The year of my fellowship is almost ending, if it hasn’t already. But the experience has been absolutely stellar for me. I delved deeper into incredible and impactful Tampa Bay Black artists with the afroQuantum Experiences ArtMaker Talks.
(Heads up — the last one is March 21 – a Women’s Month episode, it features a host of powerful cultural workers including the legendary Jai Hinson of Artz 4 Life Academy, Lorielle Hollaway of Cultured Books Literacy Foundation and pop-up book store; cultural producers and entrepreneurs Sharlene Emmanuel Edwards and Shundra Allison of Power Plug Radio Entertainment, 2023 Natural Food Festival, and Urban Drinkery (to note only three of the many projects the Gen X power-duo are involved in) and presenter Tiffany Moore of Moore Eventful Hall; and Ancestral Funk, comprised of mother and daughters Melissa Roland, Siobhan Monique, and Ashanti Dey, who are getting ready to produce the Motherland Music Festival April 22 at Williams Park. (Find information at www.ancestralfunk.com.) )
But this year has also been super productive, as I’ve finally put down on paper a play I’ve been doing research for over the last four years. It’s a science play, I think. Meaning — there’s science underpinning much of the story.
And not just science — but sound theory, the third eye, the afterlife, family repair, melanin technologies, and ecology.
These are all things I think about a lot, read about a lot, and somehow, miraculously, was able to get some music developed for it via my musician-son Sky Hayward, some photography via my brother-in-law Mitch Bleier and with a cast of great actors and the brilliant director Erica Sutherlin, staged two readings of this year.
We may have a third one in the works…but here’s a segment, which might help explain it better than I can right now!
Thanks, Creative Pinellas for this year, for the support, and for the inspiration. Thanks to my great online show producers Kim DiVito, Roman Black and Ketsy Ruiz, the support and ear of Charlene Harrison, the creative input of Beth Gelman, tech support from Freddie, and of course the captain of the ship, Barbara St. Clair, for her careful consideration of the flow and artist’s concerns during the year.
AQ &REE (Brother Fire, Sister Fly)
By Jake-ann Jones ©2022
RIETTA/REE – Black/African American female, late 20s to early 30s
AQUARIUS (AQ)- Black/African American male, 15 to 17 years old
KAFFARA/DR DEATHLESS – Black/African American male, late 40s to early 60s
ANGENI/ SPIRIT ANGEL – Mixed race Black/Brown/Native/Chicano/Asian Female – plays a variety of ages and female characters and is sometimes a literal ghost or an unborn spirit.
NOTE: When her head is veiled, she is ANJENI, AQ’s mother and KAFFARA’s wife.
PAULETTE/KALI GODDESS – Ree’s mother; KALI is an avenging spirit depicted in AQ’s art
SETTING – Today or the near future.
NOTE: This play is largely a dream play; AQUARIUS and KAFFARA are both in an unconscious, transitional state; PAULETTE is a memory construct; ANJENI/SPIRIT ANGEL is an out-of-body entity who travels between identities; RIETTA spends most of the play to the fourth wall as if she is interacting with AQUARIUS — seeing him not as he moves around the stage, but rather as he lies a fugue state on a hospital bed.
MUSIC: BROTHER FIRE SISTER FLY – Plays under
SLIDES 1 – 8 – play through opening pages
AQUARIUS appears in a halo of light.
REPORTER’S VOICE (from off or recorded)
Wildfires continue to ravage California. In one town, floating fire embers are suspected as a cause in the explosion of American Paper Mill. Police and local officials are still investigating other possible causes.
There was a sonic boom… it shook my room
Black smoke down my lungs.
Headed back to the trailer in kind of a run.
To Mom and Pop.
There were grey and black and white…
Yeah, no lie, I felt fright…
I told them — GET OUT!
Tasted the burning in my throat,
Ash ash ash float float float.
Then Mom and Pops gone…
He can’t go on.
ANJENI/SPIRIT ANGEL APPEARS near him.
They tried their best.
I mean, did they ever even listen?
They always wanna KNOW everything.
Yall never even listen!!!
But who made the fire?
Great Spirit makes fire. Humans can only set things on fire.
Soaking, killing grass.
Dirt is dry,
Still toxic as hell.
Everything point to American Paper Mill!
All the rabbits were running, their ears were on fire.
Callie, Grace’s shepherd had its fur burnt off.
Them mill people had the nerve to call us liars!
They’re all still learning. And the stars are right there. Open your eyes. The Great Spirit made fire – air…water…earth…stars. Everything. For everybody.
Why didn’t they just follow me?
Why did they turn back?
Pop was crazy talking. And we both knew Mom had crackd.
You’re going to get a visitor soon. You should talk to her. She’s going to need you…she’ll be carrying a gift.
I ain’t talking to no one.
I’m tired of talking.
Talking don’t do shit.
LIGHTS on RIETTA
You don’t know who I am. My name is Rietta. I go by Ree.
We have the same father. So, they called me.
LIGHTS on KAFFARA playing instrument.
MUSIC – JAZZ PIANO plays low throughout
Wish I could explain it better, son.
I wish they hadn’t twisted my tongue.
All busy telling me, what I MEANT
Where I could go, and shouldn’t have went
So — How I supposed to be free?
I stopped talking…
Let the music speak for me.
My mother and your father…separated when I was five or something. She left the east coast first… moved out here and worked for a tiny, first-gen tech company.
Kaffara was still in Philly. Didn’t see him much for a while.
Then he moved out here. I think he and Mom tried again. The last time he left, I was about nine.
Pop… what’s going on? (pointing to SPIRIT ANGEL)
And I don’t know who this is – (pointing to REE)
– or who that is – or why they’re here.
And where IS here?
Man, I hope this isn’t just some bad shit Ben brought from Wacky Willy again.
I don’t even remember when she told me about you…and your mom.
I was already in high school when you were born.
They said the fire wiped out so many homes.
Kaffara and your mother were in the trailer when they found them, next to your house.
Anyway. I came.
(Pause. Holds out his NOTEPAD.)
They gave me this. They think it must be yours… it was near you when they found you. You were unconscious.
They also said… you have a history…of setting fires.
They wanted to know… did you do this?