Today we took photos for our promotional material for Our Hallowed Ground - A series of site specific performances of testimonies of Bay Area mothers who have lost children to violence. This series of performances curated by The Love Balm Project, is an experiment in how we as a collective of artists and community organizers can collaborate to create impactful theatre that meets local communities in the spaces where violence has been perpetrated. As a launching point for this project, we decided to buy a few tacos from the nearby taqueria, pass them out to the folk on my block, build a street memorial and ask our neighbors what they think about site specific performances of testimonies of violence in the Bay Area.
As Lisa Evans, Crystal Charity and I walked out the door of my house, questions went viral. How do we begin? Is it really a good idea to begin this discussion over tacos? What kind of experiment is this if we cant even control for the temperature of the tacos? And most importantly,how do we excavate the philosophical glamour in bucking at the pigeon who is eyeing the food we’ve set aside specifically for community engagement purposes.
Thankfully, none of the collaborators on this project are bamboozled by the sweet cursive language we use to describe this work in grant applications. We know we don’t know what the hell this will become. Further still, we have a daunting order in holding up our hard sweating portraits of these communities to the faces of these neighborhoods and earnestly asking, “hey, does this look like you?”, “Are you interested in seeing more of this?”, “If not, can we create a new picture together from our scraps?”
With overwhelming gratitude, we happened upon people willing to create with us. Before we knew it, we had constructed a gathering place to remember, eat, share and pass along the way. Somewhere in the middle, we asked the folk on our block how they regard public performance and violence in our neighborhood. Check out a few of the written community responses from our brainstorm session:
“Its something new, change is always good.”
“Too many young dying. If art addresses it by talking about how its wrong, great, but if it glorifies it, no.”
“This symbolic ritual in my opinion represents the memory of children caught in the crossfire and should be acknowledged and respected.” - Maurice Brown
“That looks alittle scary. I thought someone died right here. Thank God. Ive lost too many people. I don’t go to those ( memorials ) anymore, I know people who got shot either right before I got there or right after I left.”
“Theres alot of history they don’t teach our children. They dont want us to be strong.”
“Art is the most important thing in the world.”
“They need to make more art about the violence so the word can get out to help people from get hurt, and to be safe” - Zawana
We are excited to work with this and other feedback to find new ways of making this work. Please join us for some of the upcoming performances!
Please join us for our very first performance of the series. This performance is based on a testimony of Anita Wills, Grandmother of Kerry Baxter Jr, and will take place at St. Anthony’s Church June 1st and 2nd.
Anita Wills - June 1st And June 2nd
Location: ST Anthony’s Church
1535 16th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606
Community Liaison: Anita Wills
Director: Ayodele Nzinga
Actor: Cat Brooks
Brenda Grisham - June 15th and June 16th
Location: 7400 Block of Fresno Street, Oakland, Ca
Community Liaison: Brenda Grisham
Director: Arielle Brown
Actor: Cat Brooks
Denika Chatman - July 13th and 14th
Location: Muni T- Train, San Francisco
Community Liaison: Denika Chatman
Director: Brit Fraizer
Actor: Lisa Evans
Bonnie Johnson - August 24th and 25th
Location: Fruitvale BART
Community Liaison: Cat Brooks
Director: Edris Cooper in collaboration with Cephus Johnson
Actor: Ayodele Nzinga
Ayanna Davis - Sept 21st and 22nd
Location: 600 block of 54th St, Oakland, Ca
Community Liaison: Ayodele Nzinga
Director: Cat Brooks
Actor: Ayanna Davis
Yasmin Flores - October 5th and 6th
Location: 52 E Santa Clara St San Jose, CA 95113
Community Liaison: Arielle Brown in collaboration with Yasmin Flores
Director: Rebecca Novick
Actor: Anna Maria Luera
All performances run approximately 15 minutes and will recur between 3pm and 6pm.
The Love Balm Project’s Our Hallowed Ground Series is an Artist-Investigator Project of the Triangle Lab (a joint program of Cal Shakes and Intersection for the Arts), supported in part by The James Irvine Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group.
Come take part in our most recent performance process as we present a workshopped reading of Love Balm for My SpiritChild. Love Balm is a featured play in the SF Playhouse “Our Voices, Our Stories” Festival! Join us at SF Playhouse on FEB 18th at 8pm! Directed by Brit Fraiser.
lsbugara asked: Hello! I am wondering about up coming performances in the bay area?! I am super eager to see the play and hope I haven't missed the last showing! Thank you and happy holidays
Hi! Yes there is absolutely another showing of the play! We have a show coming up on November 30th at La Peña Cultural Center at 8pm. You can buy tickets at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4554795516
I hope to meet you there!