truth and its complicated reality were missing from the conversation so my goal was to provide just that. I want others who are survivors of suicide, either from themselves or from losing someone, to feel seen and that through hearing my father’s and my story, I provide evidence that life is worth living.
Throughout the process, I asked myself “why now?” I have my whole life to tell this story. I have my whole life to express love for my dad and to keep his presence. I have my whole life to work towards suicide prevention. But right now is the time for this version. The first version.
This piece has taken many forms during the development process; from a visual album, to live performance, to finally a film. My heart was set on having a live performance of the piece but like many productions during COVID, the decision for the final form to be a film was not only the best and safest option but felt like the only option. This shift was a major one at the time but turned into an opportunity that felt in tune with my education at the University. I’ve had the opportunity to learn so many art forms during my time here so exploring film led me to combine my familiar theatre making background with something new. This relationship between theatre, film, and my art making became part of the plot too as I often use art to both avoid and examine situations in my life.
During my time at The University of Michigan, I have had a hand in upwards of 25 shows/productions, taking on different roles in each ranging from actor to scenic designer, developing my own definition of interdisciplinary artist along the way. Without finding and developing my mission as an artist through interarts, producing this piece would not have been possible. Disrupted is the piece of my academic career; all of my education, experience, and personal growth combine in this all-encompassing cumulative work.
I couldn’t be more grateful for my incredible team which is made up of all Interarts Performance majors and Tiara Partsch who is a Directing BFA. This piece has lived with me and only me for a long time so to be surround with their support and creativity these part few months has been so beautiful. Tiara especially has been the ultimate right-hand woman and irreplaceable in this process, truly difficult for me to find the words to describe how magic she is.
Nicole Denise White