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Tag Archives: Mount Holyoke College



All This Activity Around One Little Play…

American Moor on the Campuses of
Mount Holyoke College, University of Massachusetts,
and Amherst, 11/2  - 11/15/18…

So this was new…

Fourteen days over three campuses, five performances of American Moor, and classroom interaction in classes ranging from “Intro to Literature” and “History of Performance” to “Diversity, Inclusion, and Everyday Democracy” and “Race, Racism and Power,” a round table discussion, a symposium or two… We sat and spoke with renowned scholars and visual artists.  My play and I had never done anything like this before. The visitor to the web page here can scroll down and read about other college engagements. They all had purpose and value.

Holyoke-Mantage-Web

Top three photos credit: Jon Crispin
Clockwise from center: Director, Kim Weild; Scholar, Kim F. Hall; Umass Professor, Marjorie Rubright
Lower Left: Artist, Curlee Raven Holten, and Mt. Holyoke Art Museum Director, Tricia Y. Paik
Upper Center: Mt. Holyoke Professor, Amy Rodgers, and Curlee Raven Holten, visual artist and Director of the David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland

But this was another animal entirely. It was as if American Moor served as the nexus for any number of disciplines to converge and understand their place in this story. A Muslim student from Saudi Arabia stopping me on campus wept to discover upon seeing a performance that “his” story was her story, that she could not be the fully actualized individual in her new life as an American college student. Another small woman—a student as unlike me in age, gender, race, and life experience as any two people could be—steps up to speak with me after a symposium. She’s tracked the protagonist’s sore shoulder from the opening of the play through where, driving towards the last third, he speaks of how his injury now impedes upon his dreams because, aging, his body will no longer do the work to repair itself so well, and she tells me that she is a violinist and a good one, and that she doesn’t know, even as young as she is, if her shoulder will allow her to be a great violinist, and that she is afraid.

I don’t know what else to say…

Two Mount Holyoke students took me to breakfast. They wanted me to account for how Desdemona is addressed in my play, or, just as important, how she is NOT addressed, and only referred to, for the most part as they had perceived it, through images of violence against women. I’m still wondering if they were satisfied with my answers. Ultimately, it was, for me, just another instance of viewers finding themselves somewhere in the play, and wanting to defend, define, deny, or discuss their complicity.

This is mostly a document in photos and short video clips. I’m hoping they can tell the story better than I can. It’s not my favorite thing to tell the story at all, but I hope rather that it begins to tell itself if we just keep showing up. I can’t pretend that everything that audiences are finding in this play I intentionally put there… but something did… Documenting these endeavors as they come and go by is my responsibility to whatever thing has done that.

Holyoke Post-Perf Comment (Complicity) from Keith Hamilton Cobb on Vimeo.

Holyoke Post-Perf Comment (Dir. Modality) from Keith Hamilton Cobb on Vimeo.

Amherst Professor Comment Post-Perf from Keith Hamilton Cobb on Vimeo.

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FIVE DESTINATIONS / FIVE PRESENTATIONS

#MakingTheMoor Embarking on Nine Months
of American Moor in The NorthEast and London

I write this just a week or two away from returning to the stage with this theatre work of mine that has been silent for nearly a year.  After garnering major honors for our 2017 Boston production, we are back at it, creatively insatiable and chronically dissatisfied.  The play in Boston said everything that the play should say, if indeed it should “say” anything.  It’s not about sending messages, but about presenting truths, I think, and sharing them with audiences who may not have ever considered those same facts in the way that you do.  I think we did that to great success.  It might not quite have looked exactly how we, the creative team would most have liked it to look.  But we’re never quite sure.  It is the audiences that have come out to experience the play in every city, their responses, their emotional engagement that continue to shape the look of this play, a piece of theatre so much about all of us, and what we are living right now.AM2018 Icon_2

FIVE DESTINATIONS / FIVE PRESENTATION

AUGUST 7TH AND 8TH:  Luna Stage Theatre, West Orange, NJ
Tickets Available Now!!

AUGUST 12TH:  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London, UK
Tickets Available Now!!

NOVEMBER 8TH – 10TH:  Alice Withington Rooke Theatre, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA

JANUARY 3 – FEBRUARY 3:  The Anacostia Playhouse, Washington, DC

APRIL 10 – 21:  Arts Emerson, Robert J. Orchard Theatre, Paramount Center, Boston, MA
Tickets Available Now!!

Our presentation on the set of Susan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A at the Signature Theatre Center in Manhattan last October made us hungry for a set.  We had been doing American Moor on bare stages everywhere we went.  That’s more or less how the show was written to be played.  IMG_9976But in order to be granted the opportunity to present the work to a Manhattan audience at a central venue, we had to agree to put it up in a single afternoon, and to work on the set that existed in the space at the time we occupied it.  We had to get in, light, stage, rehearse, and perform the show for audience twice in a single day.  The process, as processes under pressure often do, lead to some remarkable discovery.  The set, that was altogether foreign to the play we were presenting, focused the work in ways that we had not expected, for us, and we think for our audiences as well.  We have been on the hunt for our definitive set and lighting design ever since, and hoping to discover it somewhere among these many dates ahead.  But again, it was the audience response that indicated most strongly to us that something had shifted.  They experienced the performance as if the set had been our intention all along.  Those who had seen the show before expressed how it made a particular new sort of sense played there.

We start with nothing again.  At Luna Stage in New Jersey, we put the play on its feet again and prepare it for the London engagement.  We are on another bare stage, with our audience who will inform us with their reactions and interactions what’s still working… and what needs work…  In London, at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of the Shakespeare and Race Festival, the unadorned stage of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse will again give rise to innovation.  American Moor by candlelight in a Jacobean Indoor Theatre??!!  AR-701209951.jpg&updated=201401201732&MaxW=800&maxH=800&noborderWhat an odyssey that promises to be!!  And this, a totally new audience, with perhaps a different set of sensibilities altogether, experiencing the matters of the play through their British perspective of Shakespeare, race, and America.  They are bound to have something to say, and we are eager to hear it.

Back in The States all bets are off.  We do a two-week residency and five performances on the campus of Mount Holyoke College, engaging with the students there and on the sister campuses of UMass and Amherst.  The college engagement is a thing unto itself, unlike anywhere else we perform, or any other work we engage in. While we are moving more and more into the commercial arena, the communion and communication with students in and around this play has always been, and will continue to be vibrant, revelatory, and rewarding.

A return to Washington DC follows.  The Anacostia Playhouse was the venue in the summer of 2015, where the play first came to the attention of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the library has been a staunch supporter of the development and exposure of the work ever since.  So this will be something of a homecoming in the new year.  Much to celebrate, and all of the DC audience that missed the experience the first time around.

The spring of 2019 brings us back to Boston.  We really need to call that a second homecoming, because it is returning to the city that embraced the work with passion in the summer of 2017, bestowing upon us two IRNE Awards and an Elliot Norton Award.  In the hands of our hosts Arts Emerson in the beautiful Robert Orchard Theatre of the Paramount Center, we will most certainly have arrived somewhere, perhaps with all the pieces in place that we have been searching for, perhaps not, but again, letting the wider Boston audience come and take part in the conversation that so many are having with us.  What is the role of a lifetime?  What is the role of a life?

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