The Capital BlueCross Theatre’s formal collaboration with Sharia Benn of Sankofa African American Theatre Company and Maria James-Thiaw of Reclaim Artist Collective.
WHY THE COLLABORATION?
As creatives and makers of theatre, we believe it is not only important, but necessary to come together and explore the vast potential of our combined talents. Through entertaining and provocative theatre, we hope to provide a space that encourages our audiences to engage in open dialogue leading to greater unity. According to Maria James-Thiaw, poet, “I am pleased that Reclaim Artist Collective can work with Sankofa African American Theatre Company on this. Their goal of giving learning opportunities to actors, directors and future theater professionals of color lines up with Reclaim Artist Collective’s goal of empowering marginalized communities through the arts. Sankofa has done great work on productions like For Colored Girls, Akeelah and the Bee, Voices of F.E.W. and other projects, and Sharia is incredibly talented. This is an amazing opportunity. In addition, I’m thankful that the Capital BlueCross Theatre is here to offer students new experiences through the arts in an affordable and convenient location. Many of our first generation college students didn’t come from families that could afford Broadway or other live theater experiences. Having the theater here creates awareness about the college in the community and let’s them know that we are giving students a well-rounded education that will make them better prepared for a diverse workplace.”
THE PROCESS OF COLLABORATION
March 2018, Sharia attended Reclaiming My Time, An American Griot Project. This choreopoem was written by Maria James-Thiaw and together she and Janet Bixler, theatre director of the Capital BlueCross Theatre developed a theatrical concept which Janet brought to life through process drama. Sharia expressed interest in working with Maria and the Capital BlueCross Theatre. Sharia discovered the 1911 photo from Okemah Oklahoma while researching Ida B. Wells for her play, Voices of F.E.W. She began to develop a concept and story of a young African American woman bridging the gaps within herself, her family, her Caucasian fiancé and her community.
October 2018, Sharia and Maria met to discuss the story and how Maria’s poetry would be used further layer the themes. Maria used the photo and the story around it to inspire the poetry. Some of the poems are ekphrastic, meaning poetry that is based on art. Maria’s work is called historiographic poetics – it highlights certain moments in history and expresses them through poetry. There are a few poems in Bridge the Gap that Maria wrote previously but were unpublished. Maria observed, “One interesting thing is that this is a story of a bridge that divides a town based on race, and our area is divided in the same way. The East Shore/West Shore divide is still strong here, and many people don’t know the history of it is based on de facto racial segregation. (Meaning, segregation based on custom, not federal law) So a few of the poems were truly about our area, but fit into this story.
February 2019 Sharia started really developing the characters and writing some of the dialogue.
March 2019 Maria handed over her 18 poems to Sharia to weave into the story, and the two became a perfect fit. Scripting the dialogue took about six months and with any new work it is dynamic and evolving.
JUNE 2019 AUDITIONS
July 2019 rehearsals began. The cast was then included in the final stages of script development. They attend two acting workshops with a professional teaching artist, explored Greek Chorus work using Maria’s poetry and playback theatre elements for cast bonding. During the rehearsal process, the structure of the play experienced several transformations to eventually arrive at the spoken-word, music-infused new work that will be presented on September 14 and 15, 2019.
BUILDING AND ENGAGING FUTURE THEATRE PRACTITIONERS AND DIVERSE AUDIENCES
“Bridging the Gap” is a Sankofa PAGE2STAGE artist development and community engagement project that will culminate with the workshop performance of a new theatrical work created by local poets and playwrights. New and seasoned artist in the Harrisburg region will work and learn together during the phases of creative development, artist development, technical design, audience development and engagement, and production. The “Bridging the Gap” project performance piece will be a new work born out of the collective creation and collaborative work in partnership with Reclaim Artist Collective and Capital BlueCross Theatre at Central Penn College. “Bridging the Gap” will poetically present stories around the tragedies and triumphs of bridging the racial and social gaps that divide people and communities.
WHY IS THIS PROJECT NEEDED IN THE COMMUNITY?
In order to experience the transformative power of theatre, communities must be provided access, relevance, and effective production execution. The African American community is under-served in this regard. The focus of this creative approach to presenting the African American experience and perspective is to identify and cultivate African American theatrical talent, expand the diversity of the local theatre community, and strengthen the community at-large through audience engagement that creates civic dialogue around relevant issues
SHOW DATES AND TIMES
- Saturday September 14 at 7:30 pm
- Sunday September 15 at 2:30 pm
TICKETS (FEES APPLY, BUT LESS WHEN PAID W/CASH)
- $3 students
- $7 CPC faculty, staff and alum
- $10 general admission
Box Office in the Underground Wednesdays 8/28, 9/4 and 9/11 from 12 noon-2 p.m. AND One hour prior to show time Online https://cbctbridgethegap.eventbrite.com