Archive | Performance Art RSS feed for this section

Nnenna Freelon Takes the ‘Clothesline Muse’ to the National Black Theatre Festival

1 Aug


eurweb logo

The Clothesline Muse celebrates African American culture, women’s history, the Civil Rights struggle, and the emerging labor movement of the day, through original live music, emotive dance, brilliant visual art and projection.

Jun 28, 15 by EURweb editor/BJ

jamaican laundress by ekua holmes, the cloethesline muse, nnenna freelon

*(Durham, NC)— Multiple GRAMMY nominee and jazz great Nnenna Freelon will bring her theatrical project, The Clothesline Muse, to the 14th biennial National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, August 7 & 8.

The Clothesline Muse celebrates African American culture, women’s history, the Civil Rights struggle, and the emerging labor movement of the day, through original live music, emotive dance, brilliant visual art and projection.  The story is told through the complex relationship between old-school and new cool.

In this dramatic and poignant tale that explores the clothesline as a metaphor for our community lifeline and its ties to our environment,  Grandma Blu, an aging washerwoman and storyteller, desperately wants to share her clothesline legacy, part of the culture of the Old South, and her wisdom before she passes on, with granddaughter Mary Mack.

Mary is a modern online woman who believes that speed and technology hold the keys to success. She is both a feminist and futurist wanting nothing to do with yesterday’s washing drudgery and stories.

Their relationship and the social traditions it represents and the history it tells, are told in The Clothesline Muse, a journey through laughter, tears, dance, story, song, and struggle.

Six-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon performs the role of Grandma Blu/The Clothesline Muse and is both storyteller and songstress, bringing her unique and stirring vocals to the self-penned original music.  Cloteal Horne plays the role of Mary Mack.

When touring this show, there is generally community outreach in each market, something Nnenna does at every possible opportunity. From children’s shows to college, community and other school visits, there are workshops, conversations, Q & A’s and other interaction to ensure that the messages portrayed in the performances serve as social, historical and cultural conduits.

The residencies are funded by one of twenty prestigious grants provided by the Community Fund of the National Performance Network (NEFA).

The National Black  Theatre Festival offers a wide range of theatrical performances including dramas, comedies, musicals, choreoplays and multimedia. Festival goers will be able to choose from more than 130 performances of new works and Black classics performed by professional Black theatre companies from across the country and abroad. Shows are presented at multiple venues throughout Winston-Salem. Tickets are sold separately for each show and can be purchased on



27 Mar


Lumina News Logo



Clothesline connects culture to community

By Pam Creech

The clothesline is a deep-reaching metaphor for the ties that bind families, communities and women together.

Grammy-nominated vocalist Nnenna Freelon; her daughter, visual artist Maya Freelon Asante; and choreographer Kariamu Welsh joined forces to create “The Clothesline Muse,” a multi-media theatre project that emphasizes the clothesline’s role in women’s history. The story involves a grandmother who teaches life lessons to her granddaughter.

“The grandmother tells the granddaughter stories,” Freelon said. These story prompts are articles of clothing; the stories are told through song, dance and visual art. By performing her original songs, Freelon plays the role of the muse — Grandma Blu. Cloteal Horne plays Grandma Blu’s granddaughter, Mary Mack, who is helping her pack for a retirement home.

“Every article of clothing has a story,” Freelon said. “Grandma’s not moving until she unpacks her knowledge.”

They are accompanied on stage by five dancers.

Welsh’s choreography mimics movements derived from washing, wringing and folding.

“She wanted to detach the physical movements from the work,” Freelon said.

Asante uses visual art, such as colored tissue paper, to represent laundry on a clothesline.

“We tell stories that are based in history,” Freelon said. “One of the pieces deals with the 1881 Washer Women’s Strike in Atlanta.”

Freelon was inspired by the women who defined their power during the strike.

“We wanted to celebrate women’s work. We want to say that these movements are still alive and they’re still vibrant,” she said.

Freelon also found inspiration in the Civil Rights Movement, along with some of her favorite African-American jazz vocalists — Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

Freelon said she does not have a target audience; she wants everyone to connect with her work equally.

“This is not just an African-American story. Truth grows when we’re able to empathize and see ourselves in each other’s faces,” she said.

“The Clothesline Muse” also has an environmental message.

“We’re ruining the climate,” Freelon said. “If we decide to use the wind and the sun to dry our clothes, we’ll save a lot of energy.”

One of Freelon’s favorite parts of the show is the Talk Back, a 25-minute opportunity for the cast and audience members to have a conversation after the show.

“We love seeing what people get from the show,” she said. “People will say, ‘Yes, that resonated with me.’”

Freelon hopes people will continue to discuss the show even after the talk-back session is over.

“If I do have a wish for people who walk away, I want them to talk to each other. … It starts and ends with a story,” she said.

Freelon’s impact extends beyond her on-stage performances. From March 16-27, Freelon and Asante completed a residency with Williston Middle School students. For two hours each morning, they directed student projects inspired by “The Clothesline Muse” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Williston Senior High School. A sixth grade language arts class learned about interview skills and the importance of storytelling, and an eighth grade art class decorated T-shirts.

“Go with what you know,” Freelon said as the eighth graders drew on colored T-shirts with paint pens and fabric markers. “As you’re working on your shirts, know that there’s never been a shirt quite like this in the history of life.”

The students were instructed to illustrate a personal memory involving a clothesline on the front of the T-shirt and an activity they enjoy online on the back.

“This is old school meets new school,” Freelon said during a Williston Middle School community gathering March 23. “If there’s one thing a clothesline is, it’s a broadcast.”

Lisa Schnitzler, art teacher at Williston Middle School, said the students were very responsive to their time with Freelon and Asante.

“When Nnenna and Maya are in the classroom, the students are very respectful and very responsive,” Schnitzler said. “They provided sketch books for every kid.”

Before designing T-shirts, the students made collages with tissue paper and magazine clippings. The artwork will be displayed in the Wilmington Art Council’s ACES Gallery on Front Street.

“They’re going to see their work in a gallery for the first time,” Schnitzler said. “My students also have tickets to see the show at UNCW.”

“The Clothesline Muse” will come to Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina Wilmington March 28 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for the public and $8 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Kenan Auditorium Box Office at 910-962-3500.

Visit the following link for the full story:

Nathaniel Donnett Performance Piece at Contemporary Art Museum Houston

28 Oct

Nathaniel Donnett’s performance of In Memory Of… at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was held in conjunction with his exhibition Nothing to See Hear. The performance explored the trauma, emotion, and social effects of police brutality and violence on the community at large. Among the performance collaborators who took part in Donnett’s piece were independent candidate for US Congress Maurice Duhon, spoken word and performance artist Angela Olivia Guillory, dancer Chinelo Ikejimba, rapper The Niyat, and DJ Flash Gordon Parks.

You can see a recording of the video here:

Nathaniel Donnett’s exhibition Nothing to See Hear looks at how spaces of thought and memory can be created by utilizing sound and light. Donnett has created an immersive environment that integrates light, sound, sculpture, and works on paper that give visibility to the contemporary portrayals of resistance, protest, loss and mourning. Donnett pays homage to the numerous men and women who have died while placing themselves on the front line for justice. His installation functions as a visual eulogy to their sacrifice as well as a conscious and thought provoking call toward social awareness.

Hear his own words about the exhibition below.

Donnett will have another performance piece entitled The Universe Revolves Around Rhythm; So Give The Drummer Some. The piece, which will feature The Fana Drummers, a multi-African drum ensemble, will explore the different usages of drums (as musical instruments, devices for language and communication, protests against oppression, etc).

For available works by Nathaniel Donnett, please go HERE.

Scattered to the Wind by MAYA FREELON ASANTE

16 May

A one-of-a-kind kinetic art performance by artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE which boasts free-falling art for all.

Accompanied by the natural environment of Baltimore City, ‘Scattered to the Wind’ took place on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at the Bromo Selzter Arts Tower in Baltimore, MD.

Let go with me
Make room for Joy!
The weightlessness
of forgiveness
Seeks peace
With love

– Maya Freelon Asante