Category Archives: Plays/Drama

M.G. Recap: The Bag Lady Manifesta


Based on Taja Lindley’s solo healing performance ritual that debuted at La Mama’s SQUIRTS in 2015, “This Ain’t A Eulogy” is drawing parallels between discarded materials and the violent treatment of Black people in the United States. People in the African Diaspora have a long history of repurposing, remixing, and transforming oppressive systems into valuable cultural practices. In this post-Ferguson moment, Lindley is calling on this legacy to imagine how we can recycle the energy of protest, rage, and grief into creating a world where, indeed, Black Lives Matter. “This Ain’t A Eulogy” is the origin story of The Bag Lady, and serves as a preamble to Lindley’s one woman show “The Bag Lady Manifesta” which debuted at Dixon Place on September 9th.

Below is my review of The Bag Lady Manifesta:

 

dream where every black person is standing by the ocean

& we say to her

what have you done with our kin you swallowed?

& she says

that was ages ago, you’ve drunk them by now

& we don’t understand

& then one woman, skin dark as all of us

walks to the water’s lip, shouts Emmett, spits

&, surely, a boy begins

crawling his way to the shore

by Danez Smith

from Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Last week, I read this poem from Danez Smith and I was reminded of it again when watching Taja Lindley debut her The Bag Lady Manifesta on the night of September 9th at Dixon Place.

One question I left with was: what is our responsibility to remember, especially remembering a past still struggling to speak? Is remembering like being Lot’s wife who had the audacity to look back when the world was ending and in ruins? And like salt can be healing, Lindley’s Bag Lady Manifesta was a ritual performance in search of healing — healing that involved giving reverence to people, pasts and even parts of ourselves that we can so easily throw away. Because as Lindley had put up on one of the walls — “letting go is a lie,” we always carry them with us.

Continue reading M.G. Recap: The Bag Lady Manifesta

Advertisements

“Space:Queens”: Timeless at The Black Spectrum Theatre


12243144_10153701781658695_4582097461109313103_nLast Friday, I was privileged with a ticket to attend Black Spectrum Theatre’s play Timeless: The Mystery of Dark Water, written by the theater’s founder, Carl Clay. This was my first time seeing a play at the theater in recent memory and if I had to sum up the play with four M’s, it would be Mind Research, Memories, Mystery and Murder!

For those who are not aware of it and its history, The Black Spectrum Theatre was founded in 1970 in Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, Queens, and its mission has been to bring African-American cultural expression and the American contemporary theater and film to the local community.

Clay’s Timeless follows a New York insurance employee, Kyle, who is under interrogation by police after his girlfriend, Mya, a psychotherapist, is found murdered. What comes after is a story that explores memory, past lives, reincarnation, and connections between people across time and space.

Inspired by his own life experiences in April 1994 and works like that of psychotherapist Brian L. Weiss, who does hypnosis and past life regression, Clay manages to explore this psycho-spiritual concept without any heavy-handedness and turning audiences off from engaging with it. Using the plot of a romance/murder mystery with a bit of humor, the play was down-to-earth and captivating with enough suspense and clever manipulation of lighting, film screen and sound effects to pull us in as audience into its web.

The character Kyle (played by the charming actor with a commanding presence Reginald L. Barnes) meets “by chance” Mya (played by Claudia Rodriguez, who provides an strong foil for Kyle, especially towards the end in the more emotional scenes) at the bar Josie’s. Through meeting Mya and undergoing her hypnosis/dream therapy sessions, Kyle discovers knowledge about himself beyond the daily life he lives currently. Those in his life from Mya to his best friend Mel to the detectives in the investigation to even the bartenders at the bar are all connected to his life in the present and in his distant pasts.

Over the course of the play, we see Kyle gathering fragments from previous lives, including being a soldier on a war submarine, a farmer who leaves his marriage to find aIMG_0422 new life in the city and other lives further back in time. Mya and him are brought closer as they find out that they have met before in another life and clues and events in their lives have crossed time and space. One in particular is an ex-husband who wants revenge for the cheating wife who leaves him, even if its means getting it in the next life. With a criminal mystery crossing through time, the detective work is much more complex and left us all guessing who the vengeful murderer was until the last moment because with reincarnation that person could be anyone.

The twist and turns of this murder mystery resembles well the twist and turns of the
mystery of life and past lives. The unresolved nature of the story and the unresolved, unending nature of life and the soul allows the story to possibly continue into the future (and I wouldn’t mind a sequel). It gives the play a Borges-like feel to it, much like in his short story collection Labyrinths, which includes stories, like “Death and the Compass;” both have themes of a deeper search for meaning in life, the metaphysical interconnection of all things and spaces through all time, and murder and detective work.

In Timeless, death becomes a revealer of life’s lessons and truth and that in this universe all live and stories are interwoven across time and space in a mystical round, a perpetual motion of creation. Like spiritual detectives, we are forced to lift the veil of separation between us and between the past, present and future to go deeper to new dimensions. It is as Mya says, a future exploration by journeying through the inner space to a higher consciousness.

Go see Timeless, showing for the next two weekends: Friday-Saturday 8pm and Sunday 4pm!

And here’s a treat from the small museum inside the theater – a poster from an earlier Carl Clay play!

IMG_0426

 

Modern Griots Interviews: Aisha Cousins and Brer Rabbit The Opera


Brer Rabbit: The Opera poster

On Thursday and Friday, Brooklyn-based artist Aisha Cousins will present her work-in-progress, Brer Rabbit The Opera: A Funky Meditation On Gentrification, at BRIC House Ballroom as part of their Fireworks residency program. Directed by Letitia Guillory, and in collaboration with Greg Tate and Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, the production follows “…a black middle aged cool marketer, at the tipping point in his battle to claim the American dream, mov[ing] into a notoriously dangerous black neighborhood that just happens to be at the tipping point in its battle with gentrification.” Confronting the modern issue of gentrification through the lens of legendary black folk hero, Brer Rabbit, and his home in the Briar Patch, Cousins’ production explores “tricksterism, techno-anismism, and urban survival techniques” through “music, performance art and community engagement.” Below is my interview with her about her upcoming opera:

1) Can you tell the readers about her background and how it contributed to the development of Brer Rabbit: The Opera?

I write performance art scores (do-it-yourself instructions for live art projects) that engage black folks from different cultures and backgrounds in exploring their overlapping experiences. So one of my favorite projects for the past few years has been this fictitious holiday I developed called “Brer Rabbit Day” where individual black folks make up their own holiday based on their family history with or personal connection to Brer Rabbit stories. When my collaborator Greg Tate and I were trying to figure out what to propose for BRIC’s Fireworks Residency, he really resonated with that project and said we should do an opera about it.

Continue reading Modern Griots Interviews: Aisha Cousins and Brer Rabbit The Opera

Modern Griots Reviews: Mahogany Browne and the Mythic Poetics of Redbone


redbone biomythography“Children born in this desert are always thirsty.”

This is a line from poet Mahogany L. Browne’s Poetic Theater Productions and The Wild Project presented production, Redbone: A Biomythography. The Eboni Hogan-directed, hour-long show descends into the depths of the relationship between Browne’s parents for Browne to better understand them and herself, and to highlight the issues of their relationship that still exist today. Named after her mother’s nickname because of the light color of her skin, the production deals with issues of gender, class, domestic abuse, colorism, addiction and prison system.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Mahogany Browne and the Mythic Poetics of Redbone

Obeah Playlist


To end my Caribbean focus for the past few weeks and to show support for the re-premiere of the Canada show Obeah Opera (hopefully one day it will go international), here is an Obeah playlist. Enjoy!

Exuma – “Obeah Man”

Nina Simone – “Obeah Woman”

“Scratch” Lee Perry – “Obeah Room”

Mighty Shadow – “Obeah” and “Obeah Man”

Mighty Sparrow – “Obeah Wedding” and “Obeah Man”

Mad Professor – “The Coming of the Obeah Man”

Dillinger – “Obeah Bath”

Charlie Chaplin (reggae singer) – “Obeah Business”

Obeah Opera videos with Nicole Brooks

Modern Griots Reviews: Futurology the Musical


“What these women become is what we will be,” Captain Larnyce Gaines gives the purpose of not only the three travelers from the future, but the underlying message of Futurology the Musical. The women finding power in themselves theme throughout this musical is its driving force and compelling feature.

The Paper to Pen production, which is Charles Weldon-directed, is the creative child of Anthony J. Dixon and Sandra J. Barnes, the writers of the story, music and lyrics. Dixon’s motivation was to “chronicle a young woman’s journey and challenges faced while maneuvering through life with modern media influences,” and began the process by working with Barnes and spoke to women of all ages about their perspectives.

Futurology follows three female intergalactic travelers from the year 2413, Captain Gaines (Gabrielle Lee), Lieutenant Mirvan (Tracie Franklin), and the android Mokia #1 (Vasthy Mompoint). On a journey in their spaceship, “The Saturn Majestic,” they are pulled towards the cries of a woman from the past in 2013, Darima Spencer, who will be an important messiah-like figure in history, but at the moment is feeling lost since her mother died and her father is absent, and seems to be more interested in becoming a star than giving her speech at a community rally with her boyfriend, Gregory (Rodrick Covington).

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Futurology the Musical

Otherworldly Videos: Root Shock


What is the opposite of future shock? Is it root shock? This is the latest performance from artist and dancer Ni’ Ja Whitson. Whitson puts contemporary and postmodern dance and art performance within an African diasporic context. Her work, Root Shock, re-imagines Yoruba diasporic and Orisa storytelling traditions, and explores the relationship between trauma and the ancestral and spiritual world.  Watch an interview with her here.