How to Read This Thesis (aka, the Little White Book)
Welcome to the my Dramaturgy MFA thesis: ancestral hauntings and utopian conjurings: a digital fool’s journey into COVEN-19, or Magicks for Unprecedented Times. This thesis is in part a record of the devising process of COVEN-19, which manifested two ritual performances: in fall 2020, our Coven performed a public, interactive ritual for the full moon Samhain (Halloween); in spring 2020, we devised a ritual for Beltane (May Day). My role in Coven process was co-facilitator and co-producer with dramaturgy graduate student Percival Hornak; I co-founded the Coven with undergraduate theater major Helen Rahman; our stage manager was undergraduate theater maor Alison Butts. COVEN-19 project fulfilled the practical, live, do-the-thing element of my thesis, and if you as a reader were unable to attend either or both of the rituals, you will encounter various glimpses into that work throughout this digital text. This theoretical exploration of Coven (collaborative process) and COVEN-19 (the public performance) is more invested in the process and never-endingness of the collaborative Coven experience, rather than the public performance itself.
In the spirit of iterative process, queer failure, emergent strategy, liminal exploration, and utopian practice, I am writing this thesis as tarot: 22 (plus a bonus card) essays, spells, rituals, and magickal ramblings about Coven process, each inspired by tarot symbols and interpretations specific to its corresponding card. Like the tarot, this thesis is performative and always happening, always there-but-not-there. Common themes, theories, art ancestors, quotes, and citations circulate throughout this thesis deck; meaning is therefore deeply interconnected, and no card holds more critical or scholarly weight than any other. This is an experiment in ways to hold power with, rather than over, meaning-making: I need the reader as an actor needs a spectator, to move my words through time and space.
The major arcana tarot cards are numbered 0 through 21, with a bonus 22nd coven card, outlining one version of the fool's journey -- but as with any tarot deck, there are infinite paths to be discovered. And so, please read these cards in whatever order feels satisfying to you. Allow your choices to structure your meaning-making experience. A few ideas:
For a divinitory reading experience, you can pull major arcana cards from a tarot deck, or this website, and navigate the pages accordingly.
Choose cards based on the corresponding images and descriptions.
Follow your curiosity by bouncing from key word to key word; major themes are linked through the deck, so you might find a path based on what you want to know more about.
The Thesis Map at the bottom of the page outlines my personal big-picture journey, which you may wish to follow.
This thesis is also something of a theatrical grimoire: a collection of spells and rituals to conjure glimpses of utopia, hopefully for many years to come, long after the performative magicks of COVEN-19 have dissipated. It's a record of things that happened, certainly, but also things that are still and forever happening; an archive of invocations, a look backwards to what we did in order to keep reaching for out-of-reach horizons. And so, throughout these cards, ritual is marked in red. I invite you to enact these spells as you journey through the deck: relight the Coven's spell candles and kindle the flames of better-worlds. Join the Coven's infinite spiral of magick-making. Conjure a little utopia for yourself.
You do not need tools to enact the rituals of this grimoire, but if you would like to participate in a multisensory way, the below tools will prove useful:
a journal and writing implement
a fire-safe bowl for burning things
soap and water
a tarot deck
water, earth, air, and fire
take three deep, belly-expanding, space-taking-up breaths.