Where: Theatre Exile (1340 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147)
When: On the Exhale by Martín Zimmerman runs November 29 – December 22. Talkbacks with Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia will be held Thursday, December 12 and Wednesday, December 18.
Cost: $10 and up. Tickets to On the Exhale may be purchased here: https://theatreexile.org/shows/on-the-exhale/.
On November 29, Theatre Exile will tackle the uncertainty and unpredictability of emotions and behaviors that come with experiencing trauma and the process of grieving. Throw out any preconceived notions of how people deal with tragedy. This 70-minute, one-woman play will leave you speechless. Martín Zimmerman’s On the Exhale is a play that examines the actions and reactions of a college professor in the wake of a harrowing experience. As “On the Exhale is not a polemical play. Any attempt to engage in the aftermath of gun violence has become overtly political. But the play is telling a more complicated narrative. The issue isn’t black and white – nor is the play. It does ask you to wrestle with tragic circumstances, but in the same vein of Shakespeare and Sophocles,” Director Matt Pfeiffer explained.
The script resonated with Producing Artistic Director Deborah Block. Initially, the team at Theatre Exile wanted to bring the show to life a few years ago, but the schedule did not allow for it. That didn’t stop staff from talking about On the Exhale. “We kept coming back to it. The fact that it was that impactful and resonated with everyone that had read it, we knew it was an important play to show,” Block said. Once On the Exhale was booked for the Fall 2019 season, Block began researching agencies in Philadelphia that deal with violence and grief and found the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia (AVP). AVP is a non-profit organization that provides intervention, prevention, and support programs. “We have always been attracted to bringing in people who can strengthen our story-telling. The amazing staff of AVP are entirely focused on the victims and the survivors and helping them through life and living, and we knew they would be the perfect community partner,” Block said.
AVP’s Counseling Center Director Casey McGovern, visited Theatre Exile and watched a run-through of On the Exhale. “As someone who works every day with people experiencing traumatic grief, it was extraordinary to see this play. The playwright’s ability to articulate the experience of grief is the most authentic I’ve ever heard,” McGovern said. Afterwards, McGovern spent time talking with staff about the responsibilities to their Theatre Exile audiences. Block discussed the partnership stating, “If we’re going to do gutsy plays, we have to take that responsibility seriously and we needed to find ways to support our audiences. Having professional staff on hand made sense. We also get to shine the light on the work AVP is doing in our community. It’s a symbiotic relationship.” Not only was AVP’s impact felt before opening night, but AVP has committed to facilitating two post-show discussions to be led by AVP’s Community Services Director, Lisa Christian. The discussions will take place post-show on December 12 and 18 to provide a safe space for audience members and to allow for theatergoers to gain a deeper understanding of grief and trauma. Block is hopeful that the talks, in a shared space, will offer healing and an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts. On other selected days, following the show, the audience can discuss their thoughts with AVP staff who will be on-site.
“A woman navigating her grief doesn’t come out the way you expect it to, and that’s what On the Exhale explores,” Block said. “Mortality becomes gray, choices become gray. And that’s the art form of theatre. It’s centered around the human journey, not strictly ideology.”