By Reza Corinne Clifton
PROVIDENCE, RI-The Everett Dance Theatre here in Providence is a performing arts company that delivers dance, theatre, improvisation and more. Co-founded by Dorothy Jungels, Aaron Jungels, and Rachael Jungels, the company is nationally acclaimed due in large part to their original interpretation of movement, performance and art in general. If you have never experienced Everett’s work before—or if you have and enjoyed it—beginning March 3, with their nationally acclaimed multimedia performance “Home Movies”, Everett presents the first in a special year’s lineup of events to promote its twentieth anniversary.
Everett has another face, though, the one that provides its “service to the community”. Through various workshops and after school programs—that focus on science, conflict resolution, script-writing and video production to name a few—company members regularly mentor, train, and inspire Providence-area “inner-city” youth. Indicators of the success and impact of these programs include PBS presentations of youth-developed films and, according to a DVD promoting its 20 years, an estimate of over 100,000 children reached.
While Everett’s impact on youth is clear—and outstanding—it has also been significant to its own company members. Take 44 year old RI native Marvin Novogrodski. Novogrodokski discovered theatre when he was in high school, when it saved him from a life of “meandering through the hallways,” and he went on to obtain a Bachelors of Fine Arts in theatre from URI.
After college, Novogrodski stayed in RI, performing with local theatres and children’s theatres, like Looking Glass Theatre. In search of something else or something more, he moved to New York City. Novogrodsky ended up moving back to RI, but only temporarily, and moving again to NYC. Still dissatisfied even after a second time in NYC, he returned home to RI.
While all this was happening, Aaron and Rachael Jungels were in NYC themselves pursuing a Fresh Tracks opportunity which, if chosen, essentially leads to an expedited run of an original performance. They were chosen.
One of the Fresh Tracks performances occurred at Providence College, and in the crowd that day, was Novogrodski. So impressed was he, that he wrote the Jungels a letter, and they replied by attending one of Novogrodski’s performances at AS220—an improvisation show called Theatre in Transition run by Richard Toma. After seeing Novogrodski in action, the Jungels invited him to a rehearsal of their newly developed theatre company, and within a year of Everett’s existence Novogrodski joined the company.
Before Everett, Novogrodski was about to leave Providence again. “I was looking for something different, something inspiring, and something original and whatever it was I thought I was going to leave RI, but I found it in Everett. Don’t get me wrong, other local theatres are doing some good work.” What turned Novogrodski on was the originality of working from the ground up. “We come up with an idea, then research it, then the story kind of writes itself.”
But alas, growth and development is inevitable, and for the third time, Novogrodski is moving to New York. He has sold his house here in RI, and “if it’s not working out in 4-5 years, then I may move back.” Therefore, while Everett will be celebrating twenty years of accomplishment—and surely twenty years more—Novogrodski will also be saying goodbye to his nearly twenty years of art and performance at Everett.
For more information about Everett Theatre’s Twentieth Anniversary schedule, call 831-9479 or visit www.everettdancetheatre.org. For more information about Marvin Novogrodski, visit www.marvmarv.com.
Reza Corinne Clifton is a community organizer for RI Children’s Crusade for Higher Education on a High School Reform project. She is also a freelance writer whose articles can be seen in Motif Magazine, The Providence American Newspaper, and at www.RezaRitesRi.com.
By Reza Corinne Clifton
An abbreviated version of this article appeared in Motif Magazine on February 15, 2006
Front row - Members of the Platanos and Collard Greens cast; second row - ladies from Sigma Lambda Gamma.
PROVIDENCE, RI- Divide and conquer. History tells us that these three words represent a sort of Golden Rule of American chattel slavery and Western imperialism that still resonate today. Particularly in a specific geographic location—a country or a plantation—the idea was to select and subsequently treat one peoples as more noble, more human, more worthy than another set of peoples located in the same location. This selection resulted in at least two major advantages for Europeans/Americans: cooperation and alliances which helped in the acquisition and control of land, trade, and governance; and a gnawing sense of distrust, resentment, and rage between the groups of dominated peoples that guaranteed decades and centuries of continued mistrust, violence, and sabotage.
Look at the 1990’s Rwandan genocide: the Hutus and Tutsis—the two most dominant groups of that and neighboring countries—have had differences for centuries. History tells us that the German then Belgian colonizers who controlled the area selected the Tutsis as the superior peoples, feeding into the already polarized relationship between the two ethnic groups. What ensued were increased and enduring disparities in wealth, political influence, and educational access and repeat instances of ethnic violence still happening today. While there is no justification for the killing of the hundreds of thousands of people (or more depending on the source), considering the doctrine of divide and conquer does remove the sense of arbitrariness surrounding the killings.
In this country—and in the Americas as a whole—one of the major considerations used to pit enslaved Africans and their enslaved descendants against one another was the evidence of European lineage, judged through skin complexion, hair texture, and eye color. In most cases a slave was always subhuman, but working conditions and, at times, treatment were often improved by the visual evidence—and surely nepotism occasionally—of the existence of European lineage. The results? Darker skinned slaves versus lighter skinned slaves; field slave versus house slave; laborer versus overseer.
The ramifications of this tactic have endured since the end of chattel slavery and up through the present day; yet the conversations about them can still be extremely difficult, painful, and divisive. Yet thank goodness for literature, theatre, and the power of words, which, as up and coming writer and director Seven Akbar [also known as Summer Hill Seven] said, has a way of revealing buried truths and emotions and clues to healing.
The recently-run play at Trinity Repertory, Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldier, dealt with one consequence of the divide and conquer legacy: the shame and associated denial of African ancestry. In Grandchildren, a strong Native American family is hit with a tremendous blow when one family member finally vocalizes his decision to actively deny his Black ancestry in the face of another member who will not—and cannot—due to the appearance of African lineage in his physical characteristics. If you missed it, or if you enjoyed it, you have at least two more chances to examine these complex issues.
The Providence Black Repertory Company is currently running the Dael Orlandersmith play Yellowman through March 12. Through romance, comedy and tragedy, Orlandersmith directly confronts intra-racial racism when a lighter skinned South Carolinian boy running away from the pedestal his surroundings place him atop and a darker skinned South Carolinian girl fighting to keep her self worth fall in love. The real antagonists, though, are these characters’ friends and family members—represented only through stories—who ensure that envy, hatred, and shame remain a constant that eat the characters throughout this two-person play.
Over at Johnson and Wales on Thursday February 16, the ladies of Sigma Lambda Gamma, National Sorority, Inc in collaboration with the Multicultural Center and the University Involvement Board, will present Plátanos and Collard Greens, a play based on the David Lamb book Do Plátanos go wit’ Collard Greens. Pleased with the novel and at the nonstop conversation it tends to spark, sorority member Rafaelina Gomez started early this year to ensure a performance during this year’s Black History Month.
The play was adapted for the stage about ten years after the novel was written. The book takes on what is sometimes referred to as Black-Brown relations–those between African-Americans and Latinos–in multiple layers: an important mayoral election in New York City; music; a romantic relationship; and, like Yellowman, through the dominating nature of friends and family. When a relationship develops between an intelligent, political Black- American male college student, and a Dominican-American female college student from a family that passionately marginalizes its own African ancestry, what unfolds is a dynamic novel steeped not only in historical lessons, but in romance and conflict.
The other hallmark of this novel, which is said to be strongly featured in the stage version, is the dominance of hip hop culture; from the abundance of references to artists and songs, to the word choice and cadence, this is one of the first pieces of works that can use hip hop as an adjective–a “hip hop novel”–according to Akbar, who should know. As Lamb’s roommate in Law School, Akbar was one of the first people to read the original manuscript. A decade later, he went on to direct the first run of Plátanos and Collard Greens. For him, one of the most important tasks when turning a novel into a play is drawing on the book’s strengths, and for him, the poetic nature of hip hop sprinkled throughout the play was something–besides the race issues–that make the stage version an innovation worth seeing.
Plátanos and Collard Greens runs one day only on Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 PM at the Johnson and Wales University Pepsi Forum downtown. For more information call JWU’s Office of Student Activities at 401-598-1195 or Multicultural Center at 598-4776.
Reza Corinne Clifton is a community organizer for a high school reform at RI Children’s Crusade for Higher Education. She is also a freelance writer whose articles can be seen in Motif Magazine, The Providence American Newspaper, and at www.RezaRitesRi.com.