Interdisciplinary artist Mary Prescott didn’t know much about her extended family or her ancestors until very recently. There were many things that Mary and her mother had never discussed, including her upbringing in Thailand. When Mary received a 2019 ACF | create award, a grant from American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation, she decided to focus on the idea of home and personal identity. Specifically, she knew that she wanted to better understand the story of her mother, Tida, who had moved from Thailand to the United States a little over 50 years ago. When Mary’s mom arrived in Minnesota, no one spoke the same language as her, or ate the same foods as her. She felt invisible–intentional or unintentional. For a somewhat meek woman, invisibility was a survival tactic as she tried to create a sense of home in the flat landscape and cold climate of this new land.
Mary initially planned to explore these intersecting themes of home and identity by including her mother and sister in the actual performance of Tida. But as the nation and the world became gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, she had to rethink how to include her family and connect in a way that was less direct but still interactive.
Mary spent a lot of time asking her mother those questions that had never been asked, and the answers began to weave into her own identity. “My mom spoke about a festival that is done in Thailand to honor ancestors. Families go to a location where the ashes of ancestors are kept and participate in a ritual which is not meant to be a sad experience. Rather, it reminds them of their identity and acknowledges their lineage–that they did come from somewhere.”
As part of her upcoming streamed performance of Tida on December 19, 2020 at Roulette, Mary has shared a recipe for Thai Rice Soup that her mom would make after their Thanksgiving meal, using the leftovers. This Thai Rice Soup was a way for Mary’s mom to connect to her own identity and Thai ancestry by taking the American ritual post-Thanksgiving meals and adding the flavors of Thailand. Viewers are encouraged to prepare the meal before the performance in order to create a shared multi-sensory experience.
Presented virtually and available to stream for free on Roulette’s website, Tida examines intergenerational cultural identity through an interdisciplinary performance. Prescott is known for her beautiful weaving of multiple media (e.g., music, dance, word, and now, food) in her spectacular performances. This performance of Tida takes advantage of all that Roulette has to offer, including six robotic cameras, and will share with the audience what has become so much a part of Mary Prescott’s identity–truth.
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