Rage to Heal is a devised piece moving through Black rage toward Black healing, collectively created by a community of singers, dancers, writers, actors and visionaries. We sat down with project leads Alaina Monts, 1st year Master of Arts student in Performance as Public Practice, and Briyana Clarel, 1st year Master of Fine Arts student in Drama in Theatre for Youth and Communities, to speak to them about what inspired their project and what they hope for it to become.
Briyana Clarel: The idea for the project was to create a space for Black people who are interested in creating and performing in whatever capacity to come together and be able to explore Black rage and Black healing and Black pain as a way to heal.
Why did you decide to submit this project to the Cohen New Works Festival?
Briyana Clarel: Because that space needed to exist. Part of the reason I came to grad school was to be able to make spaces like that.
From what was your project born?
Briyana Clarel: My personal rage. I’ve done theatre since I was in 6th grade and it was always like “we’re doing musical theatre. We’re doing all of these shows.” When I was in college, I saw the other forms of theatre that were happening. I was president of our Black Arts Company, the theatre company, and I started to see space for people. People started to write their own pieces. We had a one act festival every year, and I started to see people create their own work. [I thought] “this is amazing. You’re a theatre person and you just wrote your own spoken word piece.” I’ve always wanted theatre to be a vehicle for creative self expression, but it often hasn’t been. My experience has been that a lot of people of color in theatre departments don’t get that. That combined with everything terrible happening in the world, I think it’s really important for people to be able to have a space.
What excites you the most about your project and it being in the Festival?
Alaina Monts: Part of where we’re coming from is [this] Black, queer, feminist understanding of what it means to be Black. I’m really excited because we’re using words and inspiration from folks who have been super marginalized in the world. We’re using rich and exciting resources to help the creative process happen.
Alaina Monts: I think theatre is a beautiful tool for outwardly displaying emotions without requiring people to relive trauma. I think using performance in a way that allows people to not have those emotions circulate inward but to find a way that outwardly expresses them, but isn’t as harmful as reliving and rehashing those things. I think there isn’t always words to describe what you’re feeling, and performance is a way to use someone else’s words to be able to express those feelings.
Briyana Clarel: I think there are societal ways to handle rage and pain, specifically for Black people to handle it, which is usually that we shouldn’t talk about it and we should be quiet. I think we need as many ways as possible to handle it.
Who inspires you?
Alaina Monts: People who inspire me and are helping to cast devised work are Audre Lorde and the Combahee River Collective, which is a Black, feminist, lesbian group of women who work together.
Briyana Clarel: I know a lot of Black, queer artists and other queer artists of color who are around, mostly in the U.S., that are doing a lot of amazing things. Watching them do what they’re doing is inspiring and makes me want to do more and pursue more theatrical things.
Rage to Heal is part of the Cohen New Works Festival. Their last performance is April 14th at 10 a.m. at F. Loren Winship in room 2.180.