Guest Blog Post: Adam Zmith on the invisible bodies in Stigma

Stigma is a show about being yourself, even if you are a freak. This time, history will be written by losers, not winners. You can catch it here as part of SPRINT Festival on 17 Mar. Click here for more details. 

In this blog post, Stigma’s co-writer Adam Zmith explains how the feeling of wanting to be seen formed a powerful collaboration with performer Luis Amália.

A Body You Can See by Adam Zmith

Bodies bounce against each other. Vaporised sweat clouds over our heads. Beats thump through us. There are so many bodies in this room. Why do I have the wrong one?

We’ve all been there. We’re in a nightclub and we want to look good, to feel good. You might be chill, but don’t pretend you haven’t wanted to be seen. You might love yourself, but don’t tell me you’ve never needed someone to look at you a little longer than necessary. I was on a night like that recently with Luis, my co-writer on Stigma.

Luis and I tried to dance, but he kept getting bumped around. I don’t mean the kind of bump that happens amid the usual dancefloor chaos. No. It was the kind of bump that happens when another person ignores you. When they fail to see how much space they take up. When they don’t care if they bash into Luis and make him feel bad.

I didn’t feel bashed that night. But I was unattractive. I know, I know. I shouldn’t care. I need to love myself. I do. But sometimes I want to see someone who looks at me with interest. At the bar people genuinely looked over my head as if it strengthened their claim that they got there first. Some men were shirtless, but only the ones with the Ken-doll torsos. A man tried to jump the line for the cloakroom, just in front of me after I’d been waiting for 20 minutes. I asked him, “What makes you special? What makes you better than all these other people who are waiting?” (Normally I’m more jolly, don’t worry.)

This is how Luis and I were invisible that night. We both felt like no one cared about us, or even saw us. We’ve all been there. I’ve felt the same in the workplace (you didn’t listen to my idea). I’ve felt the same in a friendship (you didn’t know what I needed). Luis has felt the same as a performer (you didn’t cast him because of how he looks or speaks). We’re angry about the way the world is unfair. And we’re angry with how, sometimes, like the dickhead in the queue, people are shit.

But Luis is angrier than me. He talks and he talks about being invisible, about being a loser, about being good when the world is bad. Last summer we got together and I listened: he talked and I typed. He told me about his obsession with a gymnast who didn’t win medals at the Sydney Olympics despite leaving a tremendous legacy for Spain’s gymnastics team. I typed. And he told me about being made to feel like a faggot at school. I typed. And then we paused and we structured. We talked and typed. We listened and we edited — and that is how we wrote Stigma. We saw each other.

If you come to see the show on March 17th, you will see us too.