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TEDxSeattle

Performance: Mother, For You I Made This | Tonya Lockyer and Ezra Dickinson

In a dramatic performance, Ezra Dickinson shares his experience as the son of a schizophrenic mother, encouraging deeper conversation about mental health and how it impacts our families and society.

Full talk transcript

Tonya Lockyer:  Good afternoon. I was honored to be asked by Ezra Dickinson to mentor and produce his remarkable dance and Social Justice Project, Mother, For You, I Made This. I am passionate about the arts and the emancipatory power of dance. The extraordinary capacity of dance to transform us, to restore us physically and spiritually, and to bring us together. Often around things that can be difficult to talk about. And one of the things I love most about my job is following an artist's career, watching them develop, and then when the time is just right, seizing the moment to say, "You're great, I believe in you, and how can I help you?"

Mother, For You, I Made This began when Ezra revealed to me that over a seven-year period he made a series of solos as gifts for his schizophrenic mother, and he was now ready to share them. So we developed a performance based on Ezra's childhood living with, and unknowingly caring for, his single mother. And we developed a Social Justice Project that continues to activate conversations around our failed mental health care system. Ezra and I share a mentally ill loved one, and through this project we want to bring people together to help overcome the shame and the stigma of mental illness.

One of the things I love most about my job is following an artist's career, watching them develop, and then when the time is just right, seizing the moment to say, "You're great, I believe in you, and how can I help you?"

According to the World Health Organization, one in four individuals will be affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives. All of us, everyone here, is impacted by mental illness in our communities. So why aren't we talking about it?

Lockyer:  The performance began at the Greyhound station in downtown Seattle, and then it moved to a park in front of a federal courthouse, and along many forgotten blocks of our city. His performance mingled with passersby, illuminating the often unseen men and women who call our streets home. And at the end of one performance, he was approached by a woman who was homeless, who had once been a dancer. And she asked him how he might help her find a way back to being in her body again. Not in the guarded, anxious way that's brought out by living on the streets, but in the way she remembered it as a young dancer. Ezra's mother was also once a dancer. And a love of dance is one of the many gifts she gave her son. We'd like to now share with you an excerpt from the original performance leading into Ezra Dickinson performing the closing section of his dance and Social Justice Project Mother, For You, I Made This.  

Performance audio:

Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this. Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this. Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this. Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this. Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this. Joni Lynn Smith, for you I made this.

Who will make a home for my mother who lives with imbalance? Think of our loved ones who have been left behind. Our country has forgotten, or maybe it never knew, by caring for each and every one, you nurture the whole.

My mother has been forgotten. My mother has been forgotten. My mother has been forgotten. My mother has been forgotten. Been forgotten.

We have forgotten our loved ones. We have forgotten our loved ones. We have forgotten our loved ones.We have forgotten our loved ones. We have forgotten our loved ones.We have forgotten our loved ones.

I love you, mother.

Look at me, mother. Look at me, mother. Look at me, mother. Look at me, mother. Look at me, mother. Look at me, mother.

Mother, where will you live?  Mother, where will you live? Mother, where will you live? Mother, where will you live? Mother, where will you live? Mother, where will you live? Mother, where will you live, in this the land of taking advantage?

America wants to give you pills now. Mother, can you count the pills? Do they bring you ease?

Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease. Ease.

The systemic neglect only intensified your paranoia.

Keep those thoughts of America out.

My mother has wet the bed she was put in. My mother has wet the bed she was put in. My mother has wet the bed she was put in.

How can I soothe my mother's pill-addled mind? How can we soothe our country's neglect?

The shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks shrieks.

Moans. Moans. Moans. Moans. Moans.

Our sisters, brother, fathers, and mothers, carried through the streets. Never dying, only growing incompletely.

Our country is ripping out. Ripping out. Ripping out. Ripping out. Ripping out. Ripping out. Ripping out.

Ripping out the screams of our loved ones.

I love you, mother. Mother teach me to walk. Show by the thoughts of you dragging your body to the door. I can't forget your limp body.

Response is voice.

Screaming.

No key.

I see you on the floor, limp. Mad at me. Ask me to be your teacher. Ask me to teach you. Ask me to ask you. 

I don't have any questions, all I have is the images of you. Powerful smells of bread baked. Bad food, never enough. Other parents talking of my hunger. Boil the lentils over the stove and scream, scream at your only child.

Hit, pound, feed the watery food.

Is it going to work?

I love the times when you know, and I know all too well the love that you can't give. Life has dismantled your last mind. You lead what you can of me, despite. I have been taught to be scared and you would be proud. Resembling all your childhood dreams.

Mother, can you remember? Is it all gone? Do I have a home in a place in you? Swept up in all that is unimportant. Left to the wet blankets under store awnings. Tell me, is it all gone? Are all my baby pictures lost? My drawings? My childhood? Save for memories? Was it all thrown away with eviction notices?

Should I run and hide? Can I hide with you?

(end performance)

Ezra Dickinson:  When I began making these gifts from my mother, I felt isolated and alone when dealing with her schizophrenia. Like many of us I had thoughts that I did not know how to process. This project has been about coming to terms with the relationship I have with my mother now. In about finding place and resource that lies in community. I've made connections with organizations that provide support to the mentally ill, and offer counseling to those who care for them. I've made connections with artists who,through their art, are processing their own mental illness, or the mental illness of a loved one.

Through this project I have come to the realization that I'm not alone in this subject. I don't have a remedy for my mother's imbalance. As I grow as an adult, this performance work is my relationship with my mother. It's how I connect with her, and how I hope to find a better way to care for her now and in the future. This is my way of de-stigmatizing mental illness, and trying to raise awareness around America's failed mental health care system. I invite you all to share in the love that I have for my mother. Thank you.

SUPPORTED BY

Speaker Bio

Tonya Lockyer is the Executive/Artistic Director of Velocity, Seattle’s award-winning dance center. She is also Affiliated Faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. Lockyer came to Velocity after twenty years as a leading NW dance artist focused on the borderlands of performance, embodiment and social engagement. Read more

Ezra Dickinson is a multi disciplinary artist who began dancing at the age of four and went on to train at Pacific Northwest Ballet for twelve years on full scholarship. While attending PNB, Ezra also completed a seven year apprenticeship in ceramics. Ezra earned his BFA in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography from Cornish College of The Arts. Read more

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