Mixed Blood Theatre’s YOUNG NEGRESS STEPPING OUT OF THE RIVER AT DAWN Opens 5/16
Mixed Blood will welcome its 3rd world premiere of the season, a love story about Rwandan immigrants living in America, trying to recreate the traditional wedding ceremonies in a new place, while simultaneously struggling with the violent atrocities of their past. The production follows the structure of a traditional Rwandan wedding ceremony and features live drumming and dance.
Alyze and Martin are in love. Martin drives a taxi, and Alyze cleans office buildings at night to get by. When Martin proposes marriage, Alyze happily accepts, but in this new country, without family, without money, without traditions, they must forge a new path to make their marriage their own. Alyze has always dreamed of the traditional Rwandan ceremonies, but Martin feels that a Justice of the Peace is all they can afford. Alyze finds herself stuck between two worlds.
The cast features Ethiopian American actress and Mixed Blood regular Antu Yacob as Alyze, and introduces Kenyan American actor Owiso Odera to Mixed Blood audiences as Martin. This show also represents a reunion for three artists who last collaborated on 2009’s award-winning production of RUINED by Lynn Nottage: Kenyan American actor Irungu Mutu, Liberian American choreographer Edna Stevens, and director Aditi Kapil.
Artistic Director Jack Reuler: It is a primary tenet of Mixed Blood that people like to see themselves on stage reflected in important ways. In this 55454 Series (about Africans and Muslims in America), and in this season (“at the intersection of virtuosity and social change), YOUNG NEGRESS STEPPING OUT OF THE RIVER AT DAWN, brought to us by gifted actor Owiso Odera, embodies both aspirations. The finest performers in the land meet a great script that personifies the intentions of the Series and ambitions of the season. For a theatre dedicated to the development, production, and dissemination of new plays, producing Dean Poynor’s world premiere allows us to walk our talk in new and ever-improving ways.
Playwright Dean Poynor: In the play, Alyze and Martin end up making their own wedding: piece meal, handcrafted, one-time-only. They use the resources they have at hand, including their cultural traditions, their tragic memories, and their rich imaginations, to make something both utterly unique and deeply familiar. The theatre is the perfect way to explore this story. Theatre events are always unique – the show changes night to night with the truth of the moment. And the inverse economy of performance demands that you strip away everything that is non-essential so that the most vibrant thing – the actors on stage making characters come to life – can be seen most clearly. Making theatre is a collaborative effort between human beings. It has been a privilege to make this play with Mixed Blood, for you. I trust that we will introduce you to someone you have never met, but who you’ve known your whole life.
Actor Owiso Odera: This is an African love story and to be more specific, a Rwandan love story, between two well written black African characters. That combination does not come along very often in the American Theater. Love is universal and we can all identify with that but it is rare that I have gone to a theater in this country and experienced a beautiful love story between two African characters. The other aspect of Dean Poynor’s play that makes it compelling to me is a strong African female character at the center of the story. This play is the story of Alyze and how she navigates and negotiates being an African woman, an African/American woman, and an immigrant living in America, trying to balance what elements of her culture to hold on to while adopting and assimilating to the western world. Alyze is full of wit, passion and loves deeply. I do not see this African woman on stage very often and when I read this play, something in me could see my mother, sisters and aunts fully expressed on stage in ways I probably never saw them express their feelings in real life. A story from a part of the world I come from told with sensitivity, truth and humor. How could I pass that up?
The design team includes set designer Lois Rhomberg, lighting designer Paul Epton, costume designer Annie Cady, and drummer Ahanti Young providing the sound bed for the show.
The 55454 SERIES is a curated series of four plays about, for, and with Africans and Muslims in America. Each production runs one weekend only. The series also includes January’s PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD by Yussef el Guindi, February’s AFRICAN AMERICA by Warren C. Bowles, and April’s HIJAB TUBE by Seema Sueko.