“Migration” series depicts struggle through art

edited.migration2_LizTilleyBy Erica Quinones

Elm Staff Writer

Chestertown’s arts district partnered with Washington College students and faculty to produce a a cross-disciplinary dive into migration.

The Kent County Arts Council orchestrated a project entitled “MIGRATION: An Exploration in Art, Words and Music.” The project consisted of five short plays followed by the musical, “RED DEVIL MOON,” performed from Thursday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, at the Garfield Center for the Arts. This accompanied an exhibit at the Chestertown RiverArts Gallery which is open until Sunday, Nov. 11.

The organization of the five short plays was originally commissioned by The Phillips Collection in the District of Columbia. According to its website, the Phillips Collection was inspired by African American artist Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series.” This series consists of 60 painted panels depicting The Great Migration, which was the movement of more than six million African-Americans out of the rural South between the late 1800s and 1970.

The plays were performed as staged readings, each presenting a different perspective on migration and immigration. Among those performed were: “In Constant Pursuit” by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, which follows an African-American family searching for home; “#51” by Laura Shamas, which told the story of a Muslim American family; “We, A Legacy of Chains” by Annalisa Dias, which depicts the teaching of Jim Crow history in the classroom; “A Long Arduous Journey” by Jacqueline E. Lawton, which follows a Syrian refugee; and “Baghdad Carpet” by Norman Allen, which chronicles a gay teen running away.

Many of the original creators of The Phillips Collections’ performance were involved in the Chestertown production. Playwrights were present after the Nov. 4 performance, and Lawton, who served as both a playwright and as the original Producing Artistic Director of “A Long Arduous Journey,” reprised her role as Producing Artistic Director in Chestertown. However, the original director of the play, Derek Goldman, was not part of this project. In his stead was WC’s Department of Theater and Dance Chair, Michele Volansky.

Volansky was not the only person from WC to participate in the production. Freshman Kennett Vail-Rojas discussed the effects of his experience performing in “Baghdad Carpet.”

“I was able to learn a couple things that I hadn’t known regarding migration,” Vail-Rojas said, “It made my perspective more sympathetic overall.”

The short plays were followed by a revival of Kent County’s “RED DEVIL MOON,” a musical written by Robert Earl Price and composed by Pam Ortiz. According to the musical’s website, it is inspired by the 1923 novel, “Cane”, by Jean Toomer, a Harlem Renaissance-era African-American poet and novelist. It follows the main character, Louisa, as she decides between two men and two destinies. There was also an Oct. 25 special presentation of “RED DEVIL MOON” for students across the region.

Accompanying the play and musical was the special art exhibit by 40 Kent County High School students who visited The Phillips Collection. The special exhibit at the RiverArts Gallery consists of elementary, middle, and high school students’ works. The elementary and middle schoolers’ art consisted of song lyrics accompanied by images. The high schoolers took on historical figures and modern issues like the #MeToo movement and transgender rights in an interactive way.

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