Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

..a gifted image

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Maumahara..-

The word shapes an American tongue to translate wonder, through a Maori meaning of ‘remember’, setting the palate for awe in a journey of America Rex.

MAUMAHARA – Jimmy James Kouratoras, artist; image gifted for use by the artist, in this iteration of America Rex.

The play is about to state it’s cast for the workshop and culminating event of the staged reading. The opportunity of a journey into ‘otherness’ has proved an exact fodder for framing this work as I had hoped, by way of an artistic and cultural lens not American, and allowing for another culture to weave their own specific universal take on something epic, in layers of language and storytelling which speak out of a place more than half a world from where I wrote it.

The knowledge that there would be a workshop has incrementally dawned on me as something incredible and imminent. It is now almost exactly one year in gestation, ready to stand as fact – gift of a director who serendipitously attended the workshop of Breathing Ash at EST in NY, in October of last year.

At the interval of that presentation, I met Dione Joseph; we spoke of what we were watching, and between us acknowledged how much more there was to say in threading fodder that might speak into a variety of cultures and could be something to traverse any stage.

Dione came to the surprise ‘after party’ the beau had sorted, held in an ‘old world’ NY warren of philosophy, among staggering amounts of books, art, conversation, wine -just at 98th off Broadway- a place of incredible nurturing, and family.

In snatches of conversation there, Dione asked about other examples of my work -and I found myself speaking about America Rexthe 4th ‘panel’ of a quartet of plays, collected under the general concept “..in Caliban’s eye..”.

Each ‘panel’ stands individually (The Orion, Breathing Ash, Reconstruction, and America Rex).

With each work I was able to move deeper in my investigation of the complex dynamics of American culture, as each play proved to be part of a massive, interlocking ‘Rubix cube’ of narrative relationships, tumbling through issues of generational schisms of race, class, caste -politics, religion -media, and contemporary mediums of visual narrative.

The journey of writing out these works stretched over 6 years in total; at one point there were only three panels, and I felt I’d said all I wished to investigate.

As can happen, a particular character, Ioni, from the 1st panel, The Orion, had more to say – into a corner of opportunity, hinged at the maw of Reconstruction, where freed black slaves suddenly had an ‘imperative’ in making choices for themselves; for some individuals, there was no “right” or “wrong”- in living with the consequences their choices left for family.

In this specific crease, lingers the impact of those who made critical judgment to control their own destinies, unshackled to an American narrative and free to move. Suddenly fluid to be enfolded in the dynamics of other cultures, in foreign countries. Having a life the scope of which was -at the time- impossible to achieve in America, they could even dignify as artists.

The tensions of that play roiled into content as Reconstruction, inserting itself just ahead of what was already America Rex.

In Rex…  A great border sequesters the last five zones of government. Outside this, in extremis, humanity sifts in exodus until chance pits the vision of a Seer in the dream of a General.

The concept of the work was informed during a visit to Australia where I had opportunity to stand in another country’s presence of spirituality. A country which thrummed a resonating dynamic relationship between earth -dream -knowledge -journey; I wanted to speak about ‘power’, that which rose through one’s tread of earth, and that which was wrested from thin air – two effects, through which people struggle to stand upright -as both elements own dynamic purpose, and vie to make an innate free will submit, or suspend itself.

I came to struggle with being able to articulate a landscape of Aboriginal spirituality, with respect of consciousness, and find some transit for speaking into my own country and culture -in a way where I could express paradigms of sub -consciousness and spirit.

I deliberately wanted to frame the method ‘outside’ of what American culture would expect as specific articulation of its cross currents, resonances, subconscious, and power dynamics of caste, race, and “otherness”.

I wanted a frame that would offer a way for any culture to speak into impactful conversations of their own, specific cultural dynamics, which could, ultimately apply to a shared denominator of resonance.

America Rex is the result of that ambition, and is an experiment in trying to find a way to allow enough room, in a work of theatre, which will be more deeply infused with the cultural narratives of the communities in which it finds artistic hands to inform its application.

With this upcoming workshop in New Zealand, made specific for Aotearoa, cultural dynamics of storytelling will be put to task to ply through innumerable currents of unspoken, lifting my bark across open water, into resonant language and context, where we will see if such a supposition of theatre as Rex can thread its storyline.

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…countdown to Blues For A Royal Flush, on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage tonight..!

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..more to come about this, but just at the moment, hurtling into Tech, cue to cue, Dress -and performance of this work.

The artists are seasoned, and I am grateful; this cast are reprising their roles, and have been with the show since its premiere in 2014.

Greg Watkins, as Billy Strayhorn

Scott Patterson, as Duke Ellington

Laree Simon, as Ethel Waters

Bina Malhotra, as Lena Horne

And for this iteration, it is a pleasure to be joined by Duke Ellington School for the Arts senior, Nia Webb, as Reporter.

The performance is open and free to the public. And it will be simulcast from the Kennedy Center.

This is the You Tube link – and the performance will be archived here as well; please come, if you’re in town -otherwise, sit back at your leisure, with a tub of popcorn, and enjoy!

 

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

February 20, 2017 at 10:08 AM

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In The Smoke Of The Sting .. a journey of ‘otherness’ for Pianist & Baritone

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..woke now -to the changes in directions buffeting country and personal journey..

Fully woke. And working.

It is my honor to be in process of collaborating with two esteemed artists -Ms Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, and Jarrod Lee- in a performance piece I have written for Washington National Opera entitled “In The Smoke Of The Sting”, a music journey which threads the words, determination, and courage of three Champion boxers -Joe Louis, Emile Griffith and Muhammad Ali- through music and poetry, and arias from operas written about these men.
The intimacy of this salon piece invites us all to experience the nature of discrimination that was a daily fight to these men, who endured the truth that being titled ‘Champion’ did little to stop the public’s disquiet at such prominent ‘otherness’.
Current dates/locations of presentation that I will update should there occur any changes:
2/14/2017, 10:30 am, Anacostia Library
2/15/2017, 12:00 pm, National Postal Museum
2/18/2017, 2:00 pm, Takoma Park Library
2/22/2017, 10:30 am, Francis Gregory Library
2/24/2017, 6:00 pm, The Sitar Arts Center
2/26/2017, 3:00 pm, Westminster Presbyterian Church
2/28/2017, 7:00 pm, Shaw Library
3/1/2017, 7:00 pm, Petworth Library
3/2/2017, 2:00 pm, Bellevue Library
3/7/2017, 7:00 pm, Woodridge Library
3/9/2017, 7:00 pm, Mount Pleasant Library
3/14/2017, 7:00 pm, The Hill Center
…the energy and focus of Dana and Jarrod speak to how fierce artists work under & through all conditions – and capture attention, with fierce artistry!

Ensemble Studio Theatre is giving BREATHING ASH breath..

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..exciting -excited! -and feeling proud.

Through longstanding support of Bob Jaffe, Ensemble Studio Theatre is giving my play Breathing Ash a workshop, and then rehearsed reading, on Tuesday the 25th October.

The company have gathered a terrific group of actors, and I have a fearless and deep thinking director in Christopher Burris!

More to come on the details and journey of this work, whose themes and narrative profoundly resonate, in the chilling nature of culture today..

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

September 22, 2016 at 8:51 AM

NPR does a profile of my students in the NPG Portraits Alive! program

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..in this season of unprecedented politics, my students in the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!, bring their concepts of leadership to the fore -and are profiled by NPR..

An incredible group of hard working young minds, making sense for themselves, a way in which the past resonates in the shape of the future..

I am so proud of them!

 

NPR Profile: At The Portrait Gallery, Students Tell The Stories That Pictures Can’t

Youth’s take on leadership

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I am fortunate; it is my third year with the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!

Having the opportunity to participate in the construct of what students will be addressing this year, I sought to find the model by which to investigate their concepts of ‘civic duty and ‘social responsibility’.

Students would choose sitters, whose portraits are part of the NPG collection, who best exemplified such ingredients of character and informed their definition of ‘leadership’.

With these choices made, students were to create 2 to 3 minute monologues of characterization, in the aspect of their sitter, which would then be delivered in front of the corresponding portrait and enacted as part of an open opportunity for the museum’s daily audience.

These presentations are well publicized and have a faithful following –but it is always a delight to find impromptu interest drawing in the many unsuspecting others who have happened into the museum on the day! Whether families, tourists, summer school excursion groups, or local workers seeking a lunch hour refuge –the experience of the Portraits Alive! Student voices tour offers a dimension of exhibition as entertainment, which is very much a part of the NPG’s array of enrichment programs designed to engage a broad breadth of audience who visit the museum with a diversity of interests.

This summer our young presenters weave a tapestry of expression and social consciousness that resonates with the state of America; moving from portraits of Richard Nixon, to Sylvia Rivera, Russell Means and Jane Adams –to name a few- students give expression to different decades of cultural engagement, across passionate personalities, who ultimately wind up articulating the wrestling tensions of scope that continue to seek to twine into our national narrative of political character and democracy.

 

The 2nd session’s presentations will be given in the first week of August, and are open to the public.

 

The initial session’s presentations were given in the 2nd week of July. These are some photos of the journey!

 

Some costumes

Some costumes

 

Captivated crowd

Captivated crowd

 

Ensemble and audience

Ensemble and audience

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

July 22, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Congressional acts of non-violent courage..

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Earlier this week I attended a panel discussion, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, on New Health and Economic Research on Work and Family Policies in the United States and Canada, hosted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
..when entering the chamber.. I realized that I’d been in the building once before -exactly 10 years previous -to attend a hearing on the Voting Rights Act, ahead of the vote for its re-ratification.
..remembering this left me with a strange sensation of having just ‘passed my younger self in the hall’, so to speak.. -but it seems my politics and sense of historic timing remain congruent.. -as, at that very moment of remembering, Congressman John Lewis was, again, offering a civics lesson, and exampling social activism in the cause of making sense of a senseless current political impasse..
I say “again” because that example was what was occurring, in June 2006, when I was first in the Dirksen Senate Office Building – and witness to this Congressman’s reason, leadership, and eloquent social consciousness, trying to face an unconscionable situation, with a rightful sense of Justice.
In our current moment of history, he speaks to gun control; in 2006, he was speaking to equality.
But in every direction of his efforts, Congressman Lewis is always leading a call to shine a light upon the dank currents that surge to sink a rightful debate beneath the rhetoric of a divisive oppression, remnant and resonant of our cultural history..
..charging us to insist on change.. and imbuing a path ahead with a power of process that is informed by a long procession of souls who exampled leadership in defining an invigorating paradigm of non-violent, social activism..
We may wrestle up and down, through ongoing time, and returning issues of inequity ..imbalance, and ignorance.. But it is instructive to remember that change is incremental; that calling out injustice has purpose; and that in the siege of politics, a permanence of our government -it is a constant, non-violent courage that is best heard above the fray..