Soul. Show. Just. Is.
Said three times fast, the title of El’s Clay’s largest mixed media show, “Soul Show Just Is,” sounds a lot like social justice. And that’s the point.
For its third biannual themed show since March 2017, El’s Clay keeps its promise to convey complex topics in an artistic way. The nonprofit takes over Billings Depot for two nights of social justice-related choreography, spoken word and visual displays, June 26-27.
“We are currently going through some injustice in our daily life,” said El’s Clay codirector Maribel Schaff. “You see it on social media, on TV, talking to people. Basically, it’s so much going on.
“Sometimes we don’t take the time to find that rest of the mind — we do actions that we don’t know are causing injustice to others. So many issues with discrimination, child welfare, domestic violence. We decided to create on that topic.”
Schaff, as well as El’s Clay codirectors Carly Mann and John Speier, are also educators. Their young students have shared with them personal stories of injustice.
“Each of the shows we’ve done, and for this one too, we really don’t just try to bring about awareness but bring about a revolution, and come to a complete change and a new chapter in to this topic,” said Mann.
El’s Clay has been working with area dancers, poets and other creatives for three months building what is nearly an all-original show. Participating groups and individuals include Terpsichore Dance Company, Limber Tree Yoga, Diversity Dance Studio, Montana Dance Center, RaizEtna Dance Company, Elevation Dance Company, MADco Dance Company, HaltForce Art Collective, poet and Billings Gazette arts and entertainment reporter Anna Paige, and poet Dave Caserio. CASA of Yellowstone County is also involved.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students, benefitting CASA of Yellowstone County. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates; the nonprofit lends a voice for abused and neglected children.
CASA is providing clientele testimony to help shed light on social injustice. Because of the show’s sensitive nature, it places performers and audience members in a vulnerable place.
“It can be hard even for the audience members to be involved in different moments," Mann said. "As we move through it, it really enables people to proactively go through what it is that we’re sharing with them. So we hope that doing it through art, it becomes not quite so intense and heavy, but almost relatable and cope-able. Just sharing and caring with each other, really.”
Youth as young as 11 are performing in the show, and children ages 10 and up are invited to attend. One performance in the show involves an award-winning film called, “ReMoved,” which focuses on child abuse and the foster care system.
“Children are so exposed to a lot through social media,” said Schaff. “It will be good for kids to understand these messages than just the negative portion of it. You see so many things happening on social media and kids talk about it; they are opinionated about it. Why not expose them to these kinds of messages right away?”
The performance schedule remains the same both June 26 and June 27. The band Old Souls is performing before the event at 6:30 p.m. Billings Depot is serving alcohol from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Uberbrew is catering food. The main show begins at 7:30 p.m. Mingling afterward is encouraged; the doors will close at 10 p.m.
Mann says attendees shouldn’t feel pressured to feel a certain way or receive a specific message.
“Just come and experience it,” she said. “Art is to be experienced, if anything, and that’s what we really want to have them do.”