Take a breather from the news for a few minutes with these arts picks
As we do each week, we reached out for recommendations for arts and culture events in the Puget Sound region. Today, KUOW’s Kim Malcolm talked to Seattle Times reporter Jerald Pierce.
Becoming Othello, A Black Girl’s Journey, at Seattle Shakespeare
This is an autobiographical show from Debra Ann Byrd, the founding artistic director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival in New York. It's a one-woman play that tells the story of how Debra Ann found Shakespeare and eventually played Othello herself, and how that whole experience changed her life forever.
I love the poetry of how Byrd writes and performs. It's this kind of mixture between someone performing a role really well on stage, and being herself on stage, but also with that feeling of slam poetry. It becomes this excellent spoken word poem at the end, and it's incredibly moving.
Barry Johnson: For Real Though, at Winston Wächter Fine Art
I personally became familiar with Barry Johnson's work when writing about the Midtown Square building in the Central District. Johnson created the beautiful, colorful panels on the side of the building, as well as the sculpture of James W. Washington, Jr. This exhibition takes Johnson's work and turns it on himself. The portrait aspect is so important, especially because in the background of a lot of the works you'll see in this exhibition, you can see portraits that he's done of other people in his past work. The way Barry Johnson typically works is he'll take an entire year to work on one idea or one concept.
This show takes verbatim stories from health care workers during Covid and turns that into a theater piece. The play was devised by Gloria Alcalá and playwright Alma Davenport. Alcalá performs as four nurses and a respiratory therapist using their words from interviews to tell their stories about working during Covid.
This play reminds me a lot of Anna Deavere Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” which Smith created using interviews with folks who were connected to the 1992 riots in LA. I think the important thing about this kind of very personal documentary work is that theater has a unique ability to keep us honest and keep us accountable to things that we might want to get rid of in our minds.
But the reality of the situation, and why I think this piece is so important, is that we're not fully out of this pandemic. Despite how much we may want to put this in our rearview, this play continues to remind us what our health care professionals are working with and dealing with and the trauma that comes along with that.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.