With issues like gentrification and displacement of marginalized communities as well as the redevelopment of the Jamaica/Southeast Queens area, those of us who are from the area have a lot to think and worry about. What does the future of the neighborhood look like for us? Local design student, Sada Spence, who lived in Southeast Queens, decided to start a project series, called DARK, where local community members could discuss the future of the African diaspora.
Last 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 a 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!
Welcome back to the next installation of my Space: Queens segment!
Last Saturday, I attended the 2nd annual Afrofuturism conference at The New School and in the panel I attended, Conjuring Black Futures, moderator, Jamal Lewis mentioned that conjuring is associated with possibility, the “otherwise.”
I had the pleasure to interview Shanté Paradigm Smalls, a local professor at Queens’ own St. John’s University, and how she is manifesting the “otherwise” in her own work involving sci-fi, fantasy, comics, hip-hop, and queer studies.
Hey everybody! Welcome to the first installment of my Space:Queens segment, where I explore afrofuturistic art, culture and influencers in my home borough of Queens, NY!
First up is Yvonne Shortt, who is the creative director of RPGA Studio, Inc., and is the curator for Queens Art Initiative, where she works on several community-based art and technology projects in the borough. Enjoy!
1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and and what inspired your love of technology and math.
I’m an an artist, mathematician, African American female, technologist, and mother. My inspiration came from my uncle who started a company to help the deaf communicate with others and my mom who bought me my first computer, a Commodore 64. Also my aunt, her belief that hard work makes all possible shaped me.
2) How do you see Queens as a place of possibility and speculative/futuristic exploration?
We have so many people from so many countries and this diversity is an amazing power to draw from. It reminds me to use diversity in my work in my exploration – diversity including art, design, technology, education… This is what makes my work important and relevant I think.
Like Dorothy, I took my home for granted…
Welcome to Women’s History Month! We just left Black History/Future Month and a thought came to me to do a link between the two with a new segment called “Space:Queens.” In this new blog segment, I will be doing writeups and interviews focused on afrofuturism within my own home borough of Queens!
Growing up in Queens, it always felt as if the borough was treated as outer space. It’s reputation as a kind of wasteland was popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald calling it “The Valley of the Ashes” in The Great Gatsby, which Robert Moses later turned into Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Flushing Meadows Corona Park was home to the 1964 World’s Fair, whose focus was to showcase the latest and possible innovations of the day. Yet, most of the attention of the city has been focused on Manhattan and Brooklyn. I know many people who have said they didn’t like to venture out to the borough. I even wanted to move to Brooklyn once because I thought it was a central mecca for Black and Caribbean cultures.
But recently I have been exploring more and more of my borough and all the wonderful
surprises hidden in it. There is so much unexplored within Queens, which is why I decided to set my fantasy book (“The E”) in the borough.
Because of Queens’ treatment as an outer space region of the city, the history of the World’s Fair and technological innovation, the technological transformation of the Valley of the Ashes into Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and The Unisphere and NYS Pavilion having this retro-futuristic appearance, I am not shocked that the later two have been used in science fiction and fantasy film, including Men In Black, The Wiz (“Munchkinland”) and Tony Stark’s Stark Expo.
Starting this month, I will post features about Queens-related visionaries who are helping to change the borough, the city and the world and visionary stories about Queens! First up are Yvonne Shortt and Shante Paradigm Smalls!