Woolly Mammoth Theatre recently released their mixed media streaming production of The JookJOYnt, A Black in Space Powered by Makers Lab Experience. The video is a funky intergalactic collage of collaborations that take you on a journey through the JookJOYnt galaxy. You buckle up on the “Othaship” and travel to other planets, witnessing a vibrant group of Black LGTBQ+ artists.
Makers Lab and Woolly Mammoth have been working together to highlight queer Black artists in their current project, Black in Space, which has included music festivals, Black in Space TV, and other events. They have created a platform for the mainly marginalized and ignored artists to shine in their true form of self-expression. JookJOYnt is another stage in this ongoing project.
The art includes spoken word, music, and dancing that celebrates the beauty in diversity and the importance of representation, recognition, and respect.
Throughout the piece there is a vibe of existential escapism, which is something we could all use during these times of the virus. As the virtual playbill explains, “creatives, artists, and activists have established their own galaxy, far far away from Planet Earth and The Rona; a virus attacking the land.”
The Journey starts with a sensual introduction from the Captain of the Othaship, Samantha G, welcoming the audience and briefly describing the diverse and multi-dimensional experience we are about to have.
Maddie Ann Stuckey (Patience Sings) serves as the guide through the Jook JOYnt galaxy, which is broken up into separate stages: Vulnerability, Intimacy, and Connection.
Vulnerability takes us to Planet Exposure, where we see a brilliant piece called “Drained” by Charity Blackwell, discussing oppression and the ways in which it drains you. Repeating the words “I’m tired. We’re tired,” it ends on a hopeful note that it is okay to be tired and you are not alone.
Then we hear the song “Contradicting.” Performed by Blaq Dynamite and sung by Dexter Jordan, it addresses the frustrations of being in a relationship with someone who is constantly contradicting themselves.
From Vulnerability, we move on to Intimacy, which takes us to Planet Affinity 4. Samantha G performs “Casual,” a visceral spoken word piece about sexual intimacy and the internal experience of exploring and reveling in one’s own sensuality.
Next we hear “Wait,” performed by Vagenesis and Sung by Be Steadwell. The song is visual and audio foreplay, exuding a sexual longing but all the while teasing to “wait for it.”
Having run the course of Intimacy, we go to Connection, which brings us C. Thomas, performing “No Fucks” from the Othaship. He stresses the importance of having no fucks to give, allowing that life is what it is, and you can choose to be joyous anyway.
From Planet Unfettered we hear “Favor,” performed by Eva Mystique and sung by Danni Cassette. The song has a somber feel but turns into a celebration with “when you left you did us both a favor.” Mystique performs a gorgeous fire dance, which illustrates the growth, strength, and resilience that the song implies.
After every leg of the journey, there is a performance from the Othaship called “Rock Cajun” in three parts. The music and dance sections are performed by Boujee and sung by Asha Santee.
And through each of the stages, Maddie discusses the complexities of each of the themes: Vulnerability,Intimacy, and Connection. In the last section, she ties in the importance of all of those feelings needing to coexist in a relationship in order for it to be complete. Should you be intimate with someone you don’t have a connection with? What kind of relationship has no room for being vulnerable, no matter how great the connection?
As we approach the end of the experience, The Descent gives us a transmission from Mission Control, Rayceen Pendarvis. Pendarvis reflects on the experience, recounting the artists and lauding the JookJOYnt galaxy as a safe haven. She states that no matter how talented an artist is, because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation, you were rejected. This is a sad truth that groups like Makers Lab and Woolly Mammoth are striving to overthrow.
The JookJOYnt was truly a joyous experience. The material focused on individual feeling and the struggle for finding valued human connection, in a time of quarantines and social distancing, using a talented group of Black and Brown LGTBQ+ artists to illustrate a universal truth that people need people. And even now, when things seem so incredibly bleak, we can come together to create these alternative safe havens where we can express, love, and just exist without interference.
I look forward to seeing what the Black in Space Project, Makers Lab, and Woolly Mammoth share with the world next.
Running Time: About 40 minutes with no intermission.
The JookJOYnt was available for streaming on Woolly Mammoth’s website November 17 to 22, 2020.
Cast: Asha “BOOMCLAK” Santee, Barhonawk Poitier, Be Steadwell, Black Assets, Blaq Dinamyte, Boujee, C. Thomas, Charity Blackwell, Danni Cassette, Dexter Jordan, Eva Mystique, Patience Sings, Rayceen Pendarvis, Samantha G., Sweet Boi, Vagenesis
Black In Space Star Crew: The JookJOYnt was truly a joyous experience.Lee Levingston Perine, Makers Lab; Patience Sings, Makers Lab; Carter, Androfemm Productions; Brooke Jay, Androfemm Productions;Rich Rocket, Rich Rocket Media
ABOUT THE GENRE
AFROFUTURISM is a movement that combines elements of the African diaspora with technology as a way for Black people to reclaim their racial identity, and imagine possible worlds through a Black cultural lens. These new realities provide a way for Black people to shape a future that is entirely their own, where greater justice and freer artistic and personal expression prevail.