Shallow Brown: Thessalonia and the Free Sailor
A Staged Reading
October 26, 2018
6 – 8 pm
Langston Hughes House
20 E. 127th Street
Take 2/3 to 125th St./Malcolm X Blvd. or 4,5,6 to 125th St./Lexington
Langston Hughes House
20 E. 127th Street
Take 2/3 to 125th St./Malcolm X Blvd. or 4,5,6 to 125th St./Lexington
125-153 2nd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
G to Carroll St. (three avenues walk)
R to Union Street (two avenues & three blocks walk)
2,3,4,5,B,D,Q,R to Atlantic Terminal/Barclay’s Center (three avenues & 13 blocks walk)
Come early! This event is part of the Gowanus Oktoberfest
2 – 6pm
Free local food samples
Quality beer and food available for purchase
– Vienna Carroll & The Folk
– Irving Louis Lattin Trio
– Beareather & Brown Liquor Sounds
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn, NY (map)
6-7 pm– Odysseus Bailer & Erin Beebee Blues Dance Demo & Lesson
7 pm– Vienna & The Folk, don’t be late!
Spirituals, work songs, and blues
$25 in advance ($30 door)
Read more & Buy tickets
Come join us on Saturday, June 2, 2018 – 7pm
at the Jersey City Theater Center’s Merseles Studio
339 Newark Avenue, Jersey City NJ
7 pm-midnight (Vienna & Keith perform first)
The last Hokum! sold out, so buy advance tickets to be sure of entry.
Come on out, Git Down, Have Fun!!
In SHALLOW BROWN, Thessalonia falls hard for a free sailor, one of the many who smuggles pages of the radical Black self-defense manifesto, “David Walker’s Appeal”, from Boston up and down the eastern seaboard in 1829. She helps her serious father circulate the prohibited document. Two short years later, her suspicions about her dad are confirmed. He turns out to be a respected organizer in the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831.
Prior to the Civil War, when the primary channel of transport was via the water, one in five boatmen and sailors in the US were Black. Largely independent, both enslaved and free, and often with crews of their own, these Black men moved goods through Northern and Southern US ports and along international waterways.
Their skill and particular knowledge afforded them respect and stature otherwise unknown on land. An under-appreciated axis of resistance, they brought back stories to their communities of how other colored people lived, they smuggled freedom documents and they helped runaways escape.
As was common in that era, they created sea chanteys songs to help them in their daily chores, to lighten their hearts and to document their experiences.
Friday, May 25, 2018: 9 pm
Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
Theater for the New City, NYC
155 First Avenue (bet. 9th & 10th Sts)
New York, NY 10003
Sat., June 9, 2018: 11 – 11:45 am
(entire day begins at 8:30 am)
Excerpt AND Research Findings
Symposium, 39th Annual Sea Music Festival
Mystic Seaport, CT
More performances to come!
We’re so happy to be appearing at the Postcrypt Coffee House which has been “Folking Around Since 1964.” See you there! Saturday Feb 24, 10:30 pm. Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University 2920 Broadway 10027
An evening of cultural performances including Vienna Carroll and Keith Johnston, Collective Flow, Ngoma, Obediah Wright’s Balance Dance Theater and others. Poetry ~ Dance ~ Hip Hop ~ Song ~ Music ~ Fashion Show ~ Art for Sale
Book party for Look for Me in the Whirlwind. Book editors Matt Meyer & déqui kioni-sadiki speaking, as well as a contributor and longtime u.s. held political prisoner (and Black Panther Party leader) Sekou Odinga and Jamal Joseph among others.
Suggested donation $10 (no one turned away for lack of $)
Donations benefit the Northeast Political Prisoners Campaign
Food and stellar coffee/tea/soft drinks available for purchase from The Commons Cafe.
388 Atlantic Avenue (bet. Hoyt & Bond Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
2,3,4,5 to Nevins Street (closest); also close to D,N,R to Atlantic Ave/Barclay Center and A,C,G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn
Get custom directions
For more info contact:
LIVE STREAM EVENT AT: http://thecommonsbrooklyn.org/videos/livestream
Boston Center for the Arts,
527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116
See driving directions, public transportation and list of local parking garages.
Conceived and Written by James Scruggs. Directed by Mark Rayment.
James Scruggs’ 3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show turns minstrelsy inside out and upside down in a blend of song, dance, video and storytelling, at turns hilarious and terrifying, and sometimes both at the same time. A brand-new piece inspired by Scruggs’ original 3/Fifths, which enjoyed a critically acclaimed NYC premiere in May 2017, this lean, mean theatrical machine features three high-voltage actors slyly performing this country’s racist history and ongoing need for dialogue and change. This show is dangerously fun!
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REVIEW BY BILL MARX, THE ARTS FUSE
For those wondering if the controversy revolving around race and American history has some significant kick in liberal Massachusetts (no Confederate statures here, at least that I know of), here’s a current event. This past Halloween, a Wheaton College student attended a party in blackface: she was dressed as a black character from the movie White Chicks and won second place in a costume contest. Apparently, there was an attempted student cover-up of the event when word got out. The women’s soccer team was barred from competing in the NEWMAC tournament game, effectively ending its season; a group of African-American students are calling for the woman to be punished, as well as others at the party. Cue the usual tired gaggle of arguments charging it’s all political correctness run amuck, some raising the flag of left-wing rectitude, and others insisting that everyone on both sides just needs to relax, why can’t we all get along, etc.
I had a heated exchange over the Wheaton story myself. Standing in line to see Sleeping Weazel’s lively, gutsy production of 3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show, an older woman turned to me and informed me, with obvious irritation, of the Wheaton incident. She went on to say that the soccer team shouldn’t have been barred from playing its game. As part of her defense, she told me she didn’t think that the Confederate statues should be taken down. “It’s history,” the woman intoned, emphatically, over and over again. I wasn’t sure if she was sincere or not. She seemed earnest, but might she have been joking? She wouldn’t (or couldn’t) answer a question that I asked a few times — just whose history was she referring to?
Thus the need for the angry/ ugly history lesson served up in James Scruggs’ collection of didactic skits and songs for three performers in blackface (via a stripped-down Boston version of the script’s recent New York production). The cast members — Michael Bryan, Vienna Carroll, and Wesley T. Jones — exude a satisfying mix of the casual and the caustic, sometimes bumbling, sometimes ballistic. They treat their horrifying roles, including some ingenious gender-bending, with an alarming sincerity, to the point that they can rile up a crowd.
The play’s subtitle sums up Scruggs’ political intent: “America’s original sin continues, in word, song, and dance.” The mischievous goal is to send-up, with appropriately savage glee, a (still) popular tradition of racist dehumanization: grainy footage of minstrel shows, mixed in with snippets of performances from contemporary black performers, are projected against the back wall of the performance area. A good chunk of the evening features lampooned versions of minstrel entertainment, with fractured forays into haplessly mangled English, a ‘Yo Mama is So Fat’ contest, and ironically genial song and dance numbers, including one that details subservience in the coal mines. This genre of sadistic comedy, fueled by the sick laughter of scapegoating, will be familiar to those who took in The Scottsboro Boys at Speakeasy Stage Company, though Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show thankfully lacks the reassuring filter of that musical. This show does not offer the respite of nostalgia: ”The past is never dead. It’s not even past,”” observed William Faulkner. Scruggs is interested in the monstrous (and murderous) ways in which the past manages to stay alive.
It is that concern with contemporary crimes that adds volatility to the evening. Around mid-way through, Trapped takes a deadly serious turn. Revealing the twist would involve giving away a crucial spoiler; suffice it to say that an effective attempt is made to challenge audiences (particularly whites) to grapple with their complicity in accepting the status quo, particularly the death of young black men at the hands of the police. The most powerful skit is the confrontation between performers mouthing the recorded words of President Donald J. Trump and writer James Baldwin: it is the hideously inert versus the hyper-articulate. Two sides of the American psyche — or is that history? — go ping-ponging back and forth, the blunt and privileged bully versus his passionately diagnostic victim. Baldwin analyzed just how powerfully racism has deformed white America, morally and spiritually. Scruggs’ vision of hermetically sealed worlds talking past each other leaves you feeling helpless rather than empowered. And, given all the trite excursions into empowerment, we are being served these days, that is a good thing.
“All art,” Baldwin wrote, “is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story, to vomit the anguish up.” There is nothing in the least oblique about the point-scoring in 3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show. But the anguish there and, at a time most of our theaters are increasingly indifferent to everything but the vicissitudes of marketing, it is mighty refreshing to see.
Friday, April 7, 2017,
Triskelion Arts at Muriel Schulman Theater,
106 Calyer Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11222,
G to Nassau Ave (walk 3 blks north to Calyer & 3 blks west to #106) • map
The “What For? Why Not?” series combines two artists from different disciplines juxtaposing dance, music, spoken word, and visual art.
Patti Bradshaw (dance) / Vienna Carroll & Keith Johnston (music)
Act 1: Choreographer and puppeteer Patti Bradshaw shares the evening with singing storyteller duo, Vienna Carroll and Keith Johnston. Bradshaw’s Flowers in Space uses dance, puppetry, and slide projections in a solo for dancer Valerie Striar inspired by the turn of the twentieth-century painter, poet, set designer, and subtle social commentator Florine Stettheimer, (1871-1944).
Act 2: In Folk First: Black Roots Music, Carroll as griot and Johnston as guitarist celebrate the spirituals, work songs, prison blues, and sea shanties of antebellum African Americans, and their links to contemporary artists like Biggie Smalls and Pharrell Williams.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
1:30pm: Guthrie Bros. Simon & Garfunkle Tribute
2:30pm: The Joni Project by Katie Pearlman
3:30pm: Vienna Carroll & Keith Johnston with Folk First/Black Roots
FREE and Family Friendly. This is also a food drive, please bring a can or box of non-perishable food!