Travelogue: The Lonely Witness

Created & Performed by
Anastacia Narrajos, Amba Suhasini K Jhala, Alex Benito Rodriguez, Anirudh (Rudy) Nair, Cooper Forsman

Travelogue: The Lonely Witness

A Journey across time and space – a cliche phrase, but in 2020 those words acquired new meaning. Travelogue began as a contemplation on those words; what it became was witness to the imprints we leave behind on our journeys. We shared images made of hands and feet, glimpses of land and water, strains of music; acts of trust between 5 collaborators who were each searching for place, belonging and meaning. We offer you a log of our travels, meditations of our stillness, a collage of our distance, and a reckoning.


traveler, videographer, performer

Anastacia Narrajos

traveler, videographer, performer

Amba Suhasini K Jhala

traveler, videographer, performer, editor

Alex Benito Rodriguez

traveler, videographer, performer

Anirudh (Rudy) Nair

original music

Cooper Forsman

Filming Locations / Acknowledgements of Land

Chicago, IL. Lake Michigan. Council of Three Fires. Ojibwe (or Chippewa), Ottawa (or Odawa), and Potawatomi O’ahu, Hawai’i Snowy woods in northeast Iowa. Očhéthi Šakówiŋ , Sauk and Meskwaki , Iowa. Dhrangadhra (a small town in the western state of Gujarat, India). Images form part of a journey that began in Dhrangadhra – the land of sand and stone – and headed south along India’s Western coastline, half way down the peninsula. There are also images form Delhi (India’s capital city situated in the north of the country) and surrounding regions – particularly the heavily industrialised plains along the banks of the river Ganga.

Artist’s Process

During their travels over the winter of 2020-21, Ana, Amba, Alex and Rudy captured footage that followed intentionally expansive prompts: WITNESS, VOYEUR, TRAVEL, JOURNEY, ELEMENTS, ECOLOGY, IMPRINT. The resulting body of footage was edited by Alex in an iterative process where artists provided responses in prose, poetry, and free-writing that inspired a musical score. Every contributing element was created independently, while always in conversation with the whole.

The second half of the process brought the group’s thoughts and emotions into the same space with more pragmatic conversations around the footage, the score, and the context of travel. This material can be viewed as a collision of personal journals; a scrapbook of time and distance with very different meanings for each of the artists in their separate international contexts.

Artist Bios

Anastacia Narrajos(she/her) is a multi-racial artist living in Chicago, IL. Her work examines her own sense of belonging and her role as a witness and synthesizer. Striving to forge a relationship to place, Anastacia (or Ana) explores her connection and dissonance to the land she stands on in this piece. Ana has been an ensemble member of Walkabout Theater since 2019. She is an active theater maker, performer, and educator.

Cooper Forsman (he/him) is a performer, sound artist and naturalist based in Chicago IL. In his work he aims to create experiences that expand the possibilities of space and place, building cultural associations with local ecosystems while invoking a sense of the unknown.

Alex Benito Rodriguez (he/him) is an actor, designer, and theatre maker based in Chicago, IL. In his artistic practices, Alex relies on curiosity and collaboration as vehicles for creativity. He aims to share stories that celebrate the complexities of humanity and dream of a more compassionate world. He believes that art is a fundamental expression of the human experience and a foundational way to shift corrupted cultures somewhere kinder and more beautiful.

Amba Suhasini K Jhala  (she/her) is a performer and theatre director based in Delhi, India. She is also founder and Co Artistic Director of the theatre company Guild of the Goat. Amba hopes to create inquisitive and authentic content with themes that are universal and local. Theatre that pushes to broaden our horizons and investigates our times. She would like her work to have as it’s tenets accountability, generosity, and courage. What is the world and what is our place within it, is the question she hopes to continue to explore with and through her work.

Anirudh (Rudy) Nair is a performer and creator based in Delhi. This bio would ordinarily have read ‘he creates for the stage/live performance’ but the pandemic has necessitated the exploration of new mediums and a reckoning with the relevance of theatre in our world today. He sees the online space primarily as a wonderful opportunity to include ever larger and more diverse audiences. Rudy is committed to creating work that directly addresses the crises that plague our societies, more specifically the Indian subcontinent, with particular focus (in recent times) on caste, gender and the rise of authoritarian state structures.

The Thief and the Thief

Here: we need to go around a little to get to the point.

Once, long before any living person could remember, there was a brilliant and poor tailor, who wanted to do right by his family. He had no friends anymore – he had been hurt and didn’t know how to be with people and would cause hurt and then be hurt in return – and he wanted only to protect his family (this is how some people love); to that end, he lied to the townsfolk and to his family, told either group that the other were monsters. And because his family loved him and the townsfolk trusted him, both groups grew fearful and suspicious of the others and avoided each other at all costs.

The tailor was not kind. What he was was strong-willed, and diligent, resourceful; capable, cunning, clever. His work was done on a shoestring and he could size a person up, drunk and from three hundred feet away (he cultivated this skill to keep his family, and his reputation, safe) and his work was far more than satisfactory. Some would say that the tailor was a magician for his uncanny ability to size people up – though we know now that magic is almost never deliberate and, when it is, it’s a mistake. But the tailor did not make mistakes in his seaming.

Ruling this same land was a cruel and powerful emperor who wore opulent clothes (which were always a little too big), and – in spite of his armies, in spite of his “birthright” and his lands – he had a deep Fear of something he could not ever name. He was not good to the people of the land, but he didn’t understand this. He only understood he had Power and the people did not and that the Power was his to wield and not theirs. People told him of their suffering… but he could only understand that it wasn’t his suffering. His advisors tried to teach him of the complex geopolitical struggles between the many nations of his region… but he grew frustrated, beet-red, and had difficulty breathing. His physician said this was symptomatic of a heart condition and the emperor would never learn or he’d die.

But death was not his Fear.

Anyway, in his Fear, he would wear glory and valor as though they were well-tailored armor (but they weren’t) and would often parade through the streets of his country. The tailor, one day, made rounds through the town just as the emperor held one of these events.

The tailor stared at the emperor. He’d never once been so close to somebody who governed Nations or had orchestras played in his name. And in the emperor’s mismade outfit, the Power he wielded and the Glory of it all, the tailor saw an opportunity to protect himself and his family. He sprinted home and stayed awake all night then into the next and then the next, cutting, sewing, weaving, grafting, bringing in all manner of millinery, embroidery, and silk-swerving. The tailor envisioned the emperor, his power, and his cruelty, his armies and wealth as he cut and cut and cut. He disregarded all other commissions, he ignored his family, and it went on like that for two weeks, until the tailor emerged from his workshop, disheveled, eyes bulging and red, holding a suit fit perfectly for the emperor.

Upon seeing the tailor and this suit, his children sobbed and his wife stood, eyes flooding with fear. He had explained what he would be doing and what he intended, how it would help them all, before he went into his workshop. And his family had trusted him.

But now they couldn’t bear to look upon him knowing that those hands could make things like this, had made a thing like this. They ran out the front door – never again would the tailor lay eyes upon them. The tailor, confused and hurt, felt something shocking and wet inside his eyes; he pressed his fingers into the shoulder of the suit with all the pain and clutching he’d held onto his family with and his fingers dipped into the miasma of fabric and the tailor felt some pain gone. He brought the suit out to the town square. And then all the people who saw it swore they would never commission the tailor again for the suit was the suit.

At this point, in any other story, I would describe this suit to you. But I’ve never seen it and if I had, I would have followed it to the ends of the earth, the ends of this story and I would have burnt it, hung it over the moon so the currents of space could disperse the ashes somewhere far, far away and I would’ve had a different tale to tell and it would have had feasts. And delights. And magic.

But that’s not the story we have. The tailor traveled the whole country like this, a living corpse presenting his masterpiece in cold harbors, warm inns, bustling markets, to strangers on the road; like a dilapidated chicken coop, he’d crumble at signs of conversation and pull out the suit. Sometimes, people would fall, prostrate and ask to be spared. Others would throw rocks at the suit; more often people shifted uncomfortably and tried to not respond to the tailor’s gasps of admiration. But, occasionally, people ask to touch it, at which the tailor would shudder away and gather one who followed the scent of power. As more people did this, more people followed and eventually, he amassed a small army of stragglers and made his way to the emperor.

The emperor had heard reports of a citizens’ army approaching his gates and soon found the tailor and the loose grip of fanatics shocking way into the emperor’s throne room with the suit, rejected in this precise direction. At first, the emperor tried to have the tailor thrown out, but whenever guards looked upon the suit, they would just shake their heads and stand away until eventually the tailor had made his way to the throne.

“My liege,” said the tailor, his voice cracking like a wasteland, “I made this suit for you. Your old clothes never suited you so I made this, woven from the echo of your power and authority.” And the emperor sat for a moment, thinking. His current outfits never quite fit, always leaving gaps in the elbows and tight at the knees. And he could feel guilt still in the corners of his being. But as he looked at this new outfit which never quite came into focus, he wondered about the Fear and he felt an echo of something familiar as he stared at the tailor.

“Let me try it,” the emperor said, “and if it fails to fit, you will be killed.” And the tailor abided: he had nothing to lose anymore, and knew there was nothing more hollow than life.

The emperor went to his room, stripped to nothing, and put the tailor’s suit on, starting with the socks. Then the skirt, the pants, then the blouse, and with each piece of clothing, the emperor felt more and more himself and the Fear receded, absorbed into the clothes. And it fit perfectly at the knees and the elbows. Wearing it, he no longer felt guilt in the corner of his being. Instead, he felt it in his heart.

The emperor knelt, hugging himself, sobbing, knowing the truth of himself and despising it with such gravity that his fingers dug into his pauldrons and after he was drained of tears, the emperor felt a pin prick at the back of his eyes and felt some piece of his pain numbed, drawn out from his finger pads. Upon this, the emperor knew that the Fear had always been true.

He had the tailor killed moments later and reigned more miserably and miserly than ever before until one day, he was assassinated in the same outfit.

By this point, the outfit had become so filled with the Fear, a horrible Truth, and the Power, that it knew nothing in its whole existence but the seed of death and the want for a home. It unwrapped itself from the man’s corpse and found a new host in the assassin. It had learned from the emperor an extravagant Power and Fear. It had learned from the tailor to covet and to lie and love corrupted. It began to find desperate people to wear, each becoming more cruel with the Truth they found inside the suit and each gave themselves over to this despair. This went on for a very long time until the suit had taken a life of its own, pieced together from each of its wearers, and at this point it realized that it knew how to take with great skill.

This is when the thief became the thief.


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