The POC Art Lab, presented by the Boston College theatre department and the AHANA+ Leadership Council, delighted audiences with a fantastic showcase of dance, music, theatre, and POC culture in an energy-filled Robsham Theater on Tuesday.
Maurice Parent, this year’s Monan Professor in Theatre Arts, presented the first performance. Parent, also the executive director of the Front Porch Arts Collective, which is featured in the showcase explained that the mission of his group is to use theatre and film to explore race and gender through the black and brown perspective, which is often overlooked.
The first performance was an excerpt from a longer musical titled Breath & Imagination, which is based on the life of Roland Hayes, an acclaimed classical African American singer. The performer showcased his own powerful voice, belting out beautiful, classical Italian opera pieces that enchanted the audience. Then, cheekily declaring that he would show the power of a classically trained black voice, he sang folk songs, engaging and delighting the audience.
The Front Porch Arts Collective then presented three passages from one of the upcoming plays it will be performing, Black Odyssey, which was written by Marcus Gardley. The play is an adaptation of the classic epic poem by Homer, told through the black perspective, where the hero of the story, Ulysses, is reimagined as an Afghanistan War veteran with his wife and his son that he has never seen waiting at home. Ulysses angers the gods and is transported back to the past, exploring black history and culture for 16 years before finally returning to his family.
The actors showed three scenes, blending comedy with serious examinations of black culture and history. The first scene showed Ulysses blasted into the past, to when Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated, and he becomes acquainted with a family also floating amid a hurricane. The second scene featured Ulysses’ son growing up not knowing his father, having a rough first day at his fancy new prep school where the other kids call him “hood,” and taking it out on his mother. The third and final scene featured the prophet Tiresias as an eccentric blind man with a giant afro driving a car and giving guidance to the lost Ulysses.
Abruptly, at the end of the Black Odyssey excerpts, two men with swords rushed onto the stage, one of them humorously imploring the audience to do something about the situation. Then ensued a thrilling sword fight, with the two performers dodging blows and knocking swords out of each other’s hands. This performance featured artists from the Front Porch Arts Collective’s rendition of The Three Musketeers,” which features predominantly black and brown actors retelling the classic Alexandre Dumas tale of friendship and heroism.
Parent then introduced Lakaï Dance Theatre, a dance group currently in residency in New York with its musical The Block, which attempts to tackle the difficult aspects of black culture and use art to understand and overcome them. The Block features urban hip-hop, African diaspora dance styles, slam poetry, rap, banjos, and trumpets.. The show is about a block in an inner-city neighborhood and shows the communities that it hosts in their good times and their bad as they explore difficult issues such as toxic masculinity, mental health, and racial profiling in an effort to improve their communities. The excerpt Lakaï brought to BC featured powerful slam poetry, comedy, beautiful singing, and a dance battle.
Finally, BC’s own dance groups were given the stage to shine. Phaymus, PATU, and Fuego del Corazon gave dazzling performances that showcased and celebrated the cultures they represent. Phaymus brought a high-energy, urban hip-hop number to the cheers of the audience. PATU showed off African dance styles with a modern twist, exciting the entire theater. Fuego closed out the show with jaw-dropping spins and lifts, showing Latin fire and ending the entire show on a fabulous split.
The POC Art Lab brought not only energy and excitement, but also awareness and discussion to BC’s campus. Through this celebration and examination of POC art and culture, the art lab enriched BC and acted as a forum of empowerment and community for not only people of color, but also anyone who wanted to learn about other cultures and enjoy the accomplishments that have been achieved within them.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor