See it Friday or Saturday night
red, black and GREEN: Marc Bamuthi Joseph's nationally-recognized show reared inH-Town's Project Row Houses
After last fall's memorable Life Is Living event at Emancipation Park, Marc Bamuthi Joseph returns to Houston this weekend to perform a new environmentally-themed show entitled red, black & GREEN: a blues. Fusing dance, spoken word, music and visual art, this four-performer multimedia piece attempts to surface the voices typically left out of the green movement.
On stage this Friday and Saturday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, red, black, and GREEN examines a group of American communities where violence, poverty, and poor education pose more immediate dangers than ecological issues. The show is traveling nation-wide to illustrious venues (it had its world premiere in San Francisco), but there is plenty of H-Town in this New York-raised artist's work.
"Houston is the home of this project in many ways," Joseph told the small audience at a casual reception Tuesday night at art collector Judy Nyquist's home. "Most of the material was written during my time at Project Row Houses last year. I'd wake up, go to yoga, and spend the rest of the day working in one of the shotgun homes."
"Houston is the home of this project in many ways," Joseph said. "Most of the material was written during my time at Project Row Houses last year."
Exploring the roots of environmental activism within the black community, Joseph devotes a large portion of red, black, and GREEN to the landscape and characters of Houston's own Third Ward, the cultural epicenter of the city's African-American cultural history. The show even features artist and Project Row Houses founder Rick Lowe as a character, played by actress and dancer Traci Tolmaire.
Performer Theaster Gates — a Chicago artist whose work appeared in the 2010 Whitney Biennial — designed the show's intricate set, a series of four movable walls that connect to form a complete house. Made from repurposed materials and found objects, each wall represents one of the four cities that hosted last year's Life Is Living events: Chicago, Harlem, Oakland and Houston.
At the start of the performance, audience members are encouraged to walk onto the stage to experience Gates' work first-hand. "We have a team of docents in the audience to remind guests they're welcome onstage before the show," Joseph said, highlighting a marked effort to blur the lines between performer and spectator.
"People are initially a little unsure about walking onto the stage," Joseph continued. "Once the first person steps up, though, you'll see everyone exploring the set in no time."
Musician Tommy Shepherd joins Joseph, Tolmaire and Gates onstage as they continually readjust and rearrange the set throughout the show to create an ever-changing stage environment — a perfect reflection of the often unstable world in which the show's characters live.
red, black & GREEN: a blues will be staged at 8 p.m. in the Wortham Theatre at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts Friday and Saturday. General admission is $20, with discounts for UH faculty, staff, and students. Click here for information and tickets.
Be sure to check out two other current explorations of the Third Ward as well. This Saturday Voices Breaking Boundaries launches the second half of its unique "living room art production" Third Worlds. Over the next few months, Project Row Houses is hosting its Communograph series exploring the art of history in the Third Ward.