Tag Archives: byp100

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 […]

AS220 Panel: FutureWorlds: Call To Action

7 Nov

as220-call-to-action-panel

AS220 Panel: Future Worlds: Call To Action

AS220 Panel: Call To Action: Marco McWilliams, Anjel Newman, Je-Shawna Wholley, Shey Rivera

AS220 Call To Action Panel. L to R: Marco McWilliams, Anjel Newman, Je-Shawna Wholley, Shey Rivera

On Thursday, September 8th, 2016, I attended the panel talk, Future Worlds: Call To Action, which was hosted by the non-profit art organization, AS220, at 115 Empire Street in Providence, Rhode Island.

The thriving, multi-facility, and internationally recognized arts organization held the panel in one of its earlier spaces–the intimate gallery/performance area adjacent to the organization’s restaurant. Shey Rivera, AS220’s Artistic Director, who served as moderator of the panel, welcomed the audience and shared the mission of AS220 as an artist-run organization committed to providing an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts. AS220 also offers artists opportunities to live, work, exhibit and perform, and envisions a just world where all people can realize their full creative potential, and see the role of the arts as a catalyst for social change.

FutureWorlds: Call To Action panel discussion, was one of a series of events , along with […]