Despite being a poet, dramatist and aspiring novelist, Julia Taus does not identify as a writer—but a storyteller. In her most recent project, Taus found herself the subject of the story.
For the first time, the Temple alumna, who received her bachelor’s degrees in English and communications, is portraying her written words through theatrical performance in “A Cocoon of Your Own Making,” which debuted in FringeArts Sept. 13. at the Pig Iron Lounge.
Told through the experiences of a complex monogamous relationship, the piece illustrates the metamorphosis of a butterfly as a metaphor of self-discovery.
“It’s one thing to write the words and hand the paper off … but it’s quite another to stand there and embody those words,” said Taus. “And that’s been the biggest task for me … embodying, owning and not apologizing for them.”
The one-woman show is the product of Taus’ four original transcendental love poems.
Taus never considered the transformation from poetry to performance until she entered a women’s studies course while earning a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania.
The class’s concentration on feminist history and theory in theater unlocked a theatrical element in her verses. As the final assignment, Taus entwined these beloved poems, spawning her first play.
“When I performed the piece [in class], I could feel the unearthing of the story,” Taus said. “I could feel the power.”
Taus’ collegiate assignment embarked on a year-long journey that ended at FringeArts and in the hands of freelance director and alumna Amber Emory.
Emory, who worked on developing the directing concentration in Temple’s theater department, wrote an all-female rendition of “Through the Looking Glass,” featured as a reading off-Broadway just after she graduated. Emory also founded and produced Mz. Fest, promoting process-based female centered work. This interest in feminist theater attracted Emory to Taus’ work.
“When I first read the script, I saw the themes of personal self discovery, women’s identity, feminism and the unfolding of the butterfly, but it was written about a male,” Emory said.
Originally, the script was more of a narrative centered heavily upon the story of Taus’ companion. As Emory’s ideas gave the piece an empowering perspective, the script shifted its focus toward Taus, pushing her into her own unearthing as a woman.
“The butterfly speaks a lot in the story, which is a Julia [Taus] that has opened up to her femininity and reality,” Emory said. “I wanted to take the text and make it more personal, so the audience can have the attachment too, so they can feel the journey of the unfolding too.”
For audience members, the butterfly acknowledges pain and provides a silver lining. Despite despair, individuals always have a chance for “new life in the trees,” as quoted in Taus’ poem “Metamorphosis,” the prime inspiration behind the script.
An essential aspect of the play is the evolution of love, according to Taus and Emory—though romantic love’s evolution does not parallel the development of the butterfly.
“I think [romantic love] is just a layer in the cocoon … I don’t think it has anything to do with another human being,” Emory said.
Taus and Emory occasionally interpret aspects of the play differently, which sheds new light on the piece, sometimes in ways Taus did not originally intend.
When Emory first experienced “Metamorphosis,” she assumed the narrator, who is an insightful butterfly, was Taus speaking to her child self.
“When I wrote, ‘Metamorphosis,’ I did think of me but also of other women I look up to,” Taus said. “However, when Amber [Emory] said that, I saw the piece in a whole new way … I never owned that butterfly.”
Grace Maiorano can be reached at email@example.com.