Courtney Surmanek


Photo Credits: Marlène Ramírez-Cancio

teach your daughter to lose their tongue

Co-Director, Co-Writer, Performer

“teach your daughter to lose their tongue” is a poetic memoir incorporating poetry, song, and movement that explores queer evolution, gender, memory, trauma, ancestry, and what it means to be a daughter. The work is the evolution of a poetry chapbook put to stage.

The performance includes songs and narratives shared through the letters and second-hand accounts of my great-grandmother Tina Sachs, a jazz musician in the late 1930’s whose records were destroyed in a fire. Images, sounds, and portions of verbatim script come from archival materials on redlining, segregation, and infrastructure across Queens and Long Island, NY.

The performance premiered as a solo work-in-progress at Abrons Arts Center in New York, NY in July 2018 as part of the Hemispheric Instute for Performance & Politics’ EmergeNYC Fellowship.

Photo Credits: Steven T. Licardi

The next iteration included a collaborative team that brought new narratives and ways of thinking about gender, identity, power, trauma/healing, and history into the fold. We explored language as it manifests through the body. Language as dance: A dance of joy and of revolution, understanding language can also be dangerous—misconstrued—misrepresented—absent. Core collaborators included: Mariana Sofía Lima, Maybel Ovalles, Rachel Kara Pérez, and Salomé Egas, with Lighting Design by Antígona González.

Each evening featured a series of guest performances including: Natalie Cook, María José Maldonado, and Terri Muuss.

This version premiered at The Performance Project at University Settlement in New York, NY at the Fellowship FlowFest in February 2019 and the Kerouac International Festival at La Nacional in New York, NY April 2019.

Watch an excerpt here.