America Rex - The future of theatre has arrived
(Picture caption: Director Dione Joseph: picture courtesy Micael Loh)
(Content on this page is courtesy JK Productions: He Korero Ngā Tahi)
America Rex is a story about power, politics and personalities colliding in an epic drama that calls for a return to indigenous ways of knowing and belonging. Led by a diverse cast of New Zealand talent this is multi-disciplinary collaborative production that invites the audience to imagine a different present - or relinquish ourselves to an inevitable future.
This important project recognises our communities need to come together to grapple with a changing landscape, to understand our responsibility to Papatuanuku and to respectfully filter the_wisdom of the ages_to our present. Our change is present, our power is now, and our future is here. As citizens who believe in endless possibilities - it is our time to speak out.
This is our story.
In 2001, Tom Minter dashed off a script that described a world in chaos.
Borders. Walls. Refugees. The axis of the globe had tilted so far that it seemed nothing could ever return_her to inner balance. Sensing little support in the then American political climate, Minter allowed his play to gather dust and moved on to other scripts. Fifteen years later, after a very successful career with numerous productions of different works in London, New York, Berlin, Washington D.C and Philadelphia, Minter's latest script, Breathing Ash, had a staged reading at a small theatre in Manhattan.
It was at the after-party of this reading that he was_introduced_to a young New Zealand director and dramaturge. Dione Joseph was the first New Zealander_to be_awarded a place at the prestigious Lincoln Center's_directorslab_in 2014 and had been invited to Minter's reading by the director of the reading, Christopher Burris, also a Lincoln Centre director'slab alumni. That night, in a small apartment on the Upper West Side, Minter_was moved_to share his script, pulling it out of a sticky drawer and handing it over to a woman from half-way across the world.
It was a story that seemed eerily familiar.
Prescient almost. America Rex of 2001 might have indeed described the world we live in today. However, when Dione Joseph agreed to bring the production home to New Zealand at the end of 2016, she had no idea that the huge changes that would begin to shake the world, especially at the end of Obama's reign - were already written in the script.
America Rex is not merely a call for change. It is also, the answer to change. In this strikingly political drama, stories from around the world are brought right in front our eyes. In a first for New Zealand theatre, our performers and creatives of diverse heritage have a unique opportunity to join the conversation. In developing and creating this epic drama, ethnic creatives have the chance to move beyond the conventional tropes of migrant journeys, re-location and resettlement narratives - all valued, legitimate and important - but begin to stride in a different direction to take risks, be ambitious and provocative.
Written by African-American Tom Minter, this production showcases the power of international collaboration, across oceans, ages and defies boundaries inscribed by colonisation.
Led by Dione Joseph and Māori-Greek visual artist Jimmy James Kouratoras, the team includes original music by Grammy nominated composer Joe Mardin; African-American choreographer Otis Donovan Herring (formerly dancing with Black Grace); costumes by Zimbabwean fashionista Makanaka Tuwe; lighting and AV by local shining light Amber Molloy; produced by Ahi Karunaharan, a leading Sri Lankan theatre producer; and supported by Colombian Production Manager Natascha Diaz. The cast include Lebanese opera and folk singer Eva-Maria Ghana as well as performers Graham Vincent, Sandra Zvenyika, James Maeva, David Capstick, Mel Odedra, Carl Drake, Kacie Stetson, Ruth Wynne, Joseph Wycoff, Mustaq Missouri and Chris Auva'a.
Produced by JK Productions: He Korero Ngā Tahi, this work is a call for a return to Indigenous ways of knowing and belonging and shines a light on the talent, brilliance and beauty of Aotearoa's diverse creatives - to tell our stories with sophistication, finesse and authority.