2022 Festival Archive: Maria Camia
January 21-22, 2022
Chopin Theatre Mainstage
Presented by Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Scholarship and Resources
“The White fathers told us, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ The Black mother within each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams: ‘I feel, therefore I can be free.’”
– Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” (1985)
New Mony!, a Review of a Play That Calls Us to Feel
An Essay by Kezia Waters
To say that New Mony! is a story for our time would be an understatement and maybe untrue, considering that the creator, Maria Camia, plays with a non-Western conception of time. She constructs time as expansive, nonlinear, and possibly just a fantasy or concern of the imagination. The story asks the audience to negotiate, or rather exist, between timelines: one that is present and one that is a unique, circular combination of the future and past. Through a storyline that revolves around the ancestors’ existence in liminal space, communicating to the characters via dreamscape, the audience is immediately made hyperaware of the interdependency of present, past and future. The validity of a Western story structure is undermined and divested from. I will say that this divestment is symbolic of a Queer philosophy of fluidity that actively decolonizes categorical distinctions. Ethnic studies professor Ashon T. Crawley writes about the effect of colonization on fluidity, commenting that “an entire range of sensual experiences— sound, smell, touch—were selected for a racializing thought project. Thought had to be, in effect, made to be pure” (2017: 12). The plot is a mending/queering of the heart (feeling center) and the brain (thinking center), which happen to be the literal supporting leads in the play: Heart and Brain. The play shows Brain in an antagonistic relationship with the willing, open Heart. In her 1978 essay “Uses of the Erotic,” Queer scholar Audre Lorde asks us to examine this relationship, saying, “[the phrase] ‘it feels right to me’ acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light toward any understanding” (2013: 54) It is not a far reach from there to say that Camia asks us to investigate feminist ancestral knowledge as embodied memory—and what can the memory of our ancestors provide? New scientific discoveries, the reversal of global warming, the end of patriarchy, and advancements in human technologies like telepathy and astral projection—the last two being significant manifestations in the play.
The plot further complicates Western play structures by having a desynchronized antagonist, an imaginary force that corrupts humanity and resembles what bell hooks would call “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” The leader of this force is the patriarchal trio of Matthew, Luke and John. Being that these are three of Jesus’s disciples, I left the play speculating how this story reflects the Christianization of Indigenous cultures, often leaving those cultures with only remnants of their spiritual practices. It is evident that New Mony! calls for a commitment to an act of sankofa (to go back and fetch) and to re-Indigenizing our value systems. The call back to our celestial ancestors, as seen in the story, is a call to restore a collective body of cultural practices. In that way, there is an irony to the play’s title, “New Mony!,” which is actually a play on “ceremony.”
One of the many fascinating things I appreciated about this play was the vast range of puppetry styles, sometimes even within a singular character. Take, for example, Heart, who manifested as a hand, shadow and rod puppet. This eclectic approach was seen in all the different characters. The scale of the puppets ranged from detailed, micro finger puppets to a larger-than-life puppet suspended from the fly space. The artistic unity of the puppets reflects the DIY nature of Camia’s aesthetic through the transformation of everyday objects like cardboard, papier-mâché, watercolors and acrylic paint, as well as community. A nod to the theatrical practice itself, like most puppeteers, Camia is a true example of a multidisciplinary artist. Her work lies at the intersection of fashion, theology, graphic design and hypnosis. Yes, that’s right—Camia is a certified introspective hypnosis practitioner, and I do not believe anyone who has seen her work can deny how well these skills are integrated into her storytelling.
The play expands the idea of performance until it looks more like something that Richard Schechner or Judith Butler might conclude: that performance is perhaps everything on and offstage. It is how we move and behave socially, and Camia expands upon that view to occupy a metaphysical concept of space/ideas as having the ability to perform, calling her approach “Spiritual Sci-Fi Theater.” After the show, in the beautiful lobby of the Chopin Theatre located in Wicker Park, Camia’s clothing line, made available for sale, was more of a spiritual tool or an animist object (charged objects that are themselves asking to be activated) than dead merchandise. Camia offered all of her artifacts on a sliding scale with alternative payment options, such as Cash App and Venmo. This is very telling of the theater audience she is trying to communicate with—a new and upcoming one that is inclusive of the Millennials and Gen Z Zoomers who are antithetical to those current patrons that regularly venture into the theater. Lastly, in the spirit of representation as a force of cultural change, I do not want to fail to mention that she is Filipino-American, and she created this production with a full Asian cast of femmes and/or genderqueer individuals, all of whom from the talk-back seem to be in deep community with each other. That is an accomplishment we can all celebrate, regardless if you made it to the theater or not. We are forever changed by New Mony!.
Crawley, Ashon T. Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. Fordham University Press, 2017.
Lorde, Audre. “The Uses of the Erotic.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Crossing Press, 2013), xx-xx.
Maria Camia at the Ellen Van Volkenburg Symposium
On Saturday, January 22, 2022, Maria Camia was a speaker at The Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium session entitled “Staging the Non-Human Character; Animal, Alien, or Architecture.”
The event was co-hosted by The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, moderated by Dr. Paulette Richards, and held online through Howlround.
Transcript of Maria's Presentation
All right, here we go. Greetings, my name is Maria Camia. I'm the creator of "New Mony," which will be at Chopin Theater today at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. So if you're in Chicago, it'd be fun for you to come. Thank you to Blair Thomas for inviting me to this festival and to everyone who has helped out, especially Paulette. I would also like to just mention that in 2013, I interned with Basil Twist and I watched the first edition of "Chimpanzee" Lavapalooza, so to be a panel with you two is an honor. All right, let's begin.
My name is Maria Camia, I’m a Filipino American theater artist. My art is more about a global or a theme within spiritual theater, fashion, and visual art. This is a photo from “New Mony.” I will talk about the world I am creating and how I use art to empower all. Next slide, please. So back in ninth grade English class, instead of paying attention, I was dreaming about being known just by one name, like Picasso. So then I decided to take my first name and last name, take out the A in the first name and the I in the last and put it together and I created, or I made my name into MARICAMA. And then this was the time when Instagram was just being made and MARICAMA was already taken. So then I had to just make it The MARICAMA, but then it looked like THEMARICAMA, and I wanted to know who they were, who are they? And if you see on this page my little sketchbook on the right hand side, they are 20 different worlds or you could say 20 different planets, all by moving the letters of, moving all the letters and the galaxy would be MARICAMA. Next slide, please. I feel like my work channels something beyond me. It is of a higher dimension. I realize or I see that a lot of the sci-fi movies or entertainment is very dystopian and I am curious on how to bring utopia, how to bring good vibrations to all and how to do that through the mechanisms of visual entertainment. These are the covers of the comics I made of “Aricama,” and the “Aricama Comic” it has words that just say, “We are one, there is enough and practice play.” And then in, oh, how do I do this? I do this by these two flower humanoids named Ari and Cama. And in the mythology, the mother is human and the father is a flower. And these two, within these two beings, they create this world of practice play and healing. Yes, let’s move forward, please. And with Ari and Cama, these two characters, they’re on my shirt. I feel like within myself, if anyone is into astrology, I have a Libra sun and then Ari’s moon and rising, which are opposite signs. So within my own self, I feel like two different beings, sometimes I just wanna be a pioneer and lead, and just do what I need to do, take charge. But I also feel, I also think, aha, I don’t wanna hurt any of those feelings or I just want to be nice and harmony. So how do I balance that within myself? And I feel that I am influenced by Bert and Ernie. These two characters are orange and yellow. I’m also influenced by Popol Vuh, the hero twins. I love this story. These two twins go down to the underworld and defeat the gods by being tricksters, by being playful, liberating, by being playful. And I feel like instead of this very like aggressive, forceful dictatorship, there’s a way to flourish, kind of like in a fun way, using fun to the advantage. Okay, look, I’m looking at my notes. All right, next slide, please. I’ll talk about the mythology of Aricama. I always think about how are things the way they are. I like to think about past lives. If I’m this way, I was probably the opposite in a different life. In Aricama, this is the toy theater scene of “New Mony,” where they talk about how women were forced to take classes on how to get a flower to fall in love with you. This is parallel to colonization of the Philippines. The Spaniards came over and they would say that the mestiza child, the mixed child would be more beautiful, but at what cost is that? My dad told me a story about a woman who climbs to a top of a tower and then jumps off, and she’s pregnant and jumps off because it wasn’t consented. And then these two women would say, but her child would’ve been beautiful. And then, yes, so like bridging these two things in my ancestry and putting it into this mythology. Also, in this mythology, we eat potatoes, but in this world, potatoes ate us, which is why we eat them now. Or the flowers were with humans and then the bees got jealous, but then they killed the flower humanoids. So then now the bees, their karma is to work for us. So just like seeing everything as a whole, like yes, they’re seeing it as a whole. Next slide, please. I would like to talk about how I use my art, how I use my art. These are drawings of Crystal Castles in Aricama. Like the blue represents the throat, the first eye or third eye with the purple and the pink for the crown chakra. Usually, for me, the visual drawings will be my blueprints for the theater. I always want to see how I can use art to be like a crystal. Like crystals have very high vibrations. I see everything more as energy than objects. Like what energy does this object hold? As our eyes do not see everything. We don’t see frequency of like microwaves or X-rays. So what is that? What is beyond and how can I use that intention within what we already do to empower all individuals? Next slide, please. So you can see in this next slide that we have turned the Crystal Castle into a costume. This is the great, great, great, great grandmother. And she has tricks, oh, should I say this? Just come to the show, come to the show, come to the show. And also these castles are part of, next slide, please. The clothes I like to design, I reiki. I also learn reiki. I like to imbue all my clothes with this energy. So on top of the intention of creating it, I also send good vibes to everyone who purchases or wears or even seize any of these items. Next slide, please. Oh, there it is. It’s very colorful.
I want individuals to stand out. Children shouldn’t be the only ones wearing bright clothes and then we move to all dark colors. Oh no, no, no, we can sustain the joy throughout our entire living. Next slide, please. In the next slide, you’ll see a mural that I had the opportunity to do at George Mason University. I am concerned with advertisement, always trying to make us feel less than, they pull us out of our body and just like leading us like a little horse with a carrot, I want people to know that it’s all within, it is all in them. And on the top of this it says, I intend a beautiful, loving, wonderful, magnificent, brilliant healing day. So these two characters are also in “New Mony,” you’ll see them today. I’m gonna assume your all coming.So this is the portal entrance to Aricama. You leave all of your baggage behind and then you connect it. Next slide, please. Alongside the visual, I am very aware that it can be difficult to be joyous. I wouldn’t say that I intend my work to just be happy and bypassing the feelings and the hurt and the trauma. I am aware that those do exist. So I can also get very soft and quiet and gentle with a one-on-one interaction of facilitating a client into their subconscious mind to see and to understand, not to see, but to understand why things happen the way they are and to know that they are not a victim. And to release those energies that are built up in the body. Because when those energies are whole then it turns into a physical manifestation. So to take that out and to intend something better. So if they say, if they have a hurt in their heart, they can take it out, what would you like? Love, more love, more self love. And then you would put that into the body. You can directly contact me if you want to learn more about that. Next slide, please. So with my work, I am also very passionate about Asian and POC, LGBTQ representation. I was a very quiet child as a kid and I found how to talk eventually. But instead of just showing face, I want to be writing for say my people, writing for them and not only any writing but roles that will empower them in their lives. Like I am abundant. We are abundant. Like these are the words that I want to put out. And here are some costumes. This is also a photo from you “New Mony,” when the Aricama are so passionately in love with the main character, Alima’s heart ’cause she’s so strong. And then these are Aricama costumes. Next slide, please. that are reflective of these next drawings, you’ll see here. I don’t see these characters in my head, they just channel through me. And this is the Ari and Cama ceremony at the top. And these are separate drawings that I combined. Everything really is like the hands like healing with their hands. Imagining gold light coming out of your hands when you have a hurt, you rub it. You rub it to heal it. Next slide, please. So oh, here’s another shirt. See everything, everything is connected. I like it all connected and I’m learning how to bridge it all together. I am bridging the say Indigenous ancestry with galactic space sci-fi powers to infuse to bring into the present moment, again to empower, I will keep saying that word. All right, next slide, please. I’ll now talk about two press productions that I have been a part of or that I made. Next slide, please. This next one is called “Aricama A Galactic Landing.” This one is just set in Aricama. The first iteration when you are born on Aricama is this little buckethead down here on the bottom. The dad gave birth in a water and then the puppet is the little, the girl that’s been born. I see it as I’m always obsessed with mindset and what you keep in the mind, the rooms of the mind. Are you keeping lot? Is there a lot of trash in there? Do you need a recycling, you need to get it out or are there flowers? Is it a beautiful garden growing? How can we do more of that beautiful gardens in the head and making that visual, since we have learned to become so trusting on what we see more than an internal like intuition, like we learn to trust more of the outside. Next slide, please. Oh, oh, and then also that top part is them preparing for a life on earth. This is the “Transmutation Staytion.” which was a solo show I did, and the young Aricamian is giving thanks and gratitude to her ancestors at this little shrine and at the bottom, she has captured an entity that has attached her body. If you are openminded to think about this there, apparently what I’ve learned through hypnosis training is that we are all just energy. And then there are some souls that have passed away like immediately and they don’t know that they have passed. So they are attracted to specific people’s light and they can attach to you and say like live behind your ear. Oh, one more. Okay, they can live behind your ear and then they can say, don’t do that, it’s not safe. You have to do something safe. So then you hear something in your mind. It could be just someone else’s thought. Next slide, please. That is it. That is it. And if you would like to learn more about me, you can visit my website maricama.com, follow me on Instagram @themaricama or consider joining the Aricama Liberation Nation Cooperation Community, my patreon.com/themaricama. Thank you for your time. Thank you very much.
About the Performance
January 21-22, 2022
1543 W. Division St. in Wicker Park
In the human cloning family business, Allimah lives a quiet, regimented life with her parents. But while recovering in a hospital, her dreams slowly become reality and she finds herself connected to the prestigious Utopian planet called Aricama, a land of practice, play, and healing. New Mony! is a spiritual sci-fi puppet production exploring duality and ancestry that questions our current paradigm and visualizes our highest reality.