Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Landmark Work Sparks Dialogue about Race, Gender, and Parenthood
Middlebury, VT—The Middlebury College Performing Arts Series kicks off the 2013–2014 season with the hip-hop theater work Word Becomes Flesh, presented by San Francisco-based company the Living Word Project. Groundbreaking American artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph created Word Becomes Flesh as a fluid evening-length “choreopoem” dramatizing a series of letters to his unborn son. Performed by an exceptionally talented cast of emerging poet-performers, Word Becomes Flesh fuses tender stories, playful wit—and at times, purposeful rage—to give voice to the complexities and contradictions surrounding race, gender, and parenthood in America. Two public performances on September 20 and 21 will cap off a week of residency activities on campus.
Word Becomes Flesh, originally conceived in 2003 and performed as a solo work, has now been re-envisioned as a multi-player work of theater, performed by a cast of five actor/movers and a live DJ. The piece uses poetry, dance, and live music to document nine months of pregnancy from a young single father’s perspective. The performance incorporates elements of ritual, archetypes, and symbolic sites within the constructs of hip hop culture.
The cast, all accomplished artist-educators, also have impressive individual credentials as performers.
Rising star B. Yung has appeared on LA’s Def Poetry All Star show, the Russell Simmons HBO documentary Brave New Voices, and the Robert Redford Speak Green Competition, which earned him a chance to perform at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
All of the artists have enjoyed a long relationship with The Living Word Project and its parent organization, Youth Speaks. All five of the poets are veterans of Youth Speaks’ Annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Artistic Director) is one of America’s leading voices in performance, arts education, and artistic curation. In the fall of 2007, Bamuthi graced the cover of Smithsonian Magazine after being named one of America’s Top Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences. He is the artistic director of the seven-part HBO documentary “Russell Simmons presents Brave New Voices” and an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, which annually recognizes 50 of the country’s greatest living artists. He has entered the world of literary performance after crossing the sands of traditional theater, most notably on Broadway, in the Tony award-winning The Tap Dance Kid and Stand-Up Tragedy. He proudly served as a featured artist for the NAACP’s Centennial Anniversary Celebration during President Barack Obama’s inaugural exercises. Bamuthi’s proudest work has been with Youth Speaks, where he mentors 13–19 year old writers and curates the Living Word Festival for Literary Arts.
While in residence on the Middlebury College campus from September 16–23, the company will offer a series of master classes and workshops for the College and surrounding communities. Public sessions include the open mic night “Verbal Onslaught,” on Thursday, September 19; and 2 public performances of Word Becomes Flesh on Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21 (details below). Each show will include an opening act by student spoken-word artists and a post-performance discussion moderated by dance faculty member Christal Brown. See full residency details at http://go.middlebury.edu/wbf
The residency and performances are supported by a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts. On campus, sponsors include the Performing Arts Series, the Mahaney Center for the Arts, the Theatre Program, and the Office of the Dean of the College.
Open mic night Verbal Onslaught will take place on Thursday, September 19, 2013, from 9:00–11:00 P.M. at 51 Main in downtown Middlebury. Admission is free; food and drinks are available for purchase. The two performances of Word Becomes Flesh will take place on Friday, September 20, and Saturday, September 21, 2013, each at 8:00 P.M., at Wright Memorial Theater on the campus of Middlebury College. The theatre is located at 96 Chateau Road in Middlebury, just off Route 125/College Street. Free parking is available on College Street and in the parking lot behind the theatre, accessible from Shannon Street. Handicap accessible parking is available on the evenings of performances in front of the theatre on Chateau Road. Tickets go on sale to Middlebury College ID card holders on September 9, and to the general public on September 16. Ticket prices are $20 for the general public; $15 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For tickets or information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.
(top two photos) Word Becomes Flesh, photo Jati Lindsay, Hip-Hop Theater Festival
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer Dahlak Braithwaite
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer Daveed Diggs, photo Joan Osato
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer DJ Dion Decibels
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer Khalil Anthony
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer Michael Wayne Turner III
Word Becomes Flesh poet-performer B. Yung
Word Becomes Flesh artistic director Marc Bamuthi Joseph, photo Joan Osato
Word Becomes Flesh, photo Joan Osato