Tag Archives: brown university rites and reason theater

The 10th Annual Black Lavender Experience At Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre

11 May

The Pink Dress cast and crew
Travis Alabanza Black Lavender Experience

Travis Alabanza, The Black Lavender Experience

In April I went to two performances at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The shows were part of the theater’s 10th annual Black Lavender Experience, a series of plays, folkthoughts (post-performance talks), and workshops, led by nationally and internationally recognized artists of color from the LGBTQ community. The Department of Africana Studies’ Rites and Reason Theatre is a research and developmental theatre dedicated to giving expression to the diverse cultures and traditions of continental and diasporic Africans and the vast Africana experience. Artistic Director of Rites and Reason Theatre, Elmo Terry-Morgan created the Black Lavender Experience in the spring semester of 1998 in response to students’ request for plays with Black LGBTQ+ content.

The Pink Dress

The first play I attended, The Pink Dress, was written and originally performed by members of the drama club at  Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women’s (LCIW).   The Black Lavender production was performed by local actresses, who were either students currently involved with, or alumni of, Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The actresses were Anna Hunt, April Brown, Elyssa Perez, Sylvia Ann Soares, Weitong Zhang, and Uchechukwu Onwunaka. Rites and Reason Director-in-Residence, Connie Crawford, directed this production. The play’s title refers to a pink sheath that prison staff used as punishment for women prisoners who presented themselves in a “too masculine way” by altering their state issued uniform: an oversize T-shirt, baggy jeans, and sneakers. The thought was that to wear the sheer, shapeless dress through which your undergarments could be seen,would shame and humiliate the women.

The play, a series of vignettes, celebrated the features and parts of  a woman’s body through word and movement, and was originally directed and choreographed by Ausettua Amor Amankum and Kathy Randels, co-directors of the Drama Club at the LCIW. Odes to their hips, hands, and feet, were akin to a poetic dance celebrating both womanhood and sisterhood. The play’s latter act took place in a dress shop named, “Pinky’s Boutique,” and highlighted the self-doubt a gender non-conforming ex-prisoner faced when looking for work at the shop post prison-release. Actresses posing as mannequins wearing paper doll cut-out tabbed pink dresses, came alive to first, mock, and then empathize with the woman. Is was as if they too, seemed constricted by their roles as mannequins being told what to wear, and how to perform their roles. After facing discrimination for her manner of dress from a co-worker, the woman finds acceptance with the shop’s owner, who focuses on the woman’s strengths instead of her attire preferences and prison record. With the recognition of her humanity, we see the woman’s belief in self begin to grow.

We learned during the folkthought talk, that the vignettes were inspired by […]

Seeing The Unseen: Reflecting On The New Works At The Wilbury Theatre Play, Invisible Upsouth by Christopher Johnson in collaboration with Vatic Kuumba

9 Mar

invisible upsouth montage

Invisible UpSouth, Wilbury Theatre GroupThis past Saturday I attended a full day of cultural events around the city, all related in some way to race and social justice on both a national, and local to Providence, level. I started out visiting the […]

Get Your Culture On! Must-See’s And Do’s This Weekend In Providence!

3 Mar

white-bg-hand-poster-01.preview

I think it’s always good to go beyond the cultural spaces you continually find yourself in.  Cross over to another part of town.  Explore a new artist’s work. That’s how I expand on my experience of the world, how my life becomes more full, more rich.

So much going on here in Providence this weekend culturally, and white folks, if you keep thinking you need to get out beyond the white bubble you’re living in, here are some opportunities to enter new spaces, explore new artists’ work, and ponder current matters of art, race and racism.

Invisible Upsouth, Thursday, March 3 – Sunday, March 6, 2016, with Christopher Johnson and Vatic Kuumba, Wilbury Theatre, 393 Broad Street, Providence (Tickets: $10 – $15)

Wilbury Theater Group

Invisible Upsouth, The Wilbury Theater Group

I was excited when local, yet nationally-acclaimed poet and arts educator, Christopher Johnson, told me he was selected to write, direct and act in his first play. You wont’ want to miss (I’m going this weekend)  Christopher’s play, Invisible UpSouth a New Works Program play commissioned by  The Wilbury Theatre Group

Christopher wrote and produced the play along with poet, Vatic Kuumba.  The play, inspired by the important classic, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, is described as..“part reflection, part conversation, and part examination on living in [what we’re told is] a post-racial society. But what does “post-racial” mean to the people who suffer under conditions of “everyday” racism? What does modern-day poverty look like in our community? Who holds the power in the power structure? What is considered a riot? How is an act, a verb, a word, changed depending the culture associated with it – with the race engaging in it?  […]