The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)

Gavin
CENTERSTAGE
Baltimore
Maryland
USA

thaumaturg
Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Amadeus
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Marley
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.

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gradientlair:

Have you ever heard Zora Neale Hurston’s voice? In addition to being an exquisite novelist and anthropologist, she recorded some songs for a past government organization, the WPA. According to Florida Memory:

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) - after 1939, the Works Projects Administration - was a work-relief program created in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration that employed over 8.5 million people before its end in 1943. One of its programs was the Federal Writers Project (FWP), which included a Folklore Section. This section conducted fieldwork, recording songs, traditions, and stories across the nation. 

The song above is called “Dat Old Black Gal.” To me, the “new shoes” mentioned makes me think of a new path—a change from the pain ascribed upon Blackness. It makes me think of an old Black spiritual where the lyrics include "travelin’ shoes Lord, got on my travelin shoes." And this journey symbolized by the need for new shoes could be thought of in a physical/emotional/cultural sense (i.e. The Great Migration), in an existential sense (i.e. contemplating the meaning of the journey of life, one’s identity beyond oppression) and/or in a theistic sense (i.e. shoes for the journey on “the narrow way”; how the “next” journey in life is going to heaven). But it is a railroad work song and often work songs were about getting through the labor but thinking of a future time when that labor would no longer be a reality or again, the next great journey. I feel as if some of these early Black songs like this one are pre-cursors to Afrofuturism.

The Florida Memory site has a bunch of audio recordings of her singing. It’s so thrilling for me to connect a voice to this talented genius who had great style, wisdom, and truly respected Black humanity by crafting stories of our complexities, imperfections and beauty so well. She was so ahead of her time.

(via injusticeworth)



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paperispatient:

“Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak ah grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and dod de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak the de sea. It’s movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”
This quotation should be enough to convince anyone to read this beautiful book. 
Janie turns into a strong, self-assured woman through the course of the book’s extended flashback (who’s got two thumbs and is a fan of frame tale/flashbacks? this gal), but what she undergoes to get to that point is, to put it mildly, a hell of a lot. She has three husbands, only one of whom she ends up really loving, and that is the marriage that ends tragically. I won’t say what happens, what had to happen. You can read it and feel the weight of it yourself.
Zora Neale Hurston is an interesting case. Her work had become neglected after her death, only to be resurrected years later during Second Wave Feminism. It’s not hard to see why. Janie performs many roles through the course of the book, most of them related to stereotypical ideas of femininity and a woman’s place. Her first husband seems to be interested in Janie as a helping (farm)hand and someone to cook his meals. Her second husband values Janie as a trophy wife, someone to help him maintain dignity and appearances. As mayor of a new town, he has the freedom to wander while she remains stuck in his general store, doing work she detests. Her third husband is younger than her, but he doesn’t care. He loves Janie, wants what’s best for her, discusses things with her, works alongside her in the bean fields. That vision of equality cannot go unnoticed. 
Because it’s told in a flashback, the book takes on a hint of a dreamy quality, at least to me. Maybe I kept the flashback too much in mind. But Hurston knows how to describe an oncoming hurricane without a hint of dreaminess. It’s foreboding; you can feel the tension in the air, the hiss-crackle of it.  
But to return to the opening quotation. Janie says these words in eloquent defense of her third marriage, as a buffer to the townfolks that judge her for marrying her third husband. They find it unnatural that she and a younger man would marry, would even love one another. Hurston isn’t making a case for cougarism (but if she is, it’s a pretty one), only for tolerance and a relaxing of societal expectations, a call for openmindedness and for knowing the facts before passing judgment. 

paperispatient:

“Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak ah grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and dod de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak the de sea. It’s movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

This quotation should be enough to convince anyone to read this beautiful book. 

Janie turns into a strong, self-assured woman through the course of the book’s extended flashback (who’s got two thumbs and is a fan of frame tale/flashbacks? this gal), but what she undergoes to get to that point is, to put it mildly, a hell of a lot. She has three husbands, only one of whom she ends up really loving, and that is the marriage that ends tragically. I won’t say what happens, what had to happen. You can read it and feel the weight of it yourself.

Zora Neale Hurston is an interesting case. Her work had become neglected after her death, only to be resurrected years later during Second Wave Feminism. It’s not hard to see why. Janie performs many roles through the course of the book, most of them related to stereotypical ideas of femininity and a woman’s place. Her first husband seems to be interested in Janie as a helping (farm)hand and someone to cook his meals. Her second husband values Janie as a trophy wife, someone to help him maintain dignity and appearances. As mayor of a new town, he has the freedom to wander while she remains stuck in his general store, doing work she detests. Her third husband is younger than her, but he doesn’t care. He loves Janie, wants what’s best for her, discusses things with her, works alongside her in the bean fields. That vision of equality cannot go unnoticed. 

Because it’s told in a flashback, the book takes on a hint of a dreamy quality, at least to me. Maybe I kept the flashback too much in mind. But Hurston knows how to describe an oncoming hurricane without a hint of dreaminess. It’s foreboding; you can feel the tension in the air, the hiss-crackle of it.  

But to return to the opening quotation. Janie says these words in eloquent defense of her third marriage, as a buffer to the townfolks that judge her for marrying her third husband. They find it unnatural that she and a younger man would marry, would even love one another. Hurston isn’t making a case for cougarism (but if she is, it’s a pretty one), only for tolerance and a relaxing of societal expectations, a call for openmindedness and for knowing the facts before passing judgment. 



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Migrant Workers During the Great Depression in Florida (via Florida Memory Project - Migrant Workers During the Great Depression in Florida)

Migrant Workers During the Great Depression in Florida (via Florida Memory Project - Migrant Workers During the Great Depression in Florida)



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"Work Life in the Camps and Swamps of Florida"
Hurston’s history with life in Southern Florida was not confined to her childhood in Eatonville or her various literary efforts. When she attended Columbia University in the 1920s, Hurston was tutored by anthropologist Franz Boaz. Her knowledge of anthropology was incorporated in the 1930s when she worked for the Federal Writers Project during the Great Depression collecting African-American folklore. Her patroness, Charlotte Osgood Mason, funded an anthropological journey to southern Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. In those places, Hurston collected a wealth of folklore through songs, dance, customs, traditions, and cultural norms during her anthropological research trips. (via Zora Neale Hurston & Polk County » Work Life in the Camps and Swamps of Florida)

"Work Life in the Camps and Swamps of Florida"

Hurston’s history with life in Southern Florida was not confined to her childhood in Eatonville or her various literary efforts. When she attended Columbia University in the 1920s, Hurston was tutored by anthropologist Franz Boaz. Her knowledge of anthropology was incorporated in the 1930s when she worked for the Federal Writers Project during the Great Depression collecting African-American folklore. Her patroness, Charlotte Osgood Mason, funded an anthropological journey to southern Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. In those places, Hurston collected a wealth of folklore through songs, dance, customs, traditions, and cultural norms during her anthropological research trips. (via Zora Neale Hurston & Polk County » Work Life in the Camps and Swamps of Florida)



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In the heart of the black community,and among some of the oldest neighborhoods in The City of West Palm Beach, at the intersection of Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street, sits a 1 1/2 acre lot containing the remains of some 674 unidentified men, women, and children; victims of The Great Okeechobee Hurricane. They were migrant farmers and laborers of western Palm Beach County. Mostly blacks, they were segregated even in death and were interred without coffins, as wood was reserved for whites only.
Florida author Zora Neale Hurston described the mass burial in her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God: “… Don’t let me ketch none uh y’all dumpin’ white folks, and don’t be wastin’ no boxes on colored,” a guard in the book says. “They’s too hard tuh git ahold of right now.”
In life, they helped turn a South Florida swamp into a booming tropical mecca. In death, they were pitched into a trench, and left to be ignored for three-quarters of a century, neglected and nearly forgotten for almost three-quarters of a decade.
Lord, Somebody Got Drowned on Vimeo


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Lord, Somebody Got Drowned (by Daniel Cheatham)



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reuelbelt:

I had the pleasure to see #Gleam at @CENTERSTAGE_MD last evening. My take on this wonderful play….Christiana Clark and Brooks Edward Brantly were magnificent, bringing to life Zora Neale Hurston’s characters with an authenticity full of power, lust, and playfulness that encapsulates the images derived when reading the classic novel. Our narrator Stephanie Barry captivated the audience with her warm and motherly tone setting the scene for the night’s journey back to Florida in the early 1900’s. Axel Avin, Jr. portrayed an honest representation of the “siddity” negro of the time, giving viewers an insight into what has become a longstanding issue in the Black Community - still prevalent today.The supporting cast Gavin Lawrence, Erik LaRay Harvey, and Jaime Lincoln Smith added comical relief and context to enchant and enrich the scenes with the a sense of community. Kudos to Tonia M. Jackson and Celeste Jones for adding tension, familiarity, and satire to the production. Lastly, Thomas Jefferson Byrd had the entire crowd in enthralled with his hilarious undertaken of his unassuming and weathered character.Thank you director, Marion McClinton, for staging such an inspiring story and to the entire stage crew for transporting us back to a world, not too far in the distant, yet often forgotten past. If you are looking for a truthful adaptation of Hurston’s classic go see Gleam you will not be disappointed!!Again congratulations and thank you, thank you, thank you!!Sincerely,Reuel Belt
Aspiring Creatorp.s. Another special treat was the pre-discussion with lecturer, Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, renowned Zora Neal Huston authority. Dr. Sheffey’s introduction into the life of Hurston gave great insight to the writings of Hurston. And for those of us lucky enough to attend you felt like you were in the room with Hurston’s bestfriend or sister. Sitting nearby as Dr. Sheffey recounted tales of Hurston’s trials, tribulations, and travels (as well as several marriages). Artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and Promotions Director Charisse Nichols have set a high-bar for this year’s CenterStage productions. A bar which I am certain they will soar over!!Mark Fetting and Legg Mason should also receive a round of applause for continuing to support the arts and sponsoring important cultural events that help to invigorate and inspire Baltimore’s citizens.

reuelbelt:

I had the pleasure to see #Gleam at @CENTERSTAGE_MD last evening. My take on this wonderful play….Christiana Clark and Brooks Edward Brantly were magnificent, bringing to life Zora Neale Hurston’s characters with an authenticity full of power, lust, and playfulness that encapsulates the images derived when reading the classic novel. Our narrator Stephanie Barry captivated the audience with her warm and motherly tone setting the scene for the night’s journey back to Florida in the early 1900’s. Axel Avin, Jr. portrayed an honest representation of the “siddity” negro of the time, giving viewers an insight into what has become a longstanding issue in the Black Community - still prevalent today.The supporting cast Gavin Lawrence, Erik LaRay Harvey, and Jaime Lincoln Smith added comical relief and context to enchant and enrich the scenes with the a sense of community. Kudos to Tonia M. Jackson and Celeste Jones for adding tension, familiarity, and satire to the production. Lastly, Thomas Jefferson Byrd had the entire crowd in enthralled with his hilarious undertaken of his unassuming and weathered character.

Thank you director, Marion McClinton, for staging such an inspiring story and to the entire stage crew for transporting us back to a world, not too far in the distant, yet often forgotten past.

If you are looking for a truthful adaptation of Hurston’s classic go see Gleam you will not be disappointed!!

Again congratulations and thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Sincerely,
Reuel Belt

Aspiring Creator

p.s. Another special treat was the pre-discussion with lecturer, Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, renowned Zora Neal Huston authority. Dr. Sheffey’s introduction into the life of Hurston gave great insight to the writings of Hurston. And for those of us lucky enough to attend you felt like you were in the room with Hurston’s bestfriend or sister. Sitting nearby as Dr. Sheffey recounted tales of Hurston’s trials, tribulations, and travels (as well as several marriages). Artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and Promotions Director Charisse Nichols have set a high-bar for this year’s CenterStage productions. A bar which I am certain they will soar over!!

Mark Fetting and Legg Mason should also receive a round of applause for continuing to support the arts and sponsoring important cultural events that help to invigorate and inspire Baltimore’s citizens.

(Source: ruality)



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