Finding your role in the revolution – UW Immolation and the cost of freedom


What comes to your mind when you think of revolution? Large writhing masses of people rallying together against their oppressive tyrants? Do you think of shouts and screams and demands of freedom echoing through chaotic streets, burning with passion and haphazardly thrown gasoline? Do you imagine buildings, authority, and societal order being razed to the ground so that something new may grow in its place? This question lies at the heart of the UW play Immolation and it is what its director, Pam Patel, hopes to answer through her provocative exploration of societal upheaval and the human spirit’s unyielding quest for liberation and justice.

Immolation, which started production in early January, can be called unique in more ways than one. The casting process, which generally consists of UW students auditioning for predetermined roles, was completely overhauled as Patel chose cast members based on how well they performed improv instead. In fact, no story had been drafted at all at that point in time. Even after the actors were finalized, Patel elected not to write a script in the usual sense and took material and story beats from improv sessions for her initial drafting. From these, she was able to mold a coherent narrative that would ultimately become the play’s four movements. 

“For the first month, [everyone] would just walk in the theater and go from there,” said June Sung, one of the actors. “A lot of the core themes and a lot of our movements were created from kind of nothing, and we layered text on top of that.”  

Immolation’s first movement focuses on the aftermath of a revolution, examining the implications of a power vacuum and the type of people that seek to take advantage of it. It focuses on characters played by Jaime Borromeo and Maddie Cranston. The second movement focuses more prominently on Cranston, developing a more intimate look into how oppressive societies affect a family unit. The third movement, starring characters played by June and Quinn Andres, then dives into the lives of two transgender activists aiming to make safe spaces for queer people. The fourth movement then climaxes with the revolution, focusing on characters played by Nika (Nikki) Ghorbani and Iman Yousefi.

While the play also focuses heavily on how one can reclaim their identity, its numerous coexisting perspectives within one overarching story allows Patel to showcase the idiosyncrasies and vast differences between how this could be realized from person to person. Her known fondness for “striking images on stage” will undoubtedly further help to immerse the audience in the multifaceted journey of self-discovery and freedom-fighting, making this performance one that really cannot be missed.

Immolation is being performed from March 20-23, starting at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m., so that the audience can participate in an interactive engagement area with installations mirroring the thematic focal points of the play. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for UW students, and $5 for high school students. They can be bought online here.