Theater Alliance remounts ‘Poetry for the People: The June Jordan Experience’

'Exhilarating and liberating' production will tour to all DC quadrants.

After an acclaimed performance run in 2022, Poetry for the People: The June Jordan Experience returns to the nation’s capital, this time embarking on a journey across various venues throughout Washington, DC. From May 31 to June 23, 2024, audiences can experience the profound words and enduring legacy of acclaimed writer June Jordan in a captivating theatrical production fusing music, poetry, media, and more.

Jordan, a visionary poet, playwright, and essayist renowned for her unyielding dedication to human rights and political activism, left an indelible mark on literature and social justice. Described as a contemporary of literary giants such as Alice Walker and Adrienne Rich, Jordan seamlessly interwove the personal and political in her work, leaving her students, readers, and colleagues moved and inspired.

Poetry for the People strives to encapsulate Jordan’s essence, blending together her powerful words with music, post-it notes, and various media elements to narrate the story of a life passionately lived. The production offers a poignant exploration of Jordan’s writings, bringing her voice to the forefront at a time when her work is especially relevant.

June Jordan and Adrienne Torf. Photos courtesy of Theater Alliance.

Created by Raymond O. Caldwell and Adrienne Torf, and featuring the music of Adrienne Torf, along with selections by John Adams and Sweet Honey in the Rock, Poetry for the People was honored with the Helen Hayes Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play in 2023.

SEE ALSO: An exhilarating and liberating ‘Poetry to the People: The June Jordan Experience’ at Anacostia Arts Center (review by Gregory Ford, March 22, 2022)

Originally produced by Theater Alliance and IN Series, this revival of Poetry for the People continues the legacy of honoring June Jordan’s extraordinary contributions to literature and activism. Performances will take place in all quadrants of the District, ensuring accessibility to audiences across the city:

• Southeast: May 31 – June 2 at Anacostia Arts Center
• Northeast: June 6 – 9 at Dance Place
• Southwest: June 13 – 16 at Culture House
• Northwest: June 20 – 23 at Dupont Underground

TICKETS

Tickets are availablle online. Radical Neighboring Initiative: Ten tickets per performance are reserved for Name Your Own Price Ticketing, available online.

Says Ramond O. Caldwell, director of this production, “I’m thrilled to end my tenure as Artistic Director at Theater Alliance with this production. To uplift, celebrate, and center June’s artistry, ideas, and activism in all four quadrants of the district is vital now more than ever. June reminds us that love must be at the center of every revolution. I can’t wait to watch June’s love spread throughout our great city!”

Adrienne Torf, an artistic collaborator of June Jordan, worked with Caldwell to develop the show from artifacts, writings, testimonials, songs, and more, pulled directly from archival materials of Jordan’s life.

Torf remarks, “The audience and the demand for Jordan’s work has grown exponentially since her passing in 2002. There are now two generations of poets who cite her as their primary influence: professors whose PhDs studied facets of June’s work and activists for whom she serves as a role model. They have already seen, or will see, the publication of books and mounting of exhibitions about June’s work in architecture and urban planning, the sisterhood of Black women writers in the 1970s and 80s of whom June was a core member, and June’s influence on a new generation of creatives and activists. Poetry for the People: The June Jordan Experience carries all of whom June was, the full range of her creative and activist work, in a way that inspires audiences while making them feel as though they spent an evening with her.”

Shanara Gabrielle, the incoming Producing Artistic Director, echoed Caldwell’s enthusiasm for centering community in this production. “Theater Alliance is bringing Poetry For The People TO the people in every quadrant of DC and it feels so right! We can’t wait to meet you in your community at these exciting new venues. Theater Alliance is making vital and vibrant theater for all of DC and in June’s own words… Are you ready?”

Season 21 at Theater Alliance is made possible through the support of the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Share Fund, Prince Charitable Trusts, the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation. Season 21 is generously sponsored by David and Jean Heilman Grier.

ABOUT JUNE JORDAN

One of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed Jamaican American writers of her generation, poet, playwright and essayist June Jordan was known for her fierce commitment to human rights and political activism. Over a career that produced 27 volumes of poems, essays, libretti, and work for children, Jordan engaged the fundamental struggles of her era: for civil rights, women’s rights, and sexual freedom. A prolific writer across genres, Jordan’s poetry is known for its immediacy and accessibility as well as its interest in identity and the representation of personal, lived experience—her poetry is often deeply autobiographical. Jordan’s work also frequently imagines a radical, globalized notion of solidarity amongst the world’s marginalized and oppressed.

Jordan uses conversational, often vernacular English to address topics ranging from family, bisexuality, political oppression, racial identity and racial inequality, and memory. Regarded as one of the key figures in the mid-century American social, political and artistic milieu, Jordan also taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities including Yale, State University of New York-Stony Brook, and the University of California-Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Her honors and awards included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and the National Association of Black Journalists Award.

ABOUT ADRIENNE TORF

Adrienne Torf and poet, activist and teacher June Jordan were artistic collaborators for nineteen years, until Ms. Jordan’s passing in 2002. Together they wrote numerous works for performance by themselves as a duo, by ensembles and, with their full-length stage musical/documentary opera Bang Bang Uber Alles, by a cast of eight plus orchestra. Adrienne’s recordings include “June Jordan and Adrienne Torf Collaboration: Selected Works, 1983-2000,” two solo albums of original compositions for piano and synthesizers, “Brooklyn From the Roof” and “Two Hands Open,” and more than a dozen commercially released albums by Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, Ferron, Kay Gardner and others. Adrienne also serves as a finance consultant to and board member for numerous nonprofit organizations.

AFFIRMING EQUITY

Theater Alliance is dedicated to amplifying voices that have long been silenced — both onstage and off. To that end, we encourage members of the media covering Theater Alliance productions to take an inclusive approach when writing about our work. This means assigning a writer who is of color, LGBTQIA+, or other underrepresented identity to cover our shows, when possible. It means ensuring that white performers don’t receive preferential coverage in reviews or features. And it means that what you write can help us go further in achieving our mission of celebrating many different kinds of stories, artists, and experiences through the art of live theater.

ABOUT THEATER ALLIANCE  

Theater Alliance develops, produces, and presents socially conscious, thought-provoking work that fully engages our community in active dialogue. Through our work, Theater Alliance hopes to create an audience laboratory where the myriad perspectives of DC are face-to-face, confronting issues and tackling difficult questions that affect our diverse community.

Locally, Theater Alliance has twice been finalists for the Mayor’s Art Award, featured in the Greater Washington Catalogue for Philanthropy, received the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s Keller Award for making significant, ongoing contributions to the life of the community, and awarded two DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ UPSTART Grants for capacity building. Nationally, we have received the American Theatre Wing’s National Theater Company Grant, an NEA Art Works grant, and is a proud Core Member of the National New Play Network. Theater Alliance has received 95 Helen Hayes Award Nominations and 22 Helen Hayes Awards.

Poetry for the People: The June Jordan Experience

CAST
Sophia Early
Ezinne Elele
Natalia Fyfe
Ixchel Hernandez
Shana Oshiro
Llogan Peters

GUEST PIANIST
Adrienne Torf

CREATIVE TEAM
Scenic Design: Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Sound Design: Brandon Cook
Costume Design: Brandee Mathies
Media & Lighting Design: Hailey LaRoe
Assistant Director & Swing: Lisa Danielle Buch
Production Stage Manager: Jared Shamberger
Production Manager: Dominique Douglas Hendricks

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