Melba LaRose, Artistic Director
Written and directed by Melba LaRose
A project about walls around the globe and throughout time - why we build them, how we've lived with them (or not), what we dream will happen when they fall, and what really happens.
ISAIAH'S DREAM - A Parade of Poets
This piece is inspired by a little boy who took part in our "Voices of Loisaida" workshop at Downeast Arts Center on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He came from an area where he feared every day for his life, living amidst gunfire and drug deals gone wrong. At the end of the workshop, he composed a stirring poem about Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he did for all Americans.
The play begins with Isaiah struggling with a homework assignment on poetry, complaining he doesn't know what relevance poetry could possibly have to his life. He is awakened by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who tells him about his life and struggles in India, then recites a poem. Tagore introduces: Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman, French poet Hilaire Belloc, American poets Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Nikki Giovanni, Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, Japanese poet Kaneko Mitsuharu, Indian poet Rumi, Argentinean poet Jorge Luis Borges, Chinese poet Wu Men, and others. Finally, Langston Hughes appears, who speaks directly to Isaiah's life experience. In the end, Isaiah finds his own voice and speaks the poem about Martin Luther King.
An in-depth discussion (unlimited length) follows the presentation, welcoming questions about: history of the project, literary research, cultural issues, background of creators/ performers, and more. Written by artistic director Melba LaRose, this project is interactive and educational. With an African-American/Latino boy in the lead, the multicultural cast – which consists of 4 actors and a stage manager – plays more than 20 poets from around the world. They teach Isaiah about the problems in every culture and how they survived through artistic expression. The actors wear basic black and add props and costumes to represent countries of origin. A sound designer adds culture-specific underscoring for the choreographic movement of the actors. Some poems are performed bilingually, adding to the rich, linguistic texture of the play.
"Black Gold - the Passion of Aleijadinho"
Conceived and directed by Melba LaRose
Choreographed by Francis J. Roach
"BLACK GOLD - the Passion of Aleijadinho," based on the life of Antonio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), Baroque sculptor of Brazil, premiered at Shooting Star Theatre in South Street Seaport. "BLACK GOLD" is the dramatic account of a man born a slave and freed at birth by his Portuguese father, a master builder of churches. Winning Brazil's Grand Prize at the age of 18, Lisboa became the Michelangelo of his country. His life parallels the gold rush in the colonial cities and the development of Brazil in arts, religion and politics, reaching for independence from the Portuguese and its own identity.
The story is brought to life with music & dance (European classical mixed with African & indigenous tribal), mask work, puppetry, poetry, and video projections. An ensemble of non-traditionally cast actor-dancers reawaken the multicultural fusion and evolution of music and dance in which you can see the roots of Brazil's samba. In mid-life, Lisboa developed a wasting disease that robbed him of the use of some of his limbs. Still, it was at this point with carving tools strapped to his hands that he created his greatest work: the life-size, soapstone 12 Prophets that line the atrium of a church in Congonhas and the Steps of the Passion in cedar, housed in white chapels leading up to the same Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos.
BLACK GOLD is on tour to under-served audiences in libraries, schools, senior centers, and the like throughout the boroughs, plus a tour of Northeastern universities. All performances are followed by in-depth discussions with the audience about this historical period and the experiences of this uniquely successful artist.