POST: 'Titicut Follies' - it's a lot to unpack

What's it about?

A ballet based on the 1967 documentary of the same name.

What we experienced?

Andrew, Christine, and I (Gemma) attended a ballet, Titicut Follies 
Below is our post-show Google Hangouts conversation...

Gemma: Okay, let's talk Titicut Follies... It's a lot to unpack

Andrew: I'm ready!!!!!! πŸ‘‚  first off...was it what u expected?

Gemma: Definitely not

Andrew: SAME!!!!

Gemma: I've never seen a ballet that wasn't all lovey-dovey

Andrew: Omg! Same!!! Let's start from the top!

Gemma: And this show was super...heavy. It's a good thing I had a margarita beforehand haha

Christine: Yeah it's not every day you see a pas de deux with a pedo and a little girl

Gemma: Yeah... that was hard to watch.

Andrew: So... did you know that the show took place in an institution? 

Gemma: I heard that the movie the show was based on took place in an institution, an insane asylum, but I forgot about the origin before I saw the show. Haven't seen the movie at all. After the show...not sure I want to.  If this subject matter was as dark as what was told through ballet, I can't imagine how dark the film is. Because the film is 100% true

Christine: I mean the movie is pretty brutal. I saw it this past weekend and it's pretty accurate at showing you how fucked those places were

Andrew: At first, I didn't know what the mood of the show was going to be. Like I didn't know if I was gonna get emotional or not πŸ€”

Gemma: Did you?

Andrew: I did at one part

Gemma: I bet

Andrew: The part when the guard made the hand gesture for the girl to come with him 😞

Gemma: Yeah, for me, the dance where the young girl was molested mid-dance was very hard to watch

Christine: By the pedophile

Gemma: I go to the theatre to be momentarily removed from harsh realities, and even if theatre does contain harsh realities in the plot, there is usually resolution. I felt like Titicut Follies had no such resolution. You don't leave feeling "better". It wasn't cathartic. You are forced to confront this uncomfortable subject matter, and then you leave the theatre.

Christine: Most people that are thrown away into mental institutions - which most get tossed into prison now - don't get resolutions. So I guess it's accurate to what their reality is.

Gemma: Definitely.

Andrew: Yeah, same, also I didn't know how to react to the play as a whole because I don't have any like.... direct connections or relationships with people with mental illnesses

Gemma: The truth is uncomfortable, but we have to be exposed to it, art needs to reflect the reality, however unfortunate

Christine: Wait, so both of you seem to have had pretty strong reactions to it. Is it weird that I didn't?

Gemma: I don't think so. I think both Andrew and I aren't the most familiar with mental illness on a personal level, and so seeing it so represented on stage was jarring

Andrew: Exactly, I mean I wasn't uncomfortable, I was just more like in a daze, like how do I react, is anything supposed to make me smile, or am I supposed to be serious and think this whole duration of the play?

Christine: Yeah, it seems most people don't really get exposure to these issues. They're clearly issues in America, that's for sure

Andrew: And even if they do get exposed, it's not as immersive as this play its a different kind of exposure

Gemma: People like watching other people suffer and go through drama in the theatre they see, and they like seeing that drama more or less resolve before they leave. Titicut Follies subverted a lot of conventions

Andrew: This dance was just very "in your face, you're gonna watch this!"

Gemma: Yeah, and then just deal with the consequences of what you were just exposed to. Unlike any ballet that I have ever seen

Andrew: Wait a minute.... Uhhhhh, remember the boy with the blonde streaks?

Gemma: Yeah!

Andrew: The Asian actor

Christine: Yup

Gemma: What about him?

Andrew: Why did he get to win the game thingy.... you know, the bulls-eye thing

Christine: On the girl's crotch?

Andrew: Yes

Christine: Ohhhhhh

Andrew: Yea!!!

Christine: Yeah, that was rapey af

Gemma: Oh, I definitely agree

Andrew: Exactly!!!

Christine: Girls can recognize that from a mile away

Gemma: Unfortunately

Christine: It was rapey and all, but out of all the scenes, I'm not too sure what the purpose of that scene was.... ohhhh, wait

Gemma: Yeah, because didn't it seem like she was instigating it?

Christine: We might be giving the wrong person the rapist label

Gemma: Omg

Christine: She was Ms. Rapey, not the dude

Gemma: Yeah, because she was forcing the hand of the men and was all smirk-y about it

Christine: She was taking advantage of the fact that he was a patient and couldn't tell anyone or no one would believe him if he said he was getting molested by staff

Gemma: Jeez

Andrew: Yup!!!! it was actually the girl who put the bulls-eye thingy on her crotch. So that brings up a point!!!!! the notion that some people take advantage of people with mental illness

Christine: Hell yeah. My mum is a nurse and she once told me that a nurse got arrested for touching an unconscious patient once.  

Andrew: Wowwwwwww

Gemma: Sadly, I'm not surprised. People prey on the powerless

Christine: Yeah...dude... that's so fucked

Gemma: Oh boy...speaking of fucked... did any of you notice the child sitting in the audience? Right next to us

Christine: Nooooo

Gemma: She couldn't have been more than like 7

Christine: There were little ppl there?

Andrew: Wait, there was a kid?

Gemma: There's inappropriate and then there's bringing your elementary school-aged kid to Titicut Follies. I only saw one child, but yeah, there was at least one

Christine: That kid is screwed or is gonna be a bad-ass activist some day

Andrew: I'm gonna go with activist lol

Gemma: Let's hope for the latter!

Andrew: What did u think of the guard?

Christine: Which?

Andrew: The one that locked up the man in solitary

Gemma: Oh, who locked up that poor old man!

Christine: Dude, the stomp man!!!!!!!!!

Gemma: Yeah I think I somehow liked him (the guard) at first, or wanted to, but then obviously I grew to hate him for his mistreatment of patients. I felt serious feels for the stomp man

Christine: That one really got me. He's completely based on the real guy from the documentary

Gemma: In the talk-back, they spoke about him

Christine: His name was Jim

Andrew: It was so sad, seriously, like people really take advantage of others just because they feel like that can

Gemma: And he was locked naked in a cell for years

Christine: Yeah, he was locked up naked in solitary for 17 years. NAKED!

Andrew: People need to watch this no matter how uncomfortable it makes them feel

Gemma: I agree, but I would say it's not necessarily the best for kids

Christine: I hate that stuff like this doesn't make it on Broadway

Gemma: And I could see it potentially triggering some people

Christine: Trigger warnings 13 reasons why style. 

Gemma: Titicut Follies was rarely (if ever) funny. Because you know this shit really happens

Christine: Except the ballet was actually accurate at showing what mental illness is actually like.

Gemma: Yeah and they really wanted to shed light on it through dance

Christine: People nervous laughed so much through this show...

Gemma: I know because they were clearly looking for some sort of relief and tried to find the funny, but that was near impossible

Christine: I don't think it's meant to have any funny moments, but those who laughed aren't bad people, they are just ignorant to how serious of an issue this topic is. They laughed at the 'spread and cough' and that is VERY real

Gemma: Yeah, for sure, they definitely weren't bad. I mean, I really wanted something resembling a happy ending or even some emotional growth resulting from the tragedy, but obviously, that didn't happen and often doesn't in life

Christine: Most people that go to places like that don't ever get happy endings. The only remotely good ending is dying.

Gemma: And these people are so easily forgotten by us. Just shoved aside. And it makes us uncomfortable to think about them. Well, Titicut Follies shoved it in our faces and almost makes us feel guilty for our lack of action, well, it did for me, anyway

Andrew: I know what u mean, Gemma, about a happy ending, because that's what we're used to

Christine: Oh for sure, it's also a lot of work that takes a toll on people and they just put the person in a facility with complete strangers

Gemma: And there's virtually no dialogue or speech at all. it's amazing how much was told through dance

Andrew: Like who reads a book to find out that their favorite character dies at the end?

Gemma: Oh I have definitely done that. But here we didn't know the characters' names or their backgrounds. We had to piece it together in our heads

Christine: it's like those videos that keep getting leaked of child care facilities for mentally ill kids. You see that abuse and it's the same crap from the 60's. Not much has changed.

Gemma: There's not more abuse, there's just more documentation of abuse #thankyoutechnology

Christine: True. I think it's the best form of art to tell this story.

Andrew: Yes, the fascinating part for me was that there was no dialogue and everything was told through dance. That was really the greatest part for me. LIKE YOU HAVE TO BE A CREATIVE GENIUS TO TELL THIS STORY THRU DANCE. LIKE WTF GIVE ME UR BRAIN

Gemma: And I feel like it was asking, "Okay, here's this crappy reality that was and has been documented, we are telling the stories through ballet. Now, what are YOU gonna do about it?"

Christine: Most of the characters in the movie can't verbally communicate. it's sort of an ode to them in some ways

Gemma: The creative minds behind this treated the whole adaptation from film to ballet very delicately and thoughtfully

Christine: Yeah, you could tell in the talk back they really cared about being respectful. That's why the woman who was 'offended' by the pas de deux came off a little "eh" to me.

Gemma: I know, I could see how people could be disturbed by the material presented on stage. But I don't think it was handled insensitively at all. But at the end of the day, you can't tell someone they can't be offended by something. I personally wasn't offended by anything and the show is written for an audience that won't take offense, I think. So... what did we all learn here...?

Christine: The world is fucked!


Gemma: Thank you...Goodnight!

Want to see it?

:( Sorry. This show is not currently showing.

What did you experience?

Let PXP know in the comments below...