"It's taken me my whole life to learn what not to play."

 Dizzie Gillespie

“As collaborators we connect on a soul level...

 

...By walking in the room open, vulnerable in the not knowing/present to the question of what wants to happen, and the risk of failure therein, we invite audiences to do the same – to hold space with us, for all present.” 

Sharon Bridgforth

 

Sharon Bridgforth – Writer/Composer

Sharon is a 2016 Doris Duke Performing Artist and a 2016 Creative Capital awardee. A New Dramatists alumnae, Sharon collaborates with actors, dancers, singers and audiences live during performance as she composes moving soundscapes of her ritual/jazz texts.  A MAP Fund and National Performance Network Creation Fund recipient, her work has been presented by Links Hall, Pillsbury House Theatre, The New Black Fest and New York SummerStage Festival and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies. Publications include: love conjure/blues; Lambda Literary Award winning the bull-jean stories; and Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project. Sharon’s River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation script is published in Obsidian Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, Issue 43.1; delta dandi, is published in solo/black/woman; and The love conjure/blues Text Installation is in Blacktino Queer Performance. Sharon is one of the subjects in Omi Osun Joni L. Jones’s Theatrical JazzPerformance, Àṣẹ, and the Power of the Present Moment, The Ohio State Press, 2015. She and Omi Jones co-wrote an essay titled, Black Desire, Theatrical Jazz, and River See, which is published in TDR/The Drama Review, Winter 2014, Vol. 58, No. 4. 

 

Sonja Parks - SEE

An accomplished Actor/Artist/Educator, Sonja has been a featured performer with many notable venues including: The Public Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company-London, The Kennedy Center, Playwrights’ Horizon, & The Guthrie Theatre. She trained at UT- Austin, The Dance Theater of Harlem & The National Black Theater with Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. She is an NEA, TCG/Fox Foundation & McKnight Artist Fellow; has extensive television, commercial and film credits; has served on several national arts panels; been a

featured artist in Time Magazine and named one of “Seven Artists You Must See” by American Theatre Magazine. She teaches acting at the University of Minnesota, and is currently researching/writing on the craft of acting in the "Theatrical Jazz" aesthetic. 

 

Marie Casimir – Big Chief (Leads the processionals)

Marie is a Haitian-American writer and performer interested in the straddling of multiple cultures and languages and how they resonate in the body. Her work has appeared at Dance Union, Links Hall and At The Table. She participated in Sharon Bridgforth’s Theatrical Jazz Institute in 2012 and appeared as Chief in the world premiere of River See. Future projects include collaboration with Chicago Butoh collective Body Strata, performances at Dominican University, North Park University and various venues. She is Associate Director at Links Hall in Chicago. 

Ni’Ja Whitson Adebanjo - Egun (Dancer)

Ni’Ja is a 2013-2015 Movement Research Artist in Residence, a 2014-2015 BAAD! Artist in Residence, and Creative Capital “On Our Radar” Artist. As a choreographer and performer they have worked alongside leading artists across disciplines such as: Dianne McIntyre, Douglas Ewart, La Pocha Nostra and Alison Knowles. Ni’Ja has received a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Outstanding Ensemble Award, Downtown Urban Theatre Festival Audience Award, LinkUp Inaugural Artist in Residence Award, John G. Curtis Jr. Prize, Archibald Motley Grant, 3Arts Visual Artist Award Nomination, and an MFA Fellowship Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Mankwe Ndosi - Spirit Guide (Singer)

Mankwe works in the Twin Cities, Chicago and internationally as a musicmaker and cultural catalyst. She weaves performance genres including improvised music, acapella rhythm and harmonies, hip-hop, afro soul, dance, performance art, and sung prayer/ritual. She infuses creative practice into healing, sustainable economic development, education, and new village community building. 

Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson - Egun (Dancer) 

Jasmine is a dancer and an Assistant Professor of African & Afro-American and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. A Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow, she earned her Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. Johnson has performed internationally and is a founding member of The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. 

Dr. Nia Witherspoon - Spirit Guide (Singer)

Dr. Witherspoon's work has been recognized by the Mellon Foundation, Theatre Bay Area, and the National Queer Arts Festival. Her original play, The Messiah Complex, premiered in April 2014 at New York's prestigious Downtown Urban Theatre Festival where it received the Audience Award and placed second for Best Play. As a vocalist, both independently and with acclaimed ceremonial-music duo SoliRose, her work spans stages, ceremonial spaces, and activist organizations from the San Francisco Bay Area to Beirut. Dr. Witherspoon is currently an Assistant Professor in African Diaspora Performance at Arizona State University. 

 

Elizabeth MacNally – Production Manager

Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, where she is the production manager for Pillsbury House Theatre. As production manger she has worked many productions including Daniel Alexander Jones’Jomama Jones, Tracey Scott Wilson’s Buzzer, Marcus Gardley’s the road weeps, the well runs dry and is looking forward to finishing Tarrell McCraney’s Brother Sister trilogy.