Bee Boy

Bee Boy is an interdisciplinary artistic response to the violent murders of black men and women around the country, to bee colony collapse disorder, to #Blacklivesmatter, to an unjust prison/industrial complex, to human-animal-technological hybridization, to life in urban streets, and the emotional toil it takes to turn hate to love. It is a meditation on struggle and change in a world of chaos.

The composer/musician/performer Guillermo E. Brown, a rising star on the avant-garde pop-music scene, and the stage director, Princess Grace award-winner and MIT assistant professor of theater arts Charlotte Brathwaite collaborate on this original piece, which will be workshopped at MIT in fall 2016 and spring 2017.

Bee Boy is inspired by the Alexander Pushkin poem The Tale of Tsar Sultan, which became an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov called Tale of Tsar Saltan. In the opera’s third act, a banished knight/prince is transformed by a magic swan-bird into a bumblebee so that he can fly home to his father, who does not know he’s alive. The opera’s famous excerpt “Flight of the Bumblebee” is the basis of this experimental work. Structurally the musical interlude is divided, slowed down, chopped up, remixed, reassembled, and collaged with text, sounds, bodies, and choral voices. Bee Boy’s story line is ripped from science, the blogosphere, and our real everyday lives.

In Bee Boy, the survival of the body and the survival of the planet conflate. The plight of bees (bee colony collapse disorder) and the decline of the ecosystem speak to the dissolution of black communities in light of police brutality as seen in the murders of Laquan Davis, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, others. #Blacklivesmatter asks what can be done to end injustice, to ensure the rights of all humans to live safely, free, without fear of violence or retribution. Bee Boy delves into the emotional toil it takes to turn hate to love.

A native of Toronto, Canada, Charlotte Brathwaite joined the internationally renowned La MaMa E.T.C’s Great Jones Repertory as an actor at the age of 16 and performed in New York and in over 12 countries with the company. An independent director, her works presented in the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, range in subject matter from the historical past to the distant future illuminating issues of race, sex, power and the complexities of the human condition without adhering to limitation of genre. A director of classical and unconventional texts, operas, dance, multi-media, site-specific, installations and concerts her work has been commissioned and presented by Central Park SummerStage, DC Arts Commission, 651 Arts, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, Aarshi Theater Company Kolkata, Test! Festival Zagreb, Het Veem Theater Amsterdam, Scarlett Project Trinidad, The Living Theater, Joe’s Pub, La MaMa E.T.C, JACK Brooklyn, Studio Museum Harlem and HAU Berlin among others. Upcoming: Portrait of myself as my Father with choreographer Nora Chipaumire; Prophetika: an oratorio with composer Courtney Bryan and artist Abigail DeVille; La Paloma Prisoner with writer Raquel Almazan and Woman in the Dunes with artist Simone Leigh. Brathwaite has been dramaturge for Kyle Abraham/A.I.M., is co-founder of Naturaleza Humana performance group Berlin, and has assistant directed for Yale Repertory, Lincoln Center, Yale Opera, The Public Theater, Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson, Francesca Zambello and Peter Sellars. Awards/Honors: Princess Grace Foundation Award; Julian Milton Kaufman Prize for Directing; Rockefeller Residency (A.I.M); National Performing Network Creation Fund; Glimmerglass Festival Young Artist Program (2013/14, 2014/15); Princess Grace Foundation New Works grant; Visiting Artist Williams College; Visiting Professor Amherst College. BA, Amsterdam School for the Arts, the Netherlands; MFA, Yale School of Drama. Brathwaite is currently Assistant Professor of Theater Arts at MIT.

 

Multi-disciplinary performer Guillermo E. Brown’s (aka Pegasus Warning) work includes Soul at the Hands of the Machine, The Beat Kids’ Open Rhythm System and Sound Magazine, Black Dreams 1.0, …Is Arturo KlauftHandeheld, Shuffle Mode, WOOF TICKET EP, PwEP2, forthcoming full length album Dream&Destroy and performance piece Bee Boy. His one-man theater piece, Robeson In Space, premiered at Luna Stage (2005).   

Additional work includes sound installation Crack Unicorns at The Studio Museum in Harlem, performance pieces Postcolonial Bacchanale (Harlem Stage), SYRUP (The Kitchen), supergroup BiLLLL$, the collaborative trio Thiefs, and sound installation for She Talks to Beethoven by Adrienne Kennedy directed by Charlotte Brathwaite at JACK NYC. 

A graduate of Wesleyan University (BA) and Bard College (MFA), he was Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music and Gallatin School (2006-2008) and Artist-In-Residence at Pacific Northwest College of Art (2010).  He is a recipient of a 2016 Creative Capital award in Performing Arts for Bee Boy, a recipient of Harvestworks New Works residency (2001) and Van Lier Fellowship (2002), and a residency at MIT’s Center for Art, Science, and Technology (2016-2017). 

Most recently he appears as the drummer in the house band (called KAREN) of The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS, with music director Reggie Watts.  In addition he is featured on over 45 recordings, and has appeared live, recorded and as drummer/vocalist/collaborator with Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, David S. Ware, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Rob Reddy, Roy Campbell, Spring Heel Jack, Anti-Pop Consortium, Anthony Braxton, DJ Spooky, El-P, Carl Hancock Rux, Vernon Reid, DJ Logic, Latasha Diggs, Dave Burrell, George Lewis, Mendi+Keith Obadike, Victor Gama, David Gunn, Arto Lindsay, Gordon Voidwell, Tecla, Jahcoozi, Robot Koch, Das Racist, Jamie Lidell, Saul Williams, CANT, Mocky, Twin Shadow, BusdriverGrisha Coleman, and Wangechi Mutu among others.

 

Abigail DeVille lives and works in the Bronx, New York. She attended Pratt Institute (2000) and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2007), earning a BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology (2007) and an MFA from Yale University (2011). She has attended residencies at Harvard University (2014-15), the Studio Museum in Harlem (2013-14), and the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Brooklyn (2012). Her awards include grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2012) and The Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund of the New York Community Trust (2012), among others. Her work has been included in the exhibitions Rites of Spring, Contemporary Art Museum Houston (2014); Guts, Abrons Art Center, New York (2013); Black in the Abstract, Contemporary Art Museum Houston (2013); Invisible Men: Beyond the Veil, Galerie Michel Rein, Paris (2013); Gastown Follies, Artspeak, Vancouver (2013); Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial, Bronx Museum (2013); Future Generation Prize Exhibition, the 55th Venice Biennial (2013); They might as well have been remnants of the boat, Calder Foundation, New York (2013); Fore, Studio Museum, New York (2012); Future Generation Prize Exhibition, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev (2012); First Among Equals, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2012); The Ungovernables, New Museum Triennial, New York (2012); Bosh Young Talent Show, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2011); The (S) Files 2011, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011); Planet of Slums, Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University (2010); Dark Star, Recess Gallery, New York (2010); and Gold Mountain, Marginal Utility, Philadelphia (2010). She has designed sets for theatrical productions—directed by Peter Sellers and Charlotte Brathwaite—at venues such as the Stratford Festival (2014), JACK (2014), and Joe’s Pub (2014).

 

Rucyl was an original member of underground hip-hop group The Goats (Ruffhouse/Columbia Records) from 1992-1994, which toured and performed internationally with bands like Bad Brains, Fishbone, and The Beastie Boys. Her first interactive pieces included the Chakakhantroller, a wearable interface MIDI controller for audio and visual performance, and installation Watch What You Are, in collaboration with Justin Downs, which was featured as part of Eyebeam Interactive Art Gallery’s “Double Take” exhibition in July 2008.

Also in 2008, Rucyl co-founded Saturn Never Sleeps (SNS), a futuretronic label and audiovisual group created during the resurgence of the contemporary Afrofuturism movement, with DJ/producer King Britt. Saturn Never Sleeps was founded on the principles of process as performance, inspired greatly by the media and music of the great experimental jazz musician, Sun Ra. These collaborative, audiovisual live performances were featured at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Painted Bride Art Center, The River To River Festival at the World Financial Center in New York City, Art Basel in Miami, and Moogfest in Asheville, NC. Rucyl traveled internationally with SNS to Istanbul, Berlin, Madrid, Switzerland (Stadtmusik Festival) and Tokyo (Micro-cosmos). Curated performances in Philadelphia and Brooklyn included artists Taylor McFerrin, Ras G, Sarah White, Teebs, Ben Neill, Flying Lotus, Stef Eye, Shabazz Palaces, and Tokimonsta. In June 2010, the Leeway Foundation featured Rucyl on a “Women in Indie Music” panel where she discussed the re-emerging lo-fi/DIY aesthetic in music, digital distribution and the place of activism within her art. In spring 2011, Saturn Never Sleeps opened for TV on the Radio, and appeared with the Sun Ra Arkestra at Eyebeam’s event “Past Futures.” SNS released a series of works and podcasts from under-the-radar POC artists from 2009-2011. SNS’s full-length album, Yesterday’s Machine, was released in summer 2011.

After SNS disbanded in 2011, Rucyl continued with collaborative performances highlighting POC women and artists of the experimental electronic genre under the moniker Woman + Machine. Her most recent work is the Sound Prism (2016), a solar powered sonic performance and installation that explores sound as a physical representation of the transmutation of organic energy.

She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

 

Obehi Janice (associate producer) is an award-winning actress, writer and comedian. A graduate of Georgetown University, Obehi was named “Boston’s Best Actress” by The Improper Bostonian in 2014. Her comedic short, BLACK GIRL YOGA, won the Reel 13/AfroPunk Film Competition (WNET/New York Public Media). A leader in the millennial renaissance of socio-political arts and culture, Obehi works extensively on stage, screen and as a voice actress in video games, radio, and commercials. Recent stage credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost, We’re Gonna DieAn Octoroon, Mr g and her solo show FUFU & OREOS. As a comedian and storyteller, she has been featured on You’re the Expert, Story Collider and The Moth. Her potent writing has been featured in Kinfolks: a journal of Black expression. Obehi also works as a director and producer. A gifted public speaker, she enjoys sharing her thoughts on faith, identity, creativity and mental health. She has garnered esteem and recognition from Bustle, WBUR, DigBoston, For Harriet, and The Boston Globe. She is the TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor at Company One Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.

Performance & Community Discussion
May 4, 2017 / 8:00pm
MIT Kirsch Auditorium
Stata Center, Building 32
32 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

 

A public work-in-process showing will feature drumming, singing, chanting, interactive technologies and movement. The event will also incorporate a moderated conversation with local community leaders, MIT researchers and artistic collaborators.

 

Past Events

Class Visit
February 13, 2016
All the World’s a Stage

Development Residency
October 7-16, 2016

Selected Past Projects