Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May recently presented a one-person play that she authored titled Rearranging the Furniture at an American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) forum as well as at the University of California at Irvine for members of that institution’s Department of Drama.
May explains that Rearranging the Furniture was created following a series of medical appointments. “It was incited by a round of visits to doctors that left me feeling unmoored, and is an autobiographical diagnosis of a disease plaguing both me and the theatre: lack of vision,” she says. “A reflection on Tiresias, disability and the disorientation of the early days of the Trump administration, Rearranging the Furniture challenges audiences to create space for difference, hold ground that feels increasingly unstable, and to learn to love or cut the ties that bind.”
Metaphors related to vision permeate the play, and frequently involve the attendees. At one point during the performance, May asks the audience to join her in brainstorming common expressions related to seeing, such as “blinded by ambition,” “keeping an eye on…” and “seeing something in a new light.” At the end of the play, she references the depiction of blindness in Oedipus Rex—a recurring theme throughout the play.
“I note that Oedipus staggers out of the skene after he’s stabbed out his eyes to find solace in the choral leader’s words, which are ‘thou wert better dead than living blind,’ she says. “I ask the audience to consider whether that is my destiny and then discuss the fact that theatre doesn’t have to be that way.”
In audience discussions following her performances, May says attendees expressed an increased awareness of the role that vision—both actual and metaphorical—plays in their lives. “I have had a number of people tell me after attending a performance that they think a lot more about the ways that we privilege sight as a sense as they move through the world.”
In addition to teaching at HWS since 2013, May is the founder and artistic director of Mosaic NY, a theatre company comprised of student actors who work with May to create performances that celebrate diversity, provoke dialogue, develop community and encourage the active pursuit of social justice. She has served on the Strategic Diversity Planning Committee and was a Fisher Center Research Fellow during the 2014-15 academic year. May earned a B.A. with honors in theatre from Grinnell College, a M.A. in drama from Washington University, and a Ph.D. in theatre and drama from Indiana University.