The past weekend (April 27 & 28, 2012) we presented Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s and The Living Word’s production of “red, black & GREEN: a blues” (rbGb) a funky, soulful, irreverent and profound meditation on social responsibility and environmental justice in the climate change era. The culmination of an 18-month cross-curricular arts residency project that brought Bamuthi and his collaborators to campus on four occasions to visit classes, hold community workshops, and offer readings to foster investigation, cross-disciplinary thinking and to instigate curiosity and questions around the future of our planet and the human race.
The Bates Dance Festival has a long and rich history of collaboration with Bamuthi going back to 2002 when I first encountered him at a National Performance Network meeting. Since then he has become part of our Festival family…conducting creative residencies, teaching text and movement classes, and performing excerpt from “Words Become Flesh”, and the full production of “Scourge” at BDF.
In 2011 I approached a cohort of Bates College colleagues and the newly formed Arts Collaborative about launching a major collaborative project with Bamuthi that would illustrate the benefits of embedding a visionary performance artist across a spectrum of college courses and programs. “red, black & GREEN: a blues” served as an exceptional vehicle through which to weave many content areas and concerns. Our goals was for this project to serve as a model and to illustrate the many benefits of developing an ongoing artist residency program at Bates.
Many Bates College offices, departments and individuals, as well as community organizations, got behind this idea and supported our effort. Together we realized one of the largest and most complex performance project in the Festival’s history.
I am incredibly proud of everyone who made this dream a reality…my friend Bamuthi for creating such a groundbreaking, original and compelling work, the extraordinary artistic collaborators who brought his words and ideas to life through sound, movement, light, architecture and video, our team of technical production wizards who took an old armory and transformed it into a theater, the faculty who committed to the vision, the students who engaged and gave their time, and the community who came out to experience the work.
For me personally the project was an extraordinary example of the power of performance to question, reveal, challenge, inspire, entertain and incite us to action. rbGb tackles the biggest questions we face as humans and urges us to go forward to make the world a better, more just and sustainable place. Let’s get on with it!
In my next posts I will share some audience response to the work and I hope, if you were lucky enough to see rbGb I hope you will share your experience of the work here on our blog.