self-made martyr, written and performed by Hannah Burke, is a show rich with existentialism and experimentation. Burke invites the audience to participate in the mission to become a martyr. Burke teaches the audience that public opinion is crucial in validating a martyr's martyrdom. The theme of validity throughout the show is that under conventional martyrdom, the martyr must be opposed and suffer at the hands of that opponent until they die for their cause. To martyr one's self is to claim that someone is both committed and opposed to their cause and that they would simultaneously inflict the suffering necessary to prove their commitment and opposition. In that case, the act of self-harm becomes that of self-loathing and self-actualization.
The show opens with a bare stage and a song that lasts too long to be atmospheric. The song acts as an opening monologue in a way. When Burke finally enters the space, they bring a chair and set it upstage. They then take their time heading to one of the two mics set downstage, and when the mic and they finally meet, they state, "I want to experience a tragedy, so I have a reason to call her." Burke's dialogue is engaging and witty while also being deeply vulnerable; this gifts the audience the opportunity to witness contradictions, theories, and retractions. Burke states that passion has origins in suffering and hope is theorized to be connected to evil. These claims are presented, questioned, then applied to themselves on their journey of self-harm. Through self-analysis, Burke shines a stark light on their experience with gender dysphoria, suicidal ideation, heartbreak, and disordered eating. These topics are discussed with desperate inquiries and, at times, humor in attempts to understand their purpose.
In the show, major shifts in the text are indicated through the projection of "stations" that chronologize the moments before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The parallels between Jesus, widely considered the Christian church's first martyr and Hannah's martyrdom journey are never directly addressed. However, Burke casually mentions that they went to a Catholic school, which speaks more to them writing about what they know. This makes their introspection all the more intimate as they share all they've learned, all they once were, and all the questions they wish they knew.
Ultimately the show is a vulnerable exploration of self-worth. The audience witnesses another human being grappling with their purpose and value in real-time. The lines between what is "theatrical" and what stays true after the house lights rise blurred because of the audience's expectation of the conventional theatre experience. However, this is not a conventional story or a conventional mission and that makes it all the more valuable.
Written and Performed by Hannah Burke
Directed by Nora Bridget Monohan
November 4, 2022
The 13th United Solo Festival
October 4- November 20, 2022
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
Jackie Leon is a playwright and actor inspired by the subversive. They recently graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre at Marymount Manhattan College. As a first-generation American and Afro-Colombian Jackie writes through the lens of shattered rose colored-glasses. Their audio play," Ghost Talk: Peach Street" has been featured at Scawwy Howwow Inc. on their Podcast, "Found Cassettes" and their one-act cosmic horror play "RASA" is currently in production. They have also recently had the honor to be a part of the 24-hour Play Festival at INTAR and was cast in Catskill Mountain Shakespeare's production of Midsummer Night's Dream as their Lysander.