An entheogen is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context, and ayahuasca, which is a psychoactive brew made from the leaves of two different rainforest plants, is considered to be among the most powerful of all known entheogens. In her upcoming theater performance at Center Stage on Friday and Saturday, December 28 and 29, Josie Hyde will use story, song, rhyming poetry, and animation to conjure her spiritual journey with the guided, ritual use of ayahuasca. The show is called Wind in a Mirror, and it has already been performed successfully to capacity audiences at San Francisco’s Marsh theater. The video portion of the program is by Rani DeMuth, a LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) award-winning filmmaker, and the music is by the great Santa Barbara percussionist and composer Tom Lackner.
Waiting to meet Josie Hyde at a downtown coffee shop, I couldn’t help but wonder how she would answer all the questions raised by such a daring and potentially revealing subject. Autobiographical one-person shows are automatically demanding emotionally. How could anyone handle adding altered consciousness to that already vulnerable position? What I found when I met Hyde was that she had answers to my questions, and they weren’t always what I expected.
Hyde’s show speaks outright about the profound insights and realizations she experienced through ayahuasca, but she made clear that the journey isn’t for everyone. “That’s not part of my expectation of what my audience will do after they see it,” Hyde explained. “Let me put it this way: Had I not known anything about ayahuasca and I came to this show, I would leave determined to do it.”
As for what people should know about the ayahuasca experience, Hyde zeros in on what she found most important: “One of ayahuasca’s sacred names means ‘vine of death,’ and that’s because it shows you death. In that sense, even though it is a psychedelic, it’s not exactly a party animal. People who share in the process say that God is not dead, God is death, so in many ways that encounter is a good thing. It’s like an ultimate reckoning with the truth.”
Josie Hyde presents Wind in a Mirror … Ayahuasca Visions at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo) on Friday, December 28, and Saturday, December 29, at 8 p.m. Call (805) 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org for tickets and info.