The Breath Project—a new theatrical initiative formed in response to racial injustice against Black people—will stream as a free virtual festival October 24 and 25, 2020.
In partnership with Studio Theatre and 23 other companies across the country, the festival will feature 24 world premiere works created by multidisciplinary theater artists of color that are each 8 minutes and 46 seconds in length. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, 8 minutes and 46 seconds has symbolized the racial injustice faced by countless Black people across the United States.
The Breath Project Artistic Director and Co-Founder Gamal Abdel Chasten and Co-Founder Marieke Gaboury announced the lineup of works, listed below, that will be streamed on Saturday, October 24 (5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET) and Sunday, October 25 (8 p.m. ET). To RSVP for The Breath Project Virtual Festival, click here.
“We received many inspiring submissions from around the country to be housed in our archive, and a third of those will be featured at the virtual festival,” said Chasten. “The range of works we received was vast, and included more traditional theatrical presentations and those that challenged the idea of what is theater in this moment of isolation. It is my hope that when people visit our website, attend the virtual festival, or follow and support our vision, they will have their boundaries pushed and their ideas challenged, and that, in the process, we change the face of American theater.”
Said Studio’s Associate Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas: “All of us at Studio are thrilled to have participated in The Breath Project by spreading the call for submissions to the DMV’s vibrant arts community and helping to curate the final line-up. This exciting, artist-led initiative celebrates the power of art to reflect the world back to us in poignant, powerful ways and is a reflection our organization’s deep commitment to thoughtful community engagement. We can’t wait to share the festival with our audiences.”
Following a call for entries in August 2020, more than 65 original works—ranging from monologues and slam poetry to puppetry and dance activism—were submitted. From those entries, a diverse panel of artists of color selected the 24 works that will comprise the inaugural festival. All works that have met the required submission guidelines will be archived on The Breath Project website.
The 24 selected works (in alphabetical order) are:
Mhir Agrawal / Gamal Chasten – “Say Hello Stewart
Aldo Billingslea — “3 Story Walk Up”
Alumni Theater Company — “Perspectives”
Ananya Dance Theatre — “Just Breathe”
James Brunt — “Waiting for Death”
Giovanny Camarena — “Don’t Be Afraid”
The Char’Actors — “The Cycle”
Tyharra Cozier — “Breath”
Henri Franklin — “Views of Color in 8:46”
Yetta Gottesman — “Oh, Maria”
Ilasiea Gray — “Acting While Black”
David Guster — “Nice to Meet You”
Candice Handy — “Black Quarantine Date”
Harvey — “Breonna’s Prayer”
Gabrielle Jackson — “The Ballad of Jacob Blake”
Angela G. King — “8:46”
Bruce Lemon, Jr. — “The Act of Ownership”
Anthony Sky Ng-Thow-Hing — “Transcending Isolation: Hope”
Playwright Collective of Puerto Rico – “inhala – exhala”
Josh Richardson — “Choosing Sides”
Derek J. Snow — “The Ballad of the Dying Body or The Breath to Say”
Jessica Gabrielle Thomas — “Glow | Eternal”
Bil Wright — “Pulse”
David Zayas / Gamal Chasten — “I Just Don’t Know”
The Breath Project seeks to build a more equitable theater community in the country and to actively dismantle structural racism in the American theater through a three-pronged mission: Art, Action, and Advocacy.
- Art: In partnership with organizations and artists across the nation, The Breath Project will create, develop, and support original theatrical works, created by BIPOC artists. The work that is housed by The Breath Project will be used as a tool for education and advocacy, as a living time capsule of this moment in history.
- Action: The Breath Project is working to build relationships between local artists and theaters in their community and region, creating more opportunities for BIPOC theater artists, technicians, and administrators throughout the country. Working across national partnerships, The Breath Project will seek to end the notion that plays by BIPOC artists fulfill a quota or check a box for a theater, and instead become an organic and permanent part of the American Theatre landscape.
- Advocacy: The Breath Project will work to support the organizations that produce, fund, and support the American Theatre to eliminate the racism and biases that exist in our institutions and business practices.
Theaters partnering with The Breath Project include (in alphabetical order): Alabama Shakespeare Festival (Montgomery, AL); Alumni Theater Company (Pittsburgh, PA); Cherry Lane Theatre (New York, NY); Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park(Cincinnati, Ohio); City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh, PA); Cornerstone Theater Company (Los Angeles, CA); Curious Theatre Company (Denver, CO); Detroit Public Theatre (Detroit, MI); Dorset Theatre Festival (Dorset, VT), Face Off Theatre(Kalamazoo, MI), Flat Rock Playhouse (Flat Rock, NC); Flint Repertory Theatre (Flint, MI); Kumu Kahua Theatre (Honolulu, HI); Marin Theatre Company (Mill Valley, CA); Network of Ensemble Theaters (National Service Organization); Palo Alto Children’s Theatre (Palo Alto, CA); Pillsbury House Theatre (Minneapolis, MN); Portland Center Stage (Portland, OR); Rude Mechs (Austin, TX); San Diego Repertory Theatre (San Diego, CA); Southern Rep Theatre (New Orleans, LA); Studio Theatre (Washington DC); Two River Theater (Red Bank, NJ); and Western Michigan University Department of Theatre (Kalamazoo, MI).
For more information on The Breath Project, visit thebreathproject2020.com.
ABOUT GAMAL ABDEL CHASTEN
Artistic Director/Co-Founder, The Breath Project
Gamal is an actor, poet, writer, composer, activist, and a founding member of Universes Theater Ensemble. His latest projects are The Land Of Lost Socks (a children’s story), commissioned by The Palo Alto Children’s Theater and AmericUS (Universes, commissioned by Cincinnati Playhouse. He is currently in development for his solo production of Crawfish. His work in Theater spans over 25 years. Along with Universes, he has co-written and/or acted in The Ride (PS 122, 1996), Slanguage (New York Theater Workshop, 2001), Rhythmicity (Actors Theater of Louisville), Ameriville (Victory Garden Theater, 2006). Individual writing credits include Let Bygones Be, (2010 Humana Festival’s Ten Minute Play series), The Last Word (PS 122), God Took Away His Poem (Labyrinth Theater Barn Series) , The Black Mann Act/The Trail of Jack Johnson/Vaudeville Show (New Orleans reading), The Wall (New Orleans Fringe Festival), and Badge (Just Theater 2013 residency). Directing credits include: The Last Word(Austin, TX); Articulation (at Company One, Boston, MA); Innerviews (by Full Circle at NY’s Dance Theater Workshop). Additional acting credits include: Brother (by Lisa Ebersole at The Elm Theater); Zombie Town (Southern Rep @ Le Chat Noir). Awards/Affiliations: 2008 U.S. Cultural Ambassador with the U.S. State Dept./Jazz at Lincoln Center – Rhythm Road Tour; New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. Publications: UNIVERSES’ The Revolution will be Live! (2020 release- TCG Books), 2018 Dell’ Arte Prize of Hope, Writers Corp Teacher Anthology (City Lights Books 2009); SLANGUAGE in The Fire This Time (TCG Books); Featured on the covers of American Theatre magazine (2004) and The Source magazine (2000).
ABOUT MARIEKE GABOURY
Co-Founder, The Breath Project
As a Theatre Specialist for the City of Palo Alto, Marieke is delighted to be a part of the team that supports performing arts programs for youth in the Bay Area. A California native who has happily returned home, Marieke spent some years in New Orleans, where she was the Manager of Institutional Development for the New Orleans Ballet Association, as well as Managing Director of Southern Rep, one of the only professional theatre companies in Louisiana. Her move to New Orleans followed 13 years in New York City, where she was Producing Director of LAByrinth Theater Company, the member-driven Off-Broadway collective which developed and produced new work by both emerging and distinguished, award-winning theatre artists. Marieke is still a member of LAB.
ABOUT STUDIO THEATRE
Studio Theatre is Washington’s premier venue for contemporary theatre, “where local audiences will find today’s edgiest playwrights” (Variety). One of the most respected midsized theatres in the country, Studio produces exceptional contemporary drama in deliberately intimate spaces. Drawing inspiration from great ensembles—where people work together with a spirit of generosity and professional rigor—Studio brings characteristic thoughtfulness and daring to its work onstage and off, through its new work incubator and engagement, education, and workforce training initiatives. Studio serves nearly 75,000 people each year, including more than 1,000 youth and young adults through community engagement initiatives. Founded in 1978, the quality of Studio’s work has been recognized by sustained community support, as well as 70 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in professional theatre.