Why I make art about eating disorders and recovery...
My new one-woman play “faith" is an autobiographical account of my experience with a decade-long eating disorder, followed by the seven years since in which I have been recovered. It is so deeply personal, so raw, so vulnerable, and so dear to my heart and passion as both an artist and activist. Every day I rehearse this play, I relive the emotions and pain of my eating disorder. I don’t experience it, or redevelop the behaviors or symptoms. But I literally have to feel the thoughts, the pains, the quivering moments of utter loneliness that suffocated my ability to fully live my life for too many years; it is both exhausting and empathic. I cannot believe I spent nearly a third of my life feeling like that every day. I cannot believe 70 million people worldwide spend their lives feeling like that every day. I cannot believe millions and millions more spend their lives feeling a congruent version of that every day battling other various addictions and mental illnesses.
That is why I share my story, so we don’t have to suffer anymore. So the shame associated with eating disorders - and mental illness in general - can disappear, and we can rebuild and reconsider the way we raise each other to or not to love ourselves. I hope to see you next Tuesday or Wednesday night at the Living Theatre. I hope that everyone sitting in the audience will go home unashamed of their own story - whatever it may be. I hope you will join me on this journey of healing, in solidarity, in pride, in strength.
As I write my next blog for the Huffington Post, I feel obligated to say how angry I am becoming. There are so many things that I am seeing and reading about this Trayon Martin tragedy that it just makes me sick. This whole situation where George (Jorge) Zimmerman has not seen…
I must reblog this. Racism is a body image issue. Racism is body disempowerment - its affects and effects threatening and tremendously scathing for those experiencing such prejudices. Racial profiling is a gross manifestation of body disempowerment. It must stop. It never should have started.
“Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and hug the starving 11-year-old girl who wrote, “I cannot face to live this chore.” When we meet in my memory, I pet her left cheek with my right hand, whose fingertips have long forgotten the dainty dangle of her uvula. I run my thumb across her eyebrow, tell her not to over pluck them anymore, and assure her they will grow back thick – like her body will be.”—excerpt from Caroline Rothstein's one-woman play “faith,” April 3 & 4 at the Living Theatre in NYC
“But an eating disorder has nothing to do with weight. It’s a mental illness. A psychological disorder. A manifestation of pain, and trauma, and suffering, and most often an uncontrollable nefarious demon in the back of your head telling you you’re worthless.”—excerpt from Caroline Rothstein's one-woman play “faith,” April 3 & 4 at the Living Theatre in NYC
“A lot has changed since the mid-90s. We now know that eating disorders are psychological. Cases span from toddlers to geriatrics, men, women, queer, heterosexual, white, black, Latino, Asian, Arab, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, middle class, working class, poor. The rich, white female problem no longer discriminates: it’s a worldwide epidemic.”—Excerpt from Caroline Rothstein’s one-woman play “faith”
“For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”— Audre Lorde
Physiological benefits: 1- It lowers oxygen consumption. 2- It decreases respiratory rate. 3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate. 4- Increases exercise tolerance. 5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation. 6- Good for people with high blood pressure. 7- Reduces anxiety…
Eating disorders are not a stand-up comedy joke....
Last night, I had the opportunity to showcase an excerpt of my new one-woman play “faith" as part of Poetic Theater Production’s spring season preview March4Word. The play is a chronological, nonfiction, and autobiographical account of my experience with and recovery from a decade-long eating disorder. The scene I performed at March4Word is about a “near relapse” experience I had amidst my time being recovered. It examines a minute by minute afternoon during which I had painfully triggering and self-deprecating thoughts and emotions that I simultaneously worked incessantly hard to keep from manifesting into actual self-harm and eating disorder behavior. In the end, I did not physically relapse - I triumphed over the eating disorder mentality. The point of the scene is to showcase the occasional mental and emotional struggles of recovery, while simultaneously highlighting that it is, in fact, possible to persevere beyond these thoughts and feelings without actually relapsing - in my case, without binging, purging, or self-harming.
In context, the scene is perhaps the climax of the play - right near the end before the final two scenes. Out of context, it can be read in many ways, which I realized last night at March4Word. The audience laughed at moments I would never - in a million years - have found to be funny. Not just because I experienced those moments in real life as painful, but because the sometimes challenge to remain recovered is not particularly funny, especially when that challenge is met with very disturbing thought inside your head.
I cannot take away from an audience’s authentic reaction. It is crucial to allow people the freedom to experience art as they do. That’s not for me as a performer and writer to ever control. But I can consider it as a way to start a conversation. As a way to consider whether or not my message is effectively coming across. As a way to learn and grow and open.
My producer Jeremy Karafin and I spoke about it after the show. He made an excellent point - often, the only context in which people hear about eating disorders and food struggles and diets on a massive and accessible scale are as part of stand-up comedy routines. This morning at rehearsal he expanded on this saying, “Some people only know how to approach this topic via comedy. There’s this uncomfortable element to it. They think maybe they relate to the specific type of diet and they only know how to laugh at themselves, instead of exploring it from a serious perspective as well.” He continued, “It’s something that is acceptable to dismiss because it’s not taken as a serious illness.”
We need to talk about this. Diets aren’t funny. They can become eating disorders. Quickly. Often. More than we all know. Eating disorders are not funny. They can become deadly. Quickly. Often. And more than we all know.
I hope you will join me in this dialogue, in this conversation, in this mission to spread awareness, prevention, and recovery. Eating disorders are epidemic. They don’t have to be. They never had to be. The culture of self-hate in which we are all living does not have to exist. It manifests as pain and suffering beyond eating disorders. It manifests as addiction, as violence, as sexual violence, as abuse, as war, as manipulation, as invasion, as unnecessary hatred. Let us conquer this, challenge this, and end this through self-love, through dialogue, and through - perhaps most importantly - listening to one another.
Dear family, friends, YouTube subscribers, Tumblr followers, and more!
I am writing to let you know about an upcoming production of “faith,” my brand new one-woman play. Through monologue and poetry, “faith” is about my experience with and recovery from a decade-long eating disorder.
Directed by Alex Mallory and co-presented by Poetic Theater Productions, I will be performing “faith” on April 3 and 4 in New York City as part of the Culture Project’s 2012 Women Center Stage Festival, a renowned theater festival of women playwrights, directors, and performers.
“faith” is part of my ongoing effort to promote awareness about, prevention from, and recovery for eating disorders and negative body image, a worldwide epidemic. In sharing my story and experience about coming to accept, embrace, and heal my body, I hope others will feel empowered to do the same.
My director, producers, and I are working to raise $2,000 by March 20, 2012, in order to cover festival and rehearsal related expenses and hire a design team. Any additional funds raised will go towards the future of “faith,” beyond the Women Center Stage festival. We would be honored if you would donate to this production. Any amount would make a huge difference. Poetic Theater Productions is fiscally sponsored through The Field, so all donations are tax-deductible. Donation instructions are below.
This piece is deeply personal to me, not only in its autobiographical nature, but in its message and cause, as I hope it will make a difference in the campaign to promote awareness, prevention, and recovery for eating disorders worldwide.
Thank you for your support, and please help spread the word about our fundraising campaign and the April productions!
"faith" – Culture Project’s 2012 Women Center Stage festival
Produced by Poetic Theater Productions
April 3, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. & April 4, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
The Living Theatre, 21 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002
Written and performed by Caroline Rothstein, Directed by Alex Mallory
$ 100: Cost of marketing support – receive a complimentary ticket to “faith”
$ 250: Cost of sound, lighting, and technical designer – receive two complimentary tickets to “faith” with VIP seating
$ 500: Cost of all rehearsal space; – receive four complimentary tickets to “faith” with VIP seating and recognition as a sponsor
$1,000: Cost of all technical and design production; – receive eight complimentary tickets to “faith” with VIP seating and recognition as a sponsor
All donors receive recognition in the program and on the website. Please contact us for corporate sponsorship opportunities.
HOW TO DONATE:
Click here: go to our profile and enter the contribution amount in the bottom right corner. Click “contribute” and you will be led through the checkout process.
All those who donate by March 20 will be thanked in the program. All donors will be thanked on the website (if desired).
If you would like to donate by check, please contact Poetic Theater Productions Co-Artistic Director Jeremy Karafin: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT POETIC THEATER PRODUCTIONS:
Poetic Theater Productions is an award-winning New York City theater company committed to working with poets and playwrights to create a visceral, poetic theater that addresses important social justice causes within our communities and society. Since it’s inception in 2010, Poetic Theater Productions has worked with over 50 poets, 25 playwrights and 70+ actors on 24 productions, showcases and readings. www.poetictheater.com
ABOUT THE FIELD:
The Field is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization serving the New York City performing arts community. Contributions made to The Field and earmarked for Poetic Theater Productions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For more information about The Field contact: The Field, 161 6th Avenue, New York NY 10013, (212) 691-6969 fax: (212) 255-2053, www.thefield.org. A copy of The Field’s latest annual report may be obtained, upon request, from The Field or from the Office of the Attorney General, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.
Photography by Jonathan Weiskopf - from 1/5/12 staged reading of “faith” in Poetic License Festival in New York City.