Go Deeper FringeArts Receives a Pew Center Arts Grant for a New Operatic Project

FringeArts Receives a Pew Center Arts Grant for a New Operatic Project

Posted October 27th, 2020

FringeArts has received a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to support an upcoming operatic work titled Awakening. This partner project with the International Contemporary Ensemble and Opera Philadelphia will feature composer Courtney Bryan, with a creative team composed of director Charlotte Brathwaite, librettist Sharan Strange, art director Cauleen Smith, lead performer Helga Davis, and dramaturgs Sunder Ganglani and Matthew D. Morrison.

Awakening channels the legacies of Black women such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman to advance dialogues around power, gender, and race. Philly’s own Rebecca Cox Jackson, founder of the Black Shaker movement, is the work’s central historical figure. In this one-act opera, an imagined contemporary woman transforms herself out of an oppressive situation with the guidance of these three spiritual leaders.

But the artistic team will not be putting on this work alone. This will be a two-year project, rooted in Philadelphia residences to directly include our Philadelphia communities through song sharing and contextual dialogue. The artistic team will be hosting open workshops to teach local audiences newly-crafted songs, not only sharing a generative practice, but also encouraging participants to consider their role in advancing Philadelphia’s legacy of social change. Community members are invited to come and explore themes of freedom, spirit, love, home, and sanctuary in these workshops. The project hopes to propel reflections and conversations about modern power structures forward.

In the words of director Charlotte Brathwaite and lead performer Helga Davis, “imagination is a space of absolute power when you can stand up in it.”

Photo courtesy of DigitICE Media Team

The completed work will be presented as part of the 2022 Philadelphia Fringe Festival and Opera Philadelphia’s O22 Festival.