Yip Harburg funding for La Bestia: Sweet Mother dance/theatre piece

News Date 
Fri, 2017-10-20
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I received a grant from the Yip Harburg Foundation to continue expanding my project, La Bestia: Sweet Mother, which uses a combination of ancient myth, poetry, music, a libretto and dance to explore one immigrant's tale, both in the context of today's political energy, and ancient human (and universal) yearnings and desperation.  This will be a full 40-minute dance/theatre piece, choreographed by a NY dance company (I'm reaching out at this moment to find someone to take on this exciting project).         "La Bestia: Sweet Mother" educates about immigration concerns from the point of view of one female immigrant, using musical dance/theatre as the vehicle. Searing vocal, musical and balletic beauty are set off against the painful story the piece tells. “La Bestia: Sweet Mother” is based in the idea that the sublime – combining beauty with psychic pain – is the strongest manner in which to affect an audience.  I also base my creative philosophy in that the heartfelt story sincerely told has a stronger positive effect on the audience, than an angry, oppositional or accusatory one.                                                                                     The project also is based in the belief that a variety of artistic forms, when woven seamlessly together, will go further in reaching the audience and educating them on a specfici issue.  In this case, the pain of the story of one young female immigrant, as she travels against all odds from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico and then into the Texas desert, unfolds against a backdrop of ethereal dance, watery cello and soaring vocals.  An engaging and disconcerting combination.                                               The name of the piece is taken from the series of freight trains which, in actuality, bring potential immigrants from the border with Guatemala through Mexico to the American border. As many as half a million Central American immigrants annually hop aboard La Bestia (“the beast”) on their journey to the United States. As there are no passenger railcars, migrants must ride atop the moving trains, facing physical dangers that range from amputation to death if they fall or are pushed. They are also subject to extortion and violence at the hands of the gangs and organized-crime groups that control the routes north.                                           This piece is told as a bedtime story, mimicking the sugary myths we ingest as children. The musical component, created by Desiree Miller (cello) and Becca Weiss (singer) underscores the libretto (by Tom Block) with virtuosity and a variety of styles. The piece will include Bessie-award winning choreographer Joya Powell, and three dancers from her Movement of the People Dance Company. Joya will create original choreography for this show. I have worked with Joya Powell and her dance company numerous times in the past.

La Bestia: Sweet Mother was originally developed as a one-act play as a LABA Fellow (2013-14, 14th Street Y Theater, NY), and then this one-act version was produced at Theater for the New City's "Dream Up Festival" (September 2014) and the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival at HERE Arts Center (May
2015). After these productions, I expanded the piece to a full-length multi-media piece, and this had readings at the Dramatists Guild Mary Rodgers Room (September 2016) and the Drama League (December 2016). The dance/theatre aspect of this project has never been produced.

The music was also recorded as a 40-minute, single-track CD. Colin McGuire, music reviewer for the Frederick Post (MD) noted: “. . . while it was recorded in New York’s East Village, you almost want to believe it was created somewhere within the depths of your own headphones — the whole thing simply feels that personal.”