by Jasmine J. Mahmoud
There was no campfire at “The Campfire Festival.” Rather, warmth came from other sources: Rheanna Atendido’s energizing voice in duet with an amplified acoustic guitar, Dedra Woods’s staging of her and her mother’s memories, storytelling about ghosts and pandemic boredom and political change, and the enthusiastic incredulity of safely and finally engaging in live theatre again alongside other strangers.
Last Friday evening, I nervously walked north through the very green Columbia Park, hugged by Alaska Street and Rainier Avenue South. What would this post(ish) pandemic theater look, sound, and feel like? Upon nearing the outdoor box office table, I viewed the outdoor theater setup on an upwards sloping lawn, where empty hula hoops lay on the grass designating socially distant seating clusters. Once seated, I stared at the facade of Rainier Arts Center, the stage for this theatrical event. There, affixed on white columns were blue banners with the words “Create,” “Celebrate,” “Perform,” or “Connect,” messages that further amplified this theatrical event.
Continue reading Staging Black Memories, Singing With Ghosts: The Williams Project ‘Campfire Festival’
by Kathya Alexander
When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, Tyrone Brown was in Lesotho, an independent country of 2 million people completely surrounded by South Africa. As a volunteer for the Peace Corps, he was teaching English, life skills, and HIV/AIDS prevention to Lesotho elementary school students. But the Peace Corps decided to withdraw all their volunteers worldwide and send them home.
Born and raised in Seattle, Tyrone Brown, the founder and artistic director of Brownbox Theatre, credits his mother for introducing him to the arts when he was very young. Brown feels Seattle gave him more freedom and exposure to the arts that he wouldn’t have received, especially as a young Black male, had he grown up somewhere else. Still, being involved in the arts in a single-parent family had its challenges.
“I remember I was in the Northwest Boys Choir for a short period of time. I don’t remember a lot about the experience except for one thing. We had a big concert that was happening in downtown Seattle. And my mom couldn’t get me there. She said, ‘I don’t have money for bus fare. So you’re going to have to call somebody.’ It was a predominately white institution, a group of white boys basically. And I didn’t know those kids, who came from two-parent homes and had money. I was just so embarrassed.”
Continue reading Tyrone Brown: Where Art and Activism Meet