Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: The Clothesline Muse, Aion Productions. It All Comes Out In The Wash...

Review of The Clothesline Muse...

ThINKing Dance Blog

It All Comes Out in the Wash

By Lisa Bardadrson 

The Clothesline Muse, an evening-length work, is not just about family lineage and the impact that previous generations bring to bear upon its fledgling members but is also a testament to the creative talents inherent within the Welsh/Freelon/Asante family. Kariamu Welsh conceived the multi-media work with written collaboration by Maya Freelon Asante (Welsh's daughter-in-law) and Nnenna Freelon (Freelon Asante's mother). Additionally, Welsh supplied the choreography, Freelon the music and musical direction, and Freelon Asante the set and projection design. 

The tight direction by Serena Ebhardt gives consistent momentum to The Clothesline Muse's narrative.  The two central characters are a teenager; Mary Mack Douglass, performed with exuberance by Baset Sat-Ra, and her grandmother, Grandma Blu/The Clothesline Muse, inspiringly played by Nnenna Freelon. In this story, Mary Mack Douglass has just received a letter from her college-of-choice and is now tasked with the dubious challenge of writing an essay to convince the school that she should receive much-needed financial aid. 

Grandma Blu, a laundress by trade and griot by rights, gives Mary Mack pithy grist for her essay (and for life) by leading her on a journey of self-discovery via storytelling and family lore.  In this fable, the clothesline is not just a place where clothes are hung to dry but where the important stuff of life happens. And as we learn through Grandma Blu, laundry isn't just about dirty shirts and socks; it's about coming clean on what we stand for and believe in. 

The Clothesline Muse is a work so densely rich with metaphor, symbolism and reference to the African diaspora that I, a white woman from the suburbs of Seattle, likely missed much of it. But no matter; the universality of the message was crystal clear: we are all connected by the actions of our ancestors, whose humble beginnings can yield rich rewards to future generations.  

The set design by Maya Freelon Asante features her signature tissue paper/fabric artwork.  The colorful swaths that draped the back wall of the stage created a stunning image that harmonized handily with the laundry theme. Her projection design, in collaboration with Chris Charles, flowed with archival images depicting African Americans and financial ledgers that gave the work historical heft. 

Welsh's choreography brought kinetic dimension for a chorus of six white-clad women (Shaness Kemp, Adrienne Abdus-Salaam, Jessica Featherson, Stephanie Padilla, Sakarah Hall-Edge and Leila Anglin) whose movements in one section evoked the fluttering of laundry drying on the line.  In another, the chorus employed a lively hand clapping game in a rollicking one-upmanship challenge. 

Grandma Blu recalled her experiences of lovemaking, which were humorously enacted by Kemp ironing a white shirt.  Who knew sex could be described in the details of proper shirt ironing? Steam was in plentiful supply. 

Freelon sings the African American spiritual, There is a Balm in Gilead.  It is a song that asks for healing and grace and Freelon soars with it; her powerful presence anchors the show. In her fantasy talk show, “What's On Your Line? all comes out in the wash,” Freelon as Blu supports, admonishes and guides her guests to spiritual wholeness by leading them to the righteous path found in good laundry practices. If you put your expensive wool sweater in hot water, then you need to pay closer attention to care instructions.  If you stole a designer shirt from your neighbor's hanging laundry, you have most definitely…crossed the line. 

Appearing many times throughout the work is a woman who wears a long touring coat (circa 1900?). She carries a bundle atop her head and glides ghost-like through various scenes. Towards the end of the piece, Grandma Blu follows her from the stage in a solemn processional. Mary Mack is left to pick up the symbolic line: which she does with love, clarity and understanding. The Clothesline Muse 
is a fully realized work that I found deeply gratifying. The line, in the end, connected and closed, forming a perfect circle. 

The Clothesline Muse, a collaboration between Kariamu Welsh, Nnenna Freelon and Maya Freelon Asante, The Painted Bride Art Center, March 14-16, 2014.

By Lisa Bardarson

March 21, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fwd: World Premiere | March 14th, 15th & 16th!

Serena Ebhardt directs...

World Premiere | March 14th, 15th & 16th!
March 15th | Golden Pin VIP Reception
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we began with a dream...

The Clothesline Muse
World Premiere

Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street | Philadelphia, PA 19106 | (215) 925 9914

Friday, March 14th, 2014 @ 8pm
Saturday, March 15th, 2014 @ 8pm + VIP Reception
Sunday, March 16th, 2014 @ 3pm

It is with an attitude of gratitude that we share this amazing news! A limited number of Golden Pin VIP tickets are available for the Saturday 8pm show at the Painted Bride!

...our dream is coming true, thanks to YOU!

Come help us celebrate these stories that have not yet been told! With the purchase of a Golden Pin VIP ticket, we're offering:
  • Golden Clothespin Acknowledgement in the performance
  • Exclusive access to the private VIP reception immediately following Saturday's performance
  • Signed limited edition of Clothesline Muse Poster
  • Entry into a drawing for original art from The Clothesline Muse set created by Maya Freelon Asante
  • Early entry to the art exhibition Clothesline Musings: Art Inspired by the Clothesline
We are raising the line with your help! Your Golden Pin VIP ticket will help kick off our 2014/2015 national tour and help bring The Clothesline Muse performance and education outreach to cities nationwide!
Not Based in Philly? We're encouraging folks to "Gift" a Golden Pin VIP ticket to someone who is. Or, why not make a weekend trip of the premiere? Book a room at the downtown Holiday Inn Express-- a beautifully renovated hotel that's two miles away from the performance venue and right on the water! 
Tickets (plus perks!) are being sold for $100.00 each. You can make this donation online via PayPal or alternatively send a check to Aion Productions, LLC. 103 W. Main St. #405  Durham, NC 27701.
General admission tickets for premier weekend performances can be purchased here.

We thank you!
Maya Freelon Asante, Nnenna Freelon, Kariamu Welsh - Creators of The Clothesline Muse


Above |  Producers of The Clothesline Muse: Maya Freelon Asante, Nnenna Freelon and Kariamu Welsh (photo credit: Steven Whitsitt)
Below | Dancers: (photo credit: Malaika Clements)
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Serena Ebhardt directs rehearsal for "The Clothesline Muse"

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Serena Ebhardt Directs The Clothesline Muse for Aion Productions.

The Clothesline Muse

The Clothesline Muse is a multi-disciplinary theater project that explores the clothesline as a metaphor of our community lifeline and its ties to our social history and current environment. The performance honors our ancestors and their stories by transforming the task of washing clothes by hand into beautiful imagery that includes dance,
live music (voice and percussion), spoken word, interview text, video and interactive art. The project collaborators are six-time Grammy nominated Nnenna Freelonas “The Muse,” Maya Freelon Asante, Kariamu Welsh, and Serena Ebhardt.

projected touring availability
June 2014–September 2016

production needs
Appropriate for traditional proscenium
and well-equipped black box venues
of 200–1,000 seats or more. Set and technical elements are designed to be flexible for spaces with limited technical specifications (museums, art festivals,
and multi-use spaces). Technical elements (still and video projections, animation, sound design elements, costumes, sets, and lighting) designed to tour, load in, and load out easily. Original music performed live with percussion and voice. Total touring company will be 10–11.

tour coordinator
Pamela M. Green, Agent PMG Arts Management, LLC
tel 919.813.6092