From Spectators to Collaborators: How Soul Justice Project’s New Show Needs You Involved
“The universe is not made out of atoms. It is made out of stories,” said Muriel Rukeyser in her Speed of Darkness poem. We know storytelling is one of humans’ most basic and effective ways of communicating and that undoubtedly, our personal narrative parallels with others, indistinct of who they are. Through it, we are reminded of our connectedness, that sometimes there’s still room for good ol’ honest human interaction and dialogue.
Soul Justice Project (SJP), an awesome initiative that curates interdisciplinary performances merging politics, dance, spoken word, and music, provides a platform for marginalized and silenced voices.
Their shows are always a mindfuck. You love drama and literature? They’ll make your toes curl. Music your thang? Your ears will ejaculate. Dance anyone? Your soul will break through its cocoon.
Pendulum, their new show, exposes the lives of seven Americans living in the margins of democracy post-election night. The show was inspired by Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg’s quote: “The true symbol of the United States is not the eagle, it’s the pendulum – when it swings too far in one direction, it will swing back.”
“…And it swung back real hard this time,” says Xanthia Walker, co-artistic director for Soul Justice Project. “Something though that has come out of this situation and is very powerful is that people are speaking from a middle space. Whether it’s Hillary or Trump in the presidency, people’s perceptions and positions haven’t changed much, and under Obama, things weren’t great for everyone either.”
According to Tomás Stanton, the other half of the brain in this project, politics have always been kooky if you pay close attention, and folks that consider themselves living in the margins of democracy, never really feel comfortable with any administration 100 percent.
This year’s show blends the aesthetics that characterize SJP, it creates a space for dialogue around issues that are particularly polarizing or hard to discuss. It explores the “narrative of the middle,” and how imperative it is for us to listen to it.
“I believe people’s stories build bridges between all that distance, that wide middle space between the right and the left, and people see each other through those stories and understand one another. Hopefully, art can do that and inspire new ways of knowing,” Xanthia says.
Pendulum intentionally crossfades hip-hop, dance, music, and theater, unifying them with personal narratives which are crucial to the show.
“It is very important to us that the larger social issues are mediated by people’s own experiences, so in this case, it’s really about the artists who are in the room and what they want to speak about,” she says.
Xanthia and Tomás are both artistic directors for this show and closely collaborate on the guidance and creation of the work. But really, it is an ensemble-driven process in which all the artists involved shape the final product based on on-going discoveries.
Aside from their roles as artistic directors, this year, Xanthia is the director of the show and Tomás is the playwright who compiles everybody’s texts and edits them. Tomas is also in charge of the musical aesthetic for Pendulum, a crucial part of the show.
This is homespun Phoenikero hip-hop theater for social change at its best. According to Tomás, it isn’t happening anywhere else, and they’re very proud of that.
Your role as an audience member
“What we would like from the audience is to enter the theater as collaborators, not spectators. If something is moving you, express it,” Says Tomás. “Come with a level of vulnerability and when the time comes to express your feelings during the dialogue, speak as honestly and openly as possible.”
At the end of the performance, the purpose is to engage in a dialogue. “Our purpose is not just to have the audience clap at the end and walk away saying ‘that was a dope show, I feel so good about seeing that show,’ and then go back to their usual lives. We want to have an actionable-driven conversation about what to do next, and what steps to take as members of a community,” explains Xanthia.
The show is filled with local talent including Sean Avery (poet and performing artist), Anna Flores (poet), Carly Bates (music), Raji Ganesan, (performing and teaching artist), Allyson Yoder (dance), AJ Odneal (songwriter). The show will also include Dahlak Brathwaite, a hip-hop theater practitioner based in Los Angeles, CA.
When: 5/18 & 5/19 8:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa Arts Center 1 E. Main St. Mesa, AZ 85201
How much: $15