3 Frames / By Me is curated from the full play By Me You’ll Never Know.
An intentionality that allowed process for this work, across pandemic hiatus, in exploring content that would offer challenges even in the best of circumstances.
It is about the journey of the main character, KEN, an African American playwright, who experiences an unexpected ‘untethering’, developing a quest across generational debris in a landscape of ‘bias and the undiscussed’. This quest takes place in ‘real time’ when the world was grappling and learning how to navigate its own ‘untethering’ — craters, made of systemic disconnect, racism, pandemic, incitement, colorism, and in terrors of ‘otherness’.
If that resonance, already part of the architecture of By Me You’ll Never Know, and the curated 3 Frames / By Me weren’t enough, the publishing of Isabel Wilkerson's book, Caste, in August 2020, sealed my certainty of zeitgeist in speaking to the deeper diversities and schisms in articulating the hierarchy of color.
All of this being confluence for discussion, change, and activism.
The writing of this work emerged in ongoing, personal exploration of my family. The coalition gathering, journeying in standing the work up in public, however, as offering for discourse, has been artistic evolution for me. It’s been an opportunity with a network of Creatives, across art forms, riffing in a variety of styles, visual textures, as collaborations in the design for performance.
With a second workshop about to occur, being hosted by The Phillips Collection, here in DC, it is further evidence of arts entities determining to engage in deeper cultural discourse and reflections. These efforts encourage dialogue with wider audiences and community, through unique synergies for contemporary collaborations.
In this workshop, animation artist Adam Easterling, with permission from The Phillips Collection, has created works “inspired by” specific panels of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Adam’s work fits as moving resonance across a bridge of dialogue between two generational characters, KENNETH SR, and his mother ANNIE. The conversation is of mother and son’s journey out of the south, and the challenges they faced, in the land of northern blacks.
It remains KEN JR’s central journey to find the way to knit the tapestry of truths his family has occluded and articulate the cost of legacy in the choices they’ve made in favor of ‘getting on’, ‘getting ahead’, and ‘staying in front’.
Jasmine Mitchell directs this powerful exploration with vision and grounding, out of the text. This is the incredible cast assembled for this workshop and performance (of Frames 1 & 3):
Cast of Characters:
Tendo Nsubuga as KEN JR.
Jeri Marshall as GREER/JERRI/ANNIE
Luke Smith as ALLAN
Natalie Graves-Tucker as REA
Keith Irby as KENNETH SR.
Our Production team:
Jasmine Mitchell / Director
Adam Easterling / Animation Graphic Artist
Corey Emerson & Lauren Emerson / Stage Managers
Gail Prensky / Executive Producer
Mark Haney / Project Manager
For my own part, as playwright, I recognized at the outset how important it would be to discuss By Me’s reflections and observation. These are the nuggets of fodder stockpiled out of years of concern that I didn’t have the right words, or the right entry point, or the right to speak into circumstances of personal experience that touch on family dynamics, and choices of evolution in the undiscussed.
Through the support of this team of artists, coalition of entities, and audience members as yourselves, this work engages, travels, deepens the fodder for so many to consider, as we aim this work in progress onto platform as full performance.
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