Tag Archives: The Clothesline Muse

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

1 Aug


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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

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*(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 www.nbtf.org

Read more at http://www.eurweb.com/2015/06/nnenna-freelon-takes-the-clothesline-muse-to-the-national-black-theatre-festival/#rg8kxVMa0E0Rmlh7.99


27 Mar


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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:


17 Jun

Congratulations to the wonderfully gifted and creative mother/daughter team of NNENNA FREELON  and MAYA FREELON ASANTE featured in the “Remarkable Women” issue of Durham Magazine!  NNENNA FREELON is a five time Grammy nominated jazz singer, composer, producer and arranger.  MAYA FREELON ASANTE is an internationally renowned visual artist whose work is in the permanent collection of the US Department of State and has highlighted in a number of museum exhibitions around the country.

Please visit http://www.mortonfineart.com to view available artwork by MAYA FREELON ASANTE.

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Call for visual artists – THE CLOTHESLINE MUSE

22 Jan


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Calling all Artists!

About The Clothesline Muse:

The Clothesline Muse is a multi-discipline theater project that explores the clothesline as a metaphor of our community lifeline and its ties to our environment. The performance includes dance, percussive music, spoken word, interview text, video and interactive art. The cast features 6 dancers and jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon as “The Muse.” We will honor our ancestors by transforming the task of washing clothes by hand into beautiful imagery, dance and song.

Maya Freelon Asante will use still and moving projections as reflections of the history and future of the clothesline. Her colorful tissue paper art will hang on the clothesline, alluding to laundry drying in the sun. Kariamu Welsh’s choreographed movements are inspired by hand washing, drying, folding and ironing. When detached from their original roles of domestic work, the motions of washing, pressing and wringing take on a new empowered significance. Our composer, Nnenna Freelon, is inspired by the soundscape of washing clothes in an outdoor environment and work song.

Clothesline Musings: Art Inspired by The Clothesline

An interactive multimedia exhibition exploring
contemporary visual artists’ relationship to the Clothesline.

Visual artists have long found inspiration in the grind and grace of domestic life. This open call to visual artists inspired by the Clothesline, hand washing and line drying, clothesline games and memories, and the environmental impact of taking in the wash. Philadelphia’s The Painted Bride is seeking visual art submissions, including painting, drawing, sculptures, mixed media and digital art — imagery can be literal, figurative or abstract. The exhibition will feature art from the set of multimedia theatrical production, The Clothesline Muse, works of fine art, historical documents, archival images, artifacts, visual projections and sound recordings.



  • All submissions must be entered on our website, via EntryThingy. USE THIS LINK: http://theclotheslinemuse.com/?p=382

  • All works submitted for display must be ready to install/hang


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Please spread the word! Thanks for supporting our dream.

MAYA FREELON ASANTE “Best of the City” in January 2013’s DC Magazine

17 Jan

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Best of the City – January 2013 edition of DC Magazine

by Erin Hartigan, Tiffany Jow, Jennifer Sergent, Karen Sommer Shalett, Tobey Ward and Katie Wilmeth

Washington sails into 2013 boasting – and embracing – a bevy of bests. From beauty, health and style stars to arts, culture and dining headliners, here’s a peek at the scene.


Material Girl

Artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE discovered a stack of water-stained colored paper in her grandmother’s basement in 2005, and her fascination with bleeding paper was born. The 30-year old has since erected countless patchwork quilt-esque spectacles, including a stained-glass-like wonder called “Ubuntu” at the Corcoran and a three-story sculpture at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar. Now, she’s collaborating on an evening-length theatrical production with her mother, six-time Grammy Award nominee Nneena Freelon, and her mother-in-law, Kariamu Welsh, called The Clothesline Muse and prepping a sitespecific installation for the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica. “Its a blessing to come from a family that’s so inspiring,” says Asante, the daughter of award-winning architect Philip Freelon and granddaughter of famed impressionist painter Allan Freelon.

Visit www.mortonfineart.com to view available work by artist  MAYA FREELON ASANTE.


30 Nov

clothesline muse


VISIT THIS LINK TO DONATE: http://www.usaprojects.org/project/the_clothesline_muse


Artists2Artists Fund

Donations are currently being matched 1 to 1 by Artists2Artists Fund.

I am working on an exciting collaborative project called The Clothesline Muse: an evening length theatrical production with choreographer, Kariamu Welsh, and visual artist Maya Freelon Asante. As the “Muse” or storyteller I will tell stories that center around the clothesline; I will also compose the music, which will be performed live on stage. Kariamu Welsh choreographsmovements that are pedestrian and vernacular and projects a movement motif that reverberates with memory and rhythms. Crafting the bodies of six-dancers, Kariamu will lead the story through movement. The set will comprise of “tissue paper art” created by artist Maya Freelon Asante. Maya uses vibrant tissue paper as a visual metaphor to represent “the wash” on the line, bringing light and color to the stage through larger-than-life tissue sculptures. As the “Muse” character, I call our attention to the clothesline as I “hang” songs and stories of hope, loss and celebration out on the line for all to see. I’ve created original music and new arrangements of old classics from the blues influenced “Miss Mary Mack” to the bubbling groove of “Clean White Sheets”. Fusing dance, art and music onstage will be an experience not to be missed!

The community will be involved in our project through interactive art exhibitions that will accompany each performance, as well as music and dance workshops, which will be open to the public. A clothesline will be hung in the lobby at every venue. Audience members will be instructed to write a memory on a piece a paper and hang it on the line. The writing and hanging of memories will be recorded and will appear in that evening’s performance, so that audience members can have their “say”.

Over the past year we have collectively developed and funded the storyboard and script, started rehearsals, created original music, choreography and art. The premier of The Clothesline Muse will be at The Painted Bride in Philadelphia in 2013. We have also secured venues in Baltimore, MD and Durham, NC and envision The Clothesline Musetraveling around the world. We are asking for your help to bring this beautiful and important work from conception to reality. Reaching our fundraising goal will allow us to continue the work we’ve already funded thus far.

Funds raised will allow for the following: an Interactive Website, a Video/Editor for performance projections, a Costume Designer and Costumes, a Lightning Designer, Rehearsal fees, Set fabrication and design, Music and Recording fees, a Percussionist fee and Travel.

Thanks for being a part of this journey and for helping to make The Clothesline Muse a reality for ourselves, our ancestors and for our children!

And a BIG thanks to everyone who’s helped over the last year!

– Kariamu & Company- Temple University- The Painted Bride – The Hayti Heritage Center – The Brandywine Workshop – Reginald F. Lewis Museum- Ekua Holmes- Cici Stevens- Pierce Freelon – MK Asante- Phil Freelon- Beverly Botsford- John Brown- Roxana Walker-Canton- NaOme Rich- Tina Morton -Alan Mercer- Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library- Les Rivera- Michael Bowles

Donated of $20,000 Goal.
12 Days Remaining
This project will only be funded if at least $20,000 is donated by Wed. Dec 12, 11:59pm.

Donate as little as $1, or get exclusive perks for your support…

Receive a link to download new original music from The Clothesline Muse soundtrack!
We will send you digital love on our FB page!

25/15 Remain
We will send you a clothespin signed by Nnenna Freelon, Kariamu Welsh and Maya Freelon Asante

5/4 Remain
We will send you two tickets to the premiere of The Clothesline Muse at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia

5/3 Remain
You will receive original artwork from the set of The Clothesline Muse, created by Maya Freelon Asante

10/10 Remain
Attend a dance class led by Kariamu Welsh in Philadelphia

5/5 Remain
Vocal consultation by Nnenna Freelon via Skype (30 minutes)
6X GRAMMY Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon, world-renowned choreographer Kariamu Welsh and award-winning visual artist Maya Freelon Asante.