By Byrne Harrison
The New York Neo-Futurists' latest play, (un)afraid, dealt with fear - what causes it, why we feel it, how we overcome it. I reached out to performers Cara Francis, Daniel McCoy, Jill Beckman, Ricardo Gamboa, and director Rob Neill to find out a little more about how they deal with fear.
Since Neo-Futurism emphasizes being who you are while onstage, rather than creating a character or playing a role, what did you discover about yourself while working on a show about fear?
Cara Francis: I discovered that I am barely able to cope with large, live cockroaches. I just scream and cry hysterically. The witnessing of this reaction is far more compelling than it's description. Fear is unpredictable and in it's truest form, cannot be controlled or scripted. The framework can be created, but what ultimately happens is left up to chance.
What do you fear most about yourself?
Daniel McCoy: That I have the capacity to fail when most needed.
What do you fear most about others?
Ricardo Gamboa: What I fear most about others is their ability to be dishonest. There is a saying in Spanish, "Cada mente es un universo." "Every mind is its own universe." And embedded in that is this truth, this reality that in any individual is this never-ending network of thoughts, spiral galaxies of feelings, black holes of experiences. Each of us has this "universe" within the frames of our flesh, within the borders of our essentially solitary existence. And so, when you think about something like "love." Like the idea of the unconditional breaking down of walls and the wormhole of two connected people into each other's universe--it's a really beautiful thing. And so you can know someone in this really intimate way, spend every night together, share secrets, whatever. But the scary thing is the possibility that that person isn't who you think. That that person is deceiving, hiding, lying and the way that can hurt a person--any one of us--is scary as hell to me. To me, that type of dishonesty, the withholding of whole truth, is the worst. I used love as an example, but it's not just with love: Think about the dishonesty of business, government, etc. It is this way of limiting possibility for the other and usually for selfish reasons. The notion that we could be living a lie, in a psychic cage we don't even know exists with lovers in beds or with fellow citizens on buses, makes me paranoid. It is like, what is real, then? What or who can we trust?
What do you do to overcome your fears?
Jill Beckman: Well, that's the real question, I guess. I don't know if I've ever successfully "overcome" any of my fears. There are certain things of which I am no longer scared, but that is mostly due to time and age and experience. Most of the fears or anxieties that I haven't just "grown out of" have a tendency to stick around, no matter how many times I confront them. One of the scenes in (un)afraid involves me confronting my visceral fear of knives by conversing with a knife that is being puppetted by Ricardo. He taunts me with this big, sharp, scary knife by holding it near my face and rubbing it on my skin. I thought that, by confronting one of my biggest fears over and over during the run of the show, it would start to get less and less scary and help me to dissolve it of its strength. But that has actually not been the case. That scene remains just as frightening as ever. I saw Dan holding a knife to cut a tomato with in another scene just tonight and felt the same panic that I always do. I think maybe anxieties can be more successfully overcome, but real, deep fears... I'm not sure they can be overcome once and for all. I think our task as adults is to identify those fears that hold us back and address them head on. And hopefully, it gets easier to address them. But I'm not sure the fear itself ever goes away entirely. At least, that hasn't been my experience.
Do you think fear stifles creativity or channels it?
Rob Neill: I think that in our country we have the luxury of being able to have fear stimulate our creativity. We don't always chose to do that--put that on stage or into what we create, but with (un)afraid we have. not that what we do in this show is just about freaking people out, it is more about delving into what we as Neo-Futurists fear and how we can approach or experiment with fears uniquely in each night's show.