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Lion in the Streets

Written by Judith Thompson. Performed in the Experimental Theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Winter 2017.


Lion in the Streets tells the story of Isobel, the ghost of a young Portuguese-Canadian immigrant looking for the man who murdered her. Isobel’s search allows her to observe the lives of a wide variety of characters, all haunted by their own traumas. This trail of anguish leads her throughout the community, connecting complete strangers through their suffering, until Isobel can finally locate her killer. When she abandons her quest for revenge and instead decides to forgive the man who took her life, Isobel is able to ascend to heaven once and for all.

Judith Thompson introduces 29 different characters throughout Lion in the Streets, most of whom only appear for a single scene. Traditionally these roles are portrayed by an ensemble of about 6-8 performers. I guided the ensemble through Viewpoints exercises in order to create a distinctive and larger-than-life physicality for each character. The multiple casting of each actor accentuates the theatricality present throughout Lion. In this production we did not shy away from the semiotics from the stage, instead foregrounding them through the elements of design. The events unfolded among the mismatched furniture of a funeral home, with the scenic design (Cody Lee) anchored around elegant pleated curtains and a mass of missing posters. Each character was costumed in the garb of mourners (Cody Lee) no matter the setting. Pools of light isolated them as they recalled traumatic memories (Alyssa Glenn) and the sounds of these days gone by underscored their speech (Nina Mostowfi). My work on Lion in the Streets epitomizes my passion for expressionist performance and the creative ideas I am continuing to develop through my art and research. I expounded upon these ideas through my Master’s thesis, You Can’t Just Be a Picture: Expressionistic Memory and Trauma in Lion in the Streets.

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