In a press release sent out Aug. 25, artistic director Joseph Megel announced the fall season would be held through live streaming and interactive shows to overcome the performance challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of each event, the artist can ask the audience questions to get feedback on their work in development.
“(The series was created) to give students and faculty the chance to see how artists from different disciplines and cross-disciplines create new work,” Megel said.
The series starts on Sept. 25 with “They Do Not Know Harlem: In Communion with James Baldwin,” a performance created, choreographed and performed by Tristan André Parks and directed by Kathy Williams.
Parks uses excerpts from Baldwin’s works and translates them into performances of live theater and dance, with the accompaniment of live music that spans the genres of jazz to hip hop to blues.
“The Fire Next Time,” “Giovanni’s Room” and “Notes of a Native Son” are just some of the mid-century essays and novels that Parks uses to honor Baldwin and share his work with new generations.
“James Baldwin gives weight to my voice to tell my own story,” Parks said. “We have to reckon with our culture now and move forward because the only way to survive is to move.”
Parks' project is now facing the challenge of adapting to not only a pandemic, but a renewed phase of civil unrest and racial disparity.
“We have to sit with ourselves during the global pandemic and really ask ourselves the questions around the idea of race, gender and the things that are sort of the byproducts of white supremacy,” Parks said.
The project is set to premiere in the next season of PlayMakers Repertory Company.
“I'm using the virtual performance as an opportunity to sort of allow myself to release any expectation that this work has to be perfect,” Parks said.
Megel said the series can be a way for creators to get audience feedback on their performances before debuting their final projects in person.
“We're an incubator in a way that audiences that are interested in seeing something in development can, for free, come and interact with the artist and see the development process,” Megel said.