The Black femme theatre artists collaboration Afrofemononomy will offer a number of in-person presentations this May across New York City through its Work the Roots project. Among the works are the previously announced exploration of Kathleen Collins’ Begin The Beguine and The Essentialisn’t by Eisa Davis.
Starting earlier this year, the group—which includes Davis, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Charlotte Brathwaite, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Ayesha Jordan, Joie Lee, April Matthis, Jennifer Harrison Newman, Okwui Okpokwasili, Stacey Karen Robinson, and Kaneza Schaal—has been meeting to explore the late Collins’ 1984 quartet of unproduced one-acts and Davis’ music-theatre project. Both works are questions of societal strains on Black women’s physical and mental health as well as concomitant expectations of performance—questions the group engages through their own model of care and liberation.
The one-acts begin May 15 with The Reading at Performance Space New York in a piece by Blain-Cruz, Newman, Amelia Workman, Kara Young, and Gabby Beans. That same day, on a Central Park bench in Harlem, Matthis and Robinson will perform Begin the Beguine, an offering created with Brathwaite. A synchronized world premiere drive-in production will be presented by Oakland Theater Project on the West Coast.
On May 16, Remembrance will be performed in an arcade adjacent to the Stone Street Historic District as part of the Downtown Live arts festival. The piece stars Davis and Schaal, with Drury as the project’s directorial consultant. Finally, Lee, Schaal, and Drury will present The Healing in a park in Bedford-Stuyvesant at a later date to be announced.
All New York performances are free, with donations collected for the Black Women’s Health Imperative. In California, the Oakland Theater Project will present the entire series of one-acts together as a drive-in production, co-directed by Dawn L. Troupe and Michael Socrates Moran, May 15–July 3. For more information, follow @Afrofemononomy on Instagram.
Davis’ The Essentialisn’t will premiere May 29 with the installation “Gold Taste” at Performance Space New York’s Keith Haring Theater. The work conjures Nella Larsen, Jessie Redmon Fauset, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Carl Van Vechten as figures in an imagined sung-and-spoken meeting that circles around variations of the question, “Can you be Black and not perform?”
In addition to the performances, Afrofemononomy will connect with online audiences via audio streams highlighting their process, ideas, and output. The website, as well as the indoor and outdoor installations, will also feature short film works by overseas collaborators in Norway and Senegal.
For more information about the Work the Roots project, click here.