By Johannil Napoleón
“Our work is healing,” said one of our directors. I thought, “This is a theatre company! Healing?” I started to think about my inner struggles at rehearsals. She repeated, “healing” and it then struck a big, resounding chord at me. This is my first time in Teatro Luna. I expected passionate Latina women empowerment but did not think Teatro Luna, like most theatre companies, to be a space of healing. This must be a special place because I, as a performer, was beginning to experience a personal transformation- gaining freedom from shame.
I grew up in a household and a culture where talking about sex was taboo, especially as a Black Latina. If you are Latina/o you are lucky if your parents or a family member actually sat you down, when you were a child, and clearly spoke to you about sex. I was not one of the lucky ones. Throughout elementary to middle school years I just put the pieces together. You know, the stories of intimate relationships from my friends, the large images that depicted a vagina and a penis in sex education classes, and the online information I researched to clear out what was unclear to me. Lacking a space to talk about sex with adults actually made me believe false information and silenced me from inquiring about my own sex drive. Therefore, in my world it became a norm to create a barrier when topics about IT came up and when asked to talk about personal experiences with IT-that was a heck no! It was as if asking me to do something that would threaten my life, like jumping in the deep end of a pool!
As an adult, I have broken some of those barriers in a few spaces including Teatro Luna. Here, for the first time, my buried feelings of shame, concerning sex, manifest in me. Also, my first time, allowing myself to gain a sense of freedom with my relationship with sex. During development rehearsals we are given prompts to write then share, about our personal sexual experiences. Every time a prompt was assigned I would feel my stomach tighten, the warmth of my blood, and my brain come into a complete blank! There were even moments when I wanted to flee but never did. The other women of Luna would share their stories- stories of shame, embarrassment, and love. We often laughed and always acknowledged and respected each other’s stories without judgment. I always wondered if they too struggled to share the stories that flowed from their mouth. But I do know this, that the freedom that radiated from them when telling their stories became contagious.
In this space of acceptance and my desire to want that freedom, I challenged myself to write my truth and share my truth. Sharing gave me the self-empowerment to own my stories, whether they were embarrassing or too intimate. This sense of liberation continues to happen, every time I share my stories with the women of Luna and on the stage in the presence of an audience-who too, will experience an unexpected freedom.