Centered in African-American artistic and cultural traditions, Sharon Bridgforth's "dat Black Mermaid Man Lady" offers multiple ways for communities to engage in work and conversations that activate collective wisdom and self-determination.
dat Black Mermaid Man Lady activates connection, communal wisdom and self-determination through art-gatherings-and resource sharing. dat Black Mermaid Man LadyLives as a: Show; Oracle Deck; Home Project; dem Blessings; Performance Novel; and Performance Installation.
The Show premiered at Pillsbury House Theatre in MLPS. MN. June 2018. The Performance Installation - a collaboration between Sharon, her daughter Sonja Perryman and Walter Kitundu - premiered August 2018 at allgo in Austin TX. Oracle readings and dem Blessings are part of the Performance Installation and ongoing workshops.
May 2018, the Home Project partnered with Molly Van Avery, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, and the City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT) to offer mentorship to an intergenerational cohort of six Minneapolis based emerging artists of color. CLCLT created a curriculum for the Cohort focused on foundational information about home buying and homeownership. Sharon offered Oracle readings, dem Blessings as part of one on one and small group workshops in Molly Van Avery's Tiny (Poetry) House in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood May/June 2018.
Twin Cities PBS did a special on Pillsbury House Theatre - who GRACIOUSLY chose to feature dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The ShowFilmed by Xiaolu Wang and Tahiel Jimenez. The special premiered on 7/10/21. Episode #131.
dat Black Mermaid Man Lady /The Show is a performance processional that celebrates African-American cultures/traditions/histories/and multiple ways of embodying gender. The characters HoneyPot, Miss Kitty and dat Black Mermaid man lady work with Oya, Osun and Yemaya (Yoruba deities) to train in a next generation healer, as they lift communal prayers to the Light. In performance all present are invited to make offerings to this world of womanizing, piano playing, knife carrying she’roes and old people that fly. Performers sing, move, tell stories, call the audience to process, chant, holler back, build altars – celebrate life. All present are responsible for the Journey.
Directed by Ebony Noelle Golden; Dramaturge: Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Musical Director: Mankwe Ndosi; Cast: Aimee K. Bryant, Florinda Bryant, PaviElle French, and Kenyai O’Neal;
Designers: Christopher Heilman - Set Design, Sonya Berlovitz - Costume Design, Mike Wangen – Light Design; Elizabeth MacNally - Production Manager/Stage Manager.
Playwright Mia Chung invited San Francisco based (where I lived at the time) New Dramatists members to participate in a Bake-Off. Fashioned after the famed Paula Vogel Bake-Off, you are given ingredients to create a play – and you have 48-hours to write it. Our Bake-Off took place July 22 – August 5, 2013 at Z Space hosted by Peter Nachtrieb. Our ingredients included: ducks, mermaids and gangsters. The result for me was a very early, very short draft of what would grow to become dat script.
dat Black Mermaid Man Lady is the recipient of development support from New Dramatists Creativity Fund, a program made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Creativity Fund work happened: September 16 – 20, 2013 @ New Dramatists featuring: Daniel Alexander Jones and Kelly Erin Sloan
and October 6 – 10, 2014 @ New Dramatists featuring:
Daniel Alexander Jones and Kelly Erin Sloan
Virginia Grise – Director, Kyla Searle – Dramaturg,
Jillian Jetton – Stage Manager.
dem Mermaids and I are deeply grateful to ALL
who have carried us on the Journey!
"What a transcendent work of theater. I received a gift of deep spiritual medicine that I am still trying to unpack. MPLS: run don't walk to see this show, and everyone else should be figuring out how to bring it to your town."
"I promise you this: The spirit of God lives in PaviElle's voice. There is no describing Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady / The Show. Just do your soul a favor and go see it!"
"This beautiful show is therapy!"
"It was church."
"I felt held by the performance, in a way that felt spiritual, emotional and sensory. I felt inspired creatively and politically and in relationship to healing."
"dat Black Mermaid Man Lady felt so familiar. Like blood memory. A space for blackness celebrated, buoyant, blackness present but not another news headline."
"I am a 52 year old, recent transplant from New Orleans to MN. dat Black Mermaid Man Lady / The Show felt like attending one of my family's "get-togethers" from childhood. Everything was so authentic! Even the character names were like those of family members. I needed this touch of home and the playwright truly understands my culture. What a sweet gift this play was. THANK YOU!!!"
Rob Hubbard / TwinCities Pioneer Press Theater review says:
"This is a writer with a style and sound entirely her own. The words that come from her characters’ mouths are musical, magical, poetic and pregnant with history. This is a play full of intertwined yarns, family folk tales that call into question the boundaries between past and present. Stories about epiphanies and transformations, communing with ancestors and establishing identities." READ THE REVIEW HERE.
"One of the most stimulating—and therapeutic—pieces of theatre I have seen anywhere in the Twin Cities this year. More than a play, this "performance processional" is a breathtaking, at times achingly beautiful celebration of life and memory and ancestral love." Talking Broadway-Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
"In the end, the performers create a mental space where “the past, the present, the future/the living, the dead, the not yet born, co-exist”, a threshold where much of the action happens in the audience’s imagination instead of onstage. One’s mind grasps at how associations, connected themes, and assembled fragmentary scenes blends into a story. To some, this kind of interactivity is the Holy Grail of abstract, collaborative theatre." - Twin Cities Arts Reader
"A bold and urgent narrative filled with fire, life and sudden flashes of humor... a tale that feels both weighted with mythology and freshly vivid." - Star Tribune
"There are comic incidents and long journeys, gnomic utterances, and loaded guns, all seamlessly woven into a tapestry of song drawing on gospel, blues, and jazz... There's a profound sense of truths that are known but not spoken, wounds that are healed with quiet understanding." - City Pages
Dwight Hobbes / Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder says:
"Playwright celebrates exploration of gender with new play" HERE.
The Show is part of the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/Home project and was made possible by the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program, The Whitman Institute, Thousand Currents Artist In-Residence Program, development support from New Dramatists Creativity Fund (a program made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) and is a project of Creative Capital.
Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The Show
premiered at Pillsbury House + Theatre In Minneapolis June 1 and ran until June 24, 2018.
dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The Show won the 2018 MN Theater Award for
EXCEPTIONAL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE!
dem Mermaids Kenyai O'Neal, Mankwe Ndosi and PaviElle French received recognition for their work on The Show from Lavender Magazine!
There are nine Oracles (characters from the performance/novel). Each speaks on four subjects. The text on the back of the cards is from the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady: Performance/Novel. In addition, each Oracle has one blank card... which if pulled means “you know.” In other words, they ain’t responding to your question or the situation at hand because you already know what is in your highest interest/greatest good.
dat Black Mermaid Man Lady sits at the bottom of the Ocean/with the Ancestors/with our Dreams/our wealth/our most powerful Knowings. It’s the place where the bottom of the Ocean meets the Sky. Where our Innermost Divine Connection with Infinite Love Is. Yoruba practitioners will recognize that each character is a reflection of Yoruba deities that are guiding them, and that each character is a flesh and blood Ancestor. . . except dat Black Mermaid Man Lady, who is a deity/that Lives at the bottom of the Ocean. You don’t need to be familiar with Yoruba cosmologies to understand dem Mermaids. Just know that they will speak to what’s under the surface of the question/the moment/the situation at hand. And know that dem Mermaids and I believe, that only Love is real.
Writing Prompts/Readings and Reflections with dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/Sharon Bridgforth. View the writing prompts: https://bit.ly/BridgforthWritingPrompts
Sharon offering an Oracle reading during dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/Performance Installation.
Audience members generously/beautiful read dem Blessings
that they received upon entering dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/Performance Installation.
Sharon talks about dem Blessings. Both videos by Diana Alvarez - taken during the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/Performance Installation premiere in Austin, TX at allgo: A Texas Statewide QPOC organization.
"Let Sharon Bridgforth's performance installation wash over you."
-Robert Faires, The Austin Chronicle
Copyright © 2023 Sharon Bridgforth - All Rights Reserved Child.