More like a crash landing because what Uptown Art House presents at the Kennedy Center this Thursday, The Landing, is more than an audio-visual exploration, but an exposé on who has been pushing the arts community in Washington, D.C. over the last several years.
Jamal Gray, the master curator of Uptown Art House brings together an experienced group of creators across the entire spectrum of the local arts ecosystem. Featured players Maps Glover, Maya Sun, Mr. Wisdom, Ashley Shey, Ra Nubi, and Yacine Fall have been driving the performance art scene in the city, at times collaborating together in public and private exhibitions. They are joined by Nag Champa Art Ensemble who is no stranger to playing in hallmark institutions like the Kennedy Center, producer/writer extraordinaire Britt Sankofa, wardrobe designer Afrovelvet, and the man behind the far-out psychedelic visual projections you will see during the production--Jimmy Keith. Individually these artists have strong movements in their various disciplines. Those hip to the scene would have experienced their work at venues such as Capital Fring, Black Cat D.C., The Philips Collection, Torpedo Factory or at DIY venues including The Bee Hive, Rhizome, and Uptown Art House. But together as a troupe, they create a chilling, impactful piece that conveys the power of the arts culture in Washington, D.C.
The Landing is inspired by the 1984 science-fiction film Brother from Another Planet, the philosophies of Sun Ra, and the literature of Octavia Butler, though it is a completely original work. Lyer (played by Maps Glover), an alien from the planet Sept, arrives on Earth searching for his companion Layan (played by Maya Sun) while experiencing foreign stimulants for the first time. It is narrated by The Oracle, Mr. Wisdom, who offers a range of thoughts suggesting this intergalactic adventure is pre-ordained by a higher power.
Planning for this hour-long performance began in December. Having watching several rehearsals, it is a reactionary piece. Spectators are encouraged to participate, and during some of The Oracle's soliloquies, you'll think his words pertain to you--perhaps they do. But beyond the improvisation that occurs, the players are feeding off one another's energy and movement. Its been a resounding sentiment amongst the artists that what happens on stage is a visceral response to how they make each other feel in those moments. As individuals, they are both actively experiencing the performance and the expressions of their peers, inspiring a totally new understanding of the theatrical piece.
"There's this interesting dichotomy when you are trying to portray this experience or emotion within your movement or gestures alongside other people who are also having this internal experience," said Glover. "What makes it rich is when you can be inspired by peoples' movement at the same time. Everyone is going through these internal experiences whether it be them exploring their characters through words or how they're articulating their ideas.”
The Landing: an Audio Visual Experience debuts at the John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on Thursday, March 15 at 6pm. The event is free.
Stop by Uptown Art House following the show for the after party.
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
2700 F St. NW