The cast consists of Leia Gaddis, Kasaahn Johnson, Mackenzie Moore, Saul Salaam and Cormari Pullings. Sinclair and Ball State graduate Brian Morgan served as stage manager. Rehearsals were held on Zoom and the final video was recorded and edited under the technical direction of Rodney Veal, an independent choreographer and interdisciplinary artist and host of the Emmy-winning “The Art Show.” Veal has also taught dance at Sinclair, University of Dayton and Stivers School for the Arts.
“All the students realized poetry is not prose,” Leone said. “(They found) all of the beauty inside what was not said in the poem and then found themselves in the words that were spoken. It was particularly great seeing Kasaahn embody Sunni Patterson’s powerful poem ‘Ancestors.’ He morphed into realizing he can pay homage to his ancestors right now, with a prayer, a moment of thanks and appreciation for every life lived before his, and then embody it. Not just say it – be it.”
In addition, musician, composer and songwriter Jomo Faulks supplied the production’s music. Faulks, a Dayton native, has performed extensively throughout the United States as well as Canada and Jamaica, appearing with such music greats as Don Cherry, Carl Berger and Stanley Cowell. On the concert circuit, he has opened for such legends as James Taylor, Doc Severinson and Dick Gregory.
Faulks specializes in African rhythms but is equally fluent in jazz, R&B and gospel. In particular, he is a player of one of the only chromatic/electric mbira of its kind, based on the ancient African mbira (thumb piano). His solo debut CD, “Mystical ViBraTion,” an assortment of his original African/Eastern-inspired compositions performed on traditional mbiras, is also available in stores and via the Internet.
“For this performance, it was a very specific sound, a particular style of percussion, energy and vibration,” Leone said. “It was beautiful.”
The public is encouraged to view and share “Illuminated” any time after the live debut from the Sinclair Theatre Facebook page. The project was made possible through a grant from Sinclair’s Diversity Office. Organizers hope audiences are engaged and inspired by this unique programming opportunity.
“Sinclair theater performance majors had a remarkable educational experience to grow as artists thanks to the foundational work of Furaha and visionary work of Sierra,” Neuerer said.
“I really think the production will be something the community appreciates,” Leone added. “This is also a moment in which the students recognized it was OK to make art that’s a representation of their culture, their lived experiences, and that it was to be celebrated. This is a beautiful project simply illuminating voice. To be honest, the gaze in theater is not always Black.”
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