Saturday, August 8, 2015

Walking the Talk, or Why We Changed Our Venue for Sunday, Aug 9th, 2015!

Dear friends,

Some of you have been following the announcements I've been making about the upcoming performance of my choreopoem, ITAGUA MEJI: A Road & A Prayer, as I have posted rehearsal update photos and reminders about the show for the past month or so. The show is still on for Sunday, August 9th, but we have changed our venue to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at 236 East 3rd Street, NYC from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Join us.
This decision to change venues is grounded in my heart-felt commitment to justice, Black lives, courageous truth-telling, and the very important choice to walk my talk, always. I am standing in solidarity with many artists, but most especially, Eboni Hogan, a spoken word artist and mother who was treated with gross disrespect at The Sidewalk Cafe (the former venue) as she advocated for proper treatment for her son. Thanks to Mahogany L. Browne for mobilizing the people and making it possible for the show to go on.
I have tagged all of my folk who responded to the event invite, but all are welcome to attend. Please spread the word. Thank you. Onward.

Check out the Facebook Event Link here:

Monday, June 29, 2015

right here/right now

I will find a way into this troubled truth that makes my most sensitive child shed hot tears because "this is how they treat us." I will find answers stronger than hugs. I will find words and do what writers do with them. And I will wonder if those words could ever be enough. Probably not. That's why the poets and singers, the music-makers and dramatists, the painters and provocative visionaries will not stop. Because it's never enough. And I will seek action, and after that, I will wonder the same things about ceilings, iron bars, escape routes, and this strange weather, this seeming drought in some of our souls. It don't stop. Neither will we.

Check out ITAGUA MEJI: A Road & A Prayer by Nina Angela Mercer on Sunday, August 9th in NYC!

 (photo by Hemamset Angaza)

Join us for ITAGUA MEJI: A Road & A Prayer by Nina Angela Mercer, with choreography by Kimani Fowlin, at The 9th Annual Boog City Poetry, Music and Theater Festival in NYC at The Sidewalk Cafe at 94 Avenue A on Sunday, August 9th!

In ITAGUA MEJI, Aisha struggles to find Ori, the divinity of her own head ...

Aisha, performed by Audrey Hailes
Ori, performed by Kimani Fowlin
The Source, all percussion by Pamela Patrick
Written & Directed by Nina Angela Mercer

Facebook Event link here:

Reflection: MOTHER WIT & WATER BORN by Nina Angela Mercer at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre, Nov 2014

In November 2014, I had the wonderful opportunity of having the 1st stage reading of my play MOTHER WIT & WATER BORN at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre for the Keep Soul Alive Reading Series. For this reading, the play was directed by Maya James with choreography by Kimani Fowlin. I was absolutely inspired by this opportunity to share my work at NBT. It is an institution founded in love and deep-rooted purpose. It is home for many of us.

Synopsis: In 1795, a Girl-Child is born on the ship, Mary Mother of God, as it sails across the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Coast. The Baby Girl’s cries are fierce as machetes raining from the darkest night sky. Many believe She is more aberration than human, more curse than precious cargo. She certainly isn’t meant to survive. But She does …

MOTHER WIT & WATER BORN is a choreo-drama telling the story of 7 generations of women born from that Girl Child’s lineage as they fight to remember and forget the blood memory encoded into their DNA. It is the blood memory that birthed them into America and pushes them into an unknowable future. It is ritual and dance. It is Herstory.

The reading was well-received by the audience, and I look forward to developing MOTHER WIT & WATER BORN as a full production.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Feels like I've been breaking things apart to rebuild since 2014. Quit so many bad habits. Breached so many fears. Finally, I'm back at a foundational level, watching the smoke clear from the burning of my own personal baggage. And it dawned on me ~ if I'm lucky, I'll be revising my whole self at different moments for the rest of my life. It ain't no biggie. Just growth, always a necessary choice.

More on evolution, transformation, justice, progression, detours, and revised love stories soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mixtape/My Mind: Zoom.

Plays Need Homes

After spending years imagining, writing, and revising a play while enduring the oft troubled (yet strangely beautiful) mental landscape that comes with such endeavors, most playwrights are hungry to share with a theater company, a director, a creative team, a cast and an audience. But finding the right home for a play is probably the most difficult aspect of being a playwright. In fact, I am close to certain that many playwrights don't find homes for their work at all.
In the beginning of my journey as a playwright, I produced my own work. I didn’t know any other way to get the play from the page to the stage. I had not gone to college for a degree in theater; I knew nothing about “The Industry.” I’d only performed in theatrical productions connected to my life as a student with Joyce Mosso’s Creative Dance Company and D.C. Park’s and Recreation’s Showmobile and Black Reflections programs during my youth. So, I emerged as a audacious producing playwright in 2005 by incorporating my own non-profit organization, Ocean Ana Rising, Inc. I was boldly creative and clueless, and my lack of knowledge regarding the difficult journey to production probably saved me some early heartache and insured my play would find its audience, despite the American Theater industry’s less than generous well of opportunity for Black women playwrights.
But producing is no easy romance. Though Ocean Ana Rising, Inc. has successfully played a role in developing three of my stage-plays, our company has never had the capacity to move beyond one workshop production a year. First of all, the company does not exist to produce my work. The mission is communal in its focus. We seek to produce work written for, about, and by women of color. I am only one woman. So, between developmental processes for my own work, Ocean Ana Rising has also co-produced a performance series dedicated to Black women in NYC. We have also facilitated arts outreach workshops for women and girls in need. Simultaneously, I have maintained a position as a faculty member at Medgar Evers College at The City University of New York over the past six years. And, I have two daughters I’ve been raising since I was 21 years old.
Without going through a detailed and emotionally heightened autobiography, I will simply state that finding a theater home for my work has become absolutely necessary in light of my choice to be all these versions of woman. I realized that I needed more consistent support shortly after OAR’s first (and only) workshop production of Gypsy & The Bully Door, if I was going to ever move past “emerging” status as a dramatist.
So, imagine how I danced and shouted when I got the news that the African Continuum Theatre Company would be producing Gypsy & The Bully Door. First, I have to credit my long-time friend and collaborator, Eric Ruffin, with getting the play to Thembi Duncan, the producing Artistic Director at ACTCO. Initially, Eric asked me to send Thembi my play Gutta Beautiful. This was the first play of mine that Eric directed. We both share a love for that play that goes beyond reason. And we are still searching for ways to achieve the production that it never had, despite its relatively long-life being produced by two companies beyond my own. I was hesitant about sending it, though. I wanted to send my most current work, and that was not Gutta Beautiful.
 Thembi liked the voice she found while reading Gutta Beautiful, but she did not feel it was the right fit. As producing Artistic Director, Thembi wanted to be careful in choosing the first full production the company would under-take, after being on a short break in producing full stage plays. She felt that Gutta Beautiful, while a bold and relevant play, was likely better at another juncture in time. So, Eric asked that I send Gypsy & The Bully Door.
I can’t remember how long it took to get a response from Thembi or Eric. But I know that when I got the news that Thembi wanted to produce Gypsy & The Bully Door, I ran in circles; I pounded on the floor with my fists; I shouted; I cried. I wrote the first scene, which has since been cut, for that play in 2007, while Gutta Beautiful was preparing to go up on stage with New Federal Theatre Company. Then I didn’t touch it again until the end of 2010, because I’d been working on my choreopoem, Itagua Meji: A Road & A Prayer. I spent much of 2011-2013 developing Gypsy & The Bully Door, though, producing a workshop production of it in 2011 at the Fringe Festival in DC, and taking all of 2012 to revise and revise and revise. By 2013, I was able to take it through one private stage reading, and two public ones. The proof of all of that hard work seemed to manifest in its ability to forge a profound connection to Thembi and ACTCO.
The name of the company was not lost on me – The African Continuum Theatre Company. I have been developing my own theory and practice as a Black womanist ritual theatre practitioner over the past eleven years.  Gypsy & The Bully Door is rooted in a creolized cosmology that incorporates Yoruba, Bantu, Vodoun, Hindi, and Gypsy/Fellow-Traveler cultural motifs and parables. It is deeply tied to HooDoo, Yoruba, and Bantu sacred rituals as they have merged due to the TransAtlantic slave trade and the birthing of a new people through the Middle Passage. I understand Gypsy & The Bully Door, and much of my writing for performance, as theatre that is illustrative of the “African Continuum” as it exists on this side of the Atlantic on the east coast of the United States.  So, not only was Thembi’s selection of Gypsy & The Bully Door for ACTCO’s 2014-2015 season some of the best news I’d received as a playwright in a while, it was also an important choice that helps to further advance a professional alliance that can build a clear brand and home for kindred work.
Furthermore, the issues that the play addresses – Black women’s body politics, police brutality, gentrification, the culture of violence, and mental health – are urgently relevant to our community right now. The bold explorations that the play takes on provide a unique opportunity for conversation and transformation. We are living in times when such explorations are absolutely necessary.