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CONDOLENCE (working title)

Click on image for project trailer

Written & directed by Ain Gordon



Three years ago a Philadelphia funeral director told me his Job was to ease mourning for the still living, far more than care for the dead.


Just over two years ago my father died during a snowstorm forcing me to call 911, sending his body through morgue drawers in Queens and a NJ crematorium. His ashes arrived in a plastic bag, in a cardboard box, in a plastic box, in a synthetic tote bag emblazoned with an eternal flame. Eternal like these non-recyclable containers (not the cremains they contain) - or maybe eternal like grief.


Victorians propped up dressed corpses for “one last portrait” and made jewelry from their hair.


My ancestral Ashkenazi’s used to rip their garments when someone died, now you pin on some black ribbon, already cut.


I took my father’s ashes to the ocean. I’ve since learned crematoriums are bad for the carbon footprint, but there’s a water-based process - but so many gallons amid escalating droughts? But six states legalized body composting but that’s three times the cost of cremation so…


It’s not my first time handling ashes, I know they don’t “scatter,” they’re heavy, clump, and stick. Why use language to portray death as an act of “passing away” or scattering – as opposed to grief calcifying into a maybe unwanted thing you must carry? But also, why pretend we don’t want to carry something even if it’s only memory or DNA or a photographed corpse or an eternal flame printed on a non- compostable bag? How long are remains still who you loved? Who is mourning for? Who heals? Do you want to heal?


Condolence will be developed via interviews with morgue workers, bereavement counselor, death dulas, and hospice workers - I am interested in those who support the last hours of life and the first of death. It will be theater.

Creative Capital Award 2023
A Pick Up Performance Co. Production

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