NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 79

BRN-FALL-2013.indb 77 m Rennie Harris’ FACING MEKKA. mm m Teo Castallenos D-Project. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE In the final analysis, if Black Theatre is to have any legitimacy, it must define what it actually is, i.e., own what makes its practice distinctly different from conventional American Theatre. Case in point, what do we call the imaginative performance work of Puerto Rican auteur/director, Teo Castellanos, whose D-Project, a contemporary Dance/Theatre company based in Miami examines social issues through a ritualistic fusion of music, Zulu storytelling, Marori war dance, Yoruba chants, elements of Tibetan Budhism, Butoh and Hip Hop break-dance vocabulary? Similarly, Rennie Harris’ Puremovement company (rhpm) based in Philadelphia also reveals in his facing mekka project an amalgam of Asian/African musical fusion, Yoruba chants, and Hip Hop performance vocabulary in the process of inventing an expressionistic movement narrative that challenges the boundaries of the usual social angst associated with Hip Hop. In (re) branding Black Theatre, we must begin to explore dramaturgical options beyond the limiting conventions of commercial theatre or the popular appeal of the Urban Circuit productions. Stage work constructed in the convention of American Theatre should not be designated Black Theatre, but simply, African American drama of the black experience. Performance practices of Black Theatre, or perhaps even Theatre of the African Diaspora, must have its own defining aesthetic objectives and trajectory. Definition, then, must necessarily be carried out primarily by scholars committed to excavate from the African Diaspora the mythologies, cosmologies, social organizations, rituals, sacred systems, synergistic relationships in languages, the entire panoply of humanistic communalities that can determine the 77 Playwright/Director, Dominic Taylor, has observed that the two primary reasons for theatre expression are to challenge or affirm an audience. While the Urban Circuit entertainments of Tyler Perry are designed to affirm black audiences, Taylor categorizes his own work as Neo-Black, which deliberately challenges the consciousness of black audiences. Thus, as he further notes, “It is important to consider the function of art as well as the products.” A young promising, black writer once sought my counsel when he received an offer to write plays for the Urban Circuit at the very moment he was contemplating demands on his financial limitations with the anticipated arrival of his first born child. He asked if it were prudent for him to reject the large payday that was being offered. Far be it for me to distract this writer, who was once under the influence, if not otherwise, direct tutelage of August Wilson, from putting food on the plate for his family. I simply replied, with necessary candor, a poet never knows where his next meal might be coming from. August, I added, got lucky…and had great support from the late Lloyd Richards, the former artistic director of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. The young writer went on the circuit…and we on the path to re-brand Black Theatre haven’t heard from him since. 9/13/13 12:48 AM