Johannes Jerez Van Osten, Theater Offensive
“River See,” harks back to the roots of performance. If you let it take you where it wants to, if you follow its gestures and open up, the result is a production that is mystical and knowing.”
- Rohan Preston, Star Tribune.
“Aspects of River See call to mind Alvin Ailey’s Revelations; four of six cast members are dressed in flowy white costumes, umbrellas hang in one corner, soulful music and sounds of pouring water giving continual reference to the river, to wading, to a baptism of sorts."
- Lauren Warnecke, Art Intercepts Chicago.
“...like Shange and Dash, Bridgforth experiments with an unconventional narrative device that many sisters of the African Diasporic argue is the only way to aptly convey and capture the complexities of black women lives.”
- Qu(e)erying the black migration by Rev. Irene Monroe, Bay Windows (Boston).
"In da River with River See" is a documentary by Daviel Shy focused on the making of the "River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation." Filmed during the show's world premiere at Links Hall in Chicago (June 19-29, 2014), the film features the cast, designers and writer/composer Sharon Bridgforth.
River See is a 2012 National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co- commissioned by Links Hall in partnership with Living Arts of Tulsa, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Pillsbury House Theatre, The Theater Offensive, and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency).
River See received development support from New Dramatists Creativity Fund, a program made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 9/12/12-9/15/12.
Pillsbury House Theatre received a 2012 MAP Fund award in support of River See. The MAP Fund is primarily funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
River See received $20,917 from a crowdsourcing campaign on USA Projects (AKA Hatchfund) July 2013.
"THERE ARE NOTES BETWEEN NOTES, YOU KNOW."
- SARAH VAUGHAN
A series of blues stories set on a river boat, with juking women, queers, deviants and Seers, River See is the prayer before the first Great African American Migration (1910). Experienced through the heart of, SEE, a young woman-in-training, we journey through a world where the living-the dead-the unborn/the past-the present-the future co-exist. Lil NayNay, Grandma-Aunt Porkchopps, Big Suzi, Mr. Goodies, Mrs. Shine, Ms. Ada and she ole ass dog Lil Lady shepherd the way. With rowdy spirit guides and loving elders, SEE grows into her calling as the answered prayer, as she is prepared to be sent to the North.
See tells the story; all the text in the script is her. the composer roots the experience. everyone present is responsible for the journey.
The path to River See: Improvisation and Ancestry in the Yale Review volume 110, no. 4 winter 2022
The entire River See theatrical jazz performance script is featured in
Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora spring general issue 43.1
“I am deliciously crazed, and obsessed with creating living arrangements of text as jazz. With my script as the score/an ensemble/and the audience - I Compose Ritual/Jazz Theatre – improvisationally/Live during performance.”
- Sharon Bridgforth
In this video, Sharon goes over gestures (Composition Language) right before a show during the premiere of "The River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation" at Links Hall in Chicago (June 2014).
Sharon, the Composer, uses gestural language to communicate requests to the cast and the audience/to create a moving soundscape that supports SEE in her journey. The work is activated as jazz through this improvisational composition process that happens live during performance.
“My real job in this piece is to be centered in not knowing. To listen with my essence, surrender and respond to what wants to happen.”
- Sharon Bridgforth
...By walking in the room open, vulnerable in the not knowing/present to the question of what wants to happen, and the risk of failure therein, we invite audiences to do the same – to hold space with us, for all present.”
Sharon is a 2016 Doris Duke Performing Artist and a 2016 Creative Capital awardee. A New Dramatists alumnae, Sharon collaborates with actors, dancers, singers and audiences live during performance as she composes moving soundscapes of her ritual/jazz
An accomplished Actor/Artist/Educator, Sonja has been a featured performer with many notable venues including: The Public Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company-London, The Kennedy Center, Playwrights’ Horizon, & The Guthrie Theatre. She trained at UT- Austin, The Dance Theater of Harlem & The National Black Theater with Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. She is an NEA, TCG/Fox Foundation & McKnight Artist Fellow; has extensive television, commercial and film credits; has served on several national arts panels; been a featured artist in Time Magazine and named one of “Seven Artists You Must See” by American Theatre Magazine. She teaches acting at the University of Minnesota, and is currently researching/writing on the craft of acting in the "Theatrical Jazz" aesthetic.
Marie is a Haitian-American writer and performer interested in the straddling of multiple cultures and languages and how they resonate in the body. Her work has appeared at Dance Union, Links Hall and At The Table. She participated in Sharon Bridgforth’s Theatrical Jazz Institute in 2012 and appeared as Chief in the world premiere of River See. Future projects include collaboration with Chicago Butoh collective Body Strata, performances at Dominican University, North Park University and various venues. She is Associate Director at Links Hall in Chicago.
Jasmine is a dancer and an Assistant Professor of African & Afro-American and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. A Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow, she earned her Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. Johnson has performed internationally and is a founding member of The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance.
Ni’Ja is a 2013-2015 Movement Research Artist in Residence, a 2014-2015 BAAD! Artist in Residence, and Creative Capital “On Our Radar” Artist. As a choreographer and performer they have worked alongside leading artists across disciplines such as: Dianne McIntyre, Douglas Ewart, La Pocha Nostra and Alison Knowles. Ni’Ja has received a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Outstanding Ensemble Award, Downtown Urban Theatre Festival Audience Award, LinkUp Inaugural Artist in Residence Award, John G. Curtis Jr. Prize, Archibald Motley Grant, 3Arts Visual Artist Award Nomination, and an MFA Fellowship Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Dr. Witherspoon's work has been recognized by the Mellon Foundation, Theatre Bay Area, and the National Queer Arts Festival. Her original play, The Messiah Complex, premiered in April 2014 at New York's prestigious Downtown Urban Theatre Festival where it received the Audience Award and placed second for Best Play. As a vocalist, both independently and with acclaimed ceremonial-music duo SoliRose, her work spans stages, ceremonial spaces, and activist organizations from the San Francisco Bay Area to Beirut. Dr. Witherspoon is currently an Assistant Professor in African Diaspora Performance at Arizona State University.
Mankwe works in the Twin Cities, Chicago and internationally as a musicmaker and cultural catalyst. She weaves performance genres including improvised music, acapella rhythm and harmonies, hip-hop, afro soul, dance, performance art, and sung prayer/ritual. She infuses creative practice into healing, sustainable economic development, education, and new village community building.
Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, where she is the production manager for Pillsbury House Theatre. As production manger she has worked many productions including Daniel Alexander Jones’Jomama Jones, Tracey Scott Wilson’s Buzzer, Marcus Gardley’s the road weeps, the well runs dry and is looking forward to finishing Tarrell McCraney’s Brother Sister trilogy.
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