Photo: Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. and Judy Tate
Civic Ensemble’s new play festival, Civic Acts: New Plays Toward the Beloved Community, will feature two new political plays by women whose work centers on women and people of color. The first, “Fast Blood,” by four-time Emmy Award-winner Judy Tate, will be directed by Beth F. Milles, associate professor of performing and media arts, and will take place outside in the Maggie Goldsmith Amphitheatre at the Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca.
The festival plays address the challenges communities face in moving society toward what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community,” where people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, class, gender, sexual orientation and backgrounds/identities seek to realize justice in the community and in the world.
“The playwrights featured in the festival have a unique ability to distill history, empathy and moral outrage into dynamic theatrical storytelling that centers on women for today’s stages. These plays both look at human trafficking, and Civic Ensemble hopes audiences make connections between chattel slavery in the mid-1800s and domestic slavery today,” said Godfrey L. Simmons Jr., PMA senior lecturer and co-artistic director for Civic Ensemble. He will perform in “Fast Blood.”
“Fast Blood” is set in the antebellum South. Effie and her mate, Ham, slaves on the Schuyler plantation, stumble across the body of a mysterious stranger who’s been lynched but is still alive. They cut him down and start a race against time, the militia searching for him and spirits from a shared past that haunt them all. The play is produced in association with the American Slavery Project, a theatrical response to revisionism in our nation’s discourse around slavery, the Civil War and Jim Crow.
“‘Fast Blood’ is a startling journey of recognition with a brave and shockingly truthful narrative,” said Milles. “We will perform in an amphitheater as an invitation for all to experientially share the elements at its core – pain and recollection.”
The festival’s second play, “Bee Trapped Inside the Window,” written by Saviana Stanescu, deals with modern-day slavery’s effect on the lives of three women in Connecticut. Among the performers is Janilya Baizack, a clerk in Cornell’s Survey Research Institute.
Each performance will be followed by post-show conversations; dates and times can be found online. Tickets can be purchased online at fastblood.bpt.me or beetrapped.bpt.me; free tickets are available for those who find cost a barrier to seeing theater.
Civic Ensemble, for which Simmons is artistic director, is a non-profit theatre company serving Ithaca and Tompkins County that produces new plays by or about women and people of color, re-imaginings of classics, and community-based plays that explore and explode the social, political, and cultural issues of our time.
This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.