I was thinking about you all week… thinking about how in just a month and 11 days we have gotten acquainted to winter, and introduced to the year 2019. Although there is much debate about rather or not January should “rep” the 1st Month of a new year, or if we are better off being in tune with nature seeing that new birth, new life aka Spring has naturally always been the beginning of anew? Well that is a whole other matter, so on to the future.
On the subject of rebirth, I was thinking about the current state of Theatre. Actually performing arts in general, and how reachable we are to the masses. Wondering if there is a demand and how to measure that demand, so we can cater to it? How to engage the youth and maintain our audience especially as it relates to African’s on the continent and throughout the diaspora? I have been thinking about this for a long while, because without you there is no purpose to art. It would become merely a thing to talk about, rather than participate in. Without this outlet we would become souless un spirited people pods. Can I get an Ase?
In 2016 I believed something out of the ordinary in my local area needed to happen. There needed to be an attacment of my hometown of Cincinnati OH to a world, bigger than itself. To be connected to a culture larger cities like NYC USA, Kumasi Ghana, Cape Town South Africa, Kingston Jamaica, and Rio Brazil embrace. The particular art form I speak of is known as Street Theatre, where the concept of flash mobs, mannequin challenges, ect came from. I learned of this exciting world as a college student, attracted to a dance class deeply rooted in the traditions of my people, but something that unfortunately wasn’t passed down to me via family tradition. This world of African Dance was new to me and opened my mind. My mindset went from assuming that there was nothing outside of my City that I couldn’t find within it. A belief that there was no reason to venture off. To a open mind willing to explore, outside of my box.
Allow me to explain a little about my experience in dance; it started at home, I would watch the floor performances of gymnastics Olympians, ice skaters, tap dancers in films, and movies with character that broke into spontaneous song and dance, and of course music videos on my TV. Go ahead and admit it, back in the 80’s and 90’s we were introduced to the world via television. I believed with my heart of hearts that I could do what they did and better. At 5 y.o. I was given my chance to show what I could do, in an audition to attend the Cincinnati School of Creative and Performing Arts. I was rejected and believed it to be the ending of a professional life of dance *tears*. Dreams shattered, until my Mom signed me up for drill team. Which gave me the courage to participate in backyard dance parties and talent shows. A competitive side of dance seemed more soothing, it made it possible to go in head first and show that I was hungry & determined, to perfect my craft. I was active in church and elementary school choir, middle school cheerleading, H.S. Fine Arts Club and our many Black History performances, and College Theatre and Dance courses.
Throughout this journey I was still believed there were limits. While enrolling in Theatre courses I came across an elective class available for those who had at least 6 credit hours of dance, being that I was still intimidated to major in Dance. I did find my way to take classes offered that were not for advance dancers. Then there was African Dance class! Which quickly erased the idea of limitations, we were taught, from the begining to embrace the traditions of our culture and to be proud of what we have been able to create. Inspite of our history being being stolen, our ancestors forced into captivity, our traditions demonized by our oppressors. I was reunited to my roots, so it didn’t take long before I was on a plane to Ghana, dancing my way into a limitedless culture of open opportunity and ingenuity. My futured looked promising!
Now back to you, & how you (my fellow Beings) have been so heavy on my heart. A performer that acknowledges the cure to oppression, depression, negative esteem, pollution/waste, fear, hate, and loneliness knows that it begins with cultural understanding. One of the ways to connect folks to that cure is through the arts. In order to ensure that connection we have to give the masses a place to sort this all out, and regain their power. We refuse to subject our audience to mere entertainment. We will do our best not to disappoint our viewers when they realize that the behind the scenes work in our productions will never replace the power of the observer. W.A.R. Theatre has been inspired by the works of, Octavia Butler, Dr. Darryl Harris Theatre Dept professor @ Northern Kentucky University, The Theatre Development project out of Ghana West Afrika at the University of Cape Coast, Augusto Boal’s writings in Theatre of the Oppressed, the productions of Theatre for Living, and an impressive list of Afrofuturistic writers, filmmakers, and visual artists. There are so many ways to go about presenting a performance that engages the observer and turns them into an active part the production. We hope that our upcoming web-series “The Pride” will be an additional kickoff toward a revolutionary way of Inter-gal-Acting! We are determined to offer our participants a future, a platform to address issues to prevent us from continuing down a dangerous path of destruction. The images they see in our production will be a reflection of their future selves, a place void stagnation.
There is much to be done. I hope you (my readers) will realize the power you posses. You are the true captain of this voyage, and the Commander in Chief of this life mission, to a better future through art. I am thinking only of you, because without you our Art form has no heartbeat (Afrofuturistically Speaking)!