Last week, the PoMo Freakshow Troubled Teen Tour took me back to Portland to perform 348. It’s sort of a full-circle story: when I was an undergrad student at Lewis & Clark College, I studied theatre and helped plan the Gender Studies Symposium. Now, years later, I returned as an invited guest of the Symposium, to perform a new piece. It had been long enough that the only familiar faces were professors, long enough that no one mistook me for a student as I made my way around the campus.
There was a talkback after my performance of 348, and one of the most interesting things that came up was that one audience member–an older gentleman who seemed out of place in the primarily college-aged crowd– had encountered the institution described in 348 decades ago. He had worked as a psychiatrist for a school district, and had been sent to the facility to evaluate some students there. He seemed overcome as he thought back, recounting the experience: “they seemed very secretive, never let me see anything other than one room for interviews. I thought it seemed strange. I wished there was something I could do.”
A parent with a “challenging” teenager was in the audience as well. She had considered sending her daughter to a facility. She announced, during the talk back, that she felt firm in her decision not to. I was glad to know my performance had such an impact, for at least one individual. That was the moment that the Troubled Teen Tour felt like a complete success.